I'm not sure that I have ever been what I consider healthy. My earliest memories as a child include many painful nights sniffling through various ailments. Some of my most treasured memories are from times I was sick and the love that my parents offered me in those times. I remember one night when I couldn't sleep because every time I lay down I couldn't breathe. My dad realized the problem and propped me up with his big over-sized pillow, then he brought in a little t.v. and let me watch Star Trek VI until I fell asleep. Another time I had an amazing conversation with my mother in the car when I was crying over being sent home with coughing AGAIN. Her love and genuine concern for me bolstered me in a very difficult time.
Now I am 28 I still seem to have many months in the year where I am sick, but I fear that the worst part of my health is probably my weight. Like so many others I have been through the eating disorder thing, I have been in a place where I thought that there was no way on this earth or any other that I was going to be healthy and fit. I have lost hope and pounds and regained them countless times. After a long time I feel like I have come to a more healthy state of mind. I wouldn't say that I am comfortable with my body and where I am right now, but I know that it doesn't effect my worth as a person, nor does it effect how beautiful I am. Lately I have been thinking about the path I took to get to this point. I was reading an article that floats across my Facebook page every so often speaking about how we should never body shame ourselves in front of our daughters, we should never tell our daughters that they are beautiful, or make any comment on their bodies whatsoever. I found this advice to be overly harsh. What came across to me was that my body issues aren't important if I have a daughter, it's not okay for her to see me struggle. I felt like I was being chastised for the times that she twirls in her dress, or puts a silly bow in her hair, or asks me "what so you think mama?" and the only word in my vocabulary that remotely expressed how I felt about her in that moment was in fact beautiful. I think that all three of my children are beautiful from their luscious long eyelashes to their sparkling personalities, and I personally don't see anything wrong with telling them so. I think there are things far more damaging then telling your daughter she is beautiful.
First, as women we all have discouraging moments with our appearance. Even the most confident of woman has bad hair days, bad clothes days, bad days in general. We are not wired to like ourselves all the time. It takes effort to get there. It takes effort to take the knocks of our own confidence, and being strong for every one else in every moment is exhausting and not always possible. I for one want my children to know that I am human. I struggle. I don't always win the fight but I DO NOT GIVE UP, and I don't want them to either. I have watched my own mother struggle, but she continues fighting, past exhaustion, past setbacks, and even sometimes past hope. I would be an amazing person if I could emulate her in that. So sure, try your best to love your body when your daughter can see you, but in those vulnerable moments when she sees you struggling pull her aside and tell her you love her, tell her that you are working on loving yourself, and that some days you just aren't very good at it, but it is important to keep trying everyday.
Second, there ARE things that I believe you should never tell your children. Don't try to prevent their pain by telling them that they can't do something, or that no matter what they do they are just going to be the way they are. I thought I was fat from a very young age. I was basically a full grown woman by 14. When I graduated the 8th grade I was wearing a women's 14, and I thought I was huge. In comparison to many of my size 0-2 peers I was enormous. I wish that the advice I had listened to in those difficult teenage years was that you are wonderful just the way you are. I am sure that my supportive parents probably said something to that effect, they have always been supportive of me as a person. However, the things that I remember the most are the aunt who told me "you are just big-boned" a statement which made me feel like I was just supposed to be the big girl, like the only way that I could possibly be was fat. Then there was the voice teacher who told me that if I wanted to be a singer than I could kiss goodbye the chance at having a flat tummy. It felt like I had to choose between my dreams and having a nice figure, like the two were not possible together. I spent a lot of time thinking that the way I was was inescapable, unavoidable, like my destiny was a black hole in which I was doomed to be sucked into. When people said things that took away the possibility of change it hurt. Don't limit anyone else by your own struggles, or even by their own struggles.
There are definitely things we need to say more to our. When the ones that you love are unsatisfied with their physical appearance, don't just brush them off. These feelings are deep, and real. Support them in making decisions to eat better, to work better, to live better, to be better. Help them understand that the only standard worth living up to is their own vast potential. If they want to look great, to feel great, to BE great, than that power is in their hands, and only their hands. They can be satisfied with who they are, and with how they look while taking steps to improve themselves, to grow, and to change. It is a remarkable part of our human existence.
When things get tough for our daughters just let them know "I'm sorry you are hurting, I love you so much. You are beautiful no matter what. What should we do to help you feel better." Even taking action on things that seemingly have no control, like my asthma and chronic illnesses is empowering, and uplifting.
I think that everybody should be told that they are beautiful. The world's standard of beauty is so small. If you hold yourself , or others to that standard you confine yourself to a very small world. However, when you look at a human being and recognize that they are a soul of infinite worth it can change the way look at them. It is not limited to their "great personality" or "sweet spirit" . Learn to appreciate the beauty of the human body. It is an amazing and wonderful creation in all of its forms. With or without eyes to see, or ears to hear, it is beautiful. With or without hands to grasp and feet to walk, it is beautiful. Fit or not, hair or not, whole or not, each person that has been given the gift a body is beautiful.