Another woman moved into my house. She’s skinnier than me, has a better figure than me, carries a youthful glow I lack, possesses no trace of cellulite, and she fits into the jeans size of my dreams.
That woman is my daughter.
What a twist. I birth my third baby, feel at peace with my aging figure, and then suddenly my very own firstborn child, in all her developing glory, is a walking reminder of what I don’t possess any longer and reopens my body image wounds. Imagine living with Katy Perry. That’s what I’m dealing with.
Even more ironic – she cares not for figure-flattering clothing and prefers alt-rock band t-shirts, dark skinny jeans and combat boots. She seems completely unaware of the gift presented to her.
As her mother, I stand torn between a desire to shield and protect her, making sure she never carries the weight of my body image struggle – and the need for her to appreciate her body before it’s all gone and gravity takes hold! But when I dive deeper, there are other issues at play. When I see her, I see myself 23 years ago, commanded to wear jean vests because bodysuits were “too revealing.” I had no knowledge of my blossoming figure until it became something to hide, something shameful.
Today, I remain extremely modest (to the point where I had extra fabric added to my wedding dress so as not to bare any trace of cleavage). I live with the confused dialogue that my female form is something to be hidden and covered because it may draw too much attention but also that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and shouldn’t allow negative self talk to dictate who I am.
How do I pass the message on to my daughter that there is nothing shameful about being a woman, while also not resorting to the mentality of “you got it, flaunt it” (which my grandma loved to tell me)?
How do I share with her that it’s okay to be confident in who you are because of WHOSE you are, not because of how you look?
This is About Me, Not Her
This is not a rant about modesty. That issue is far too broad and complicated and I can’t wrap my head around it – today. This issue is really not even about my daughter. This is about me. My need to mourn the self-induced body shaming I encountered over the years. The reality that my twisted view of myself has kept me from embracing and enjoying life at its fullest. When I see my beautiful daughter, I grieve for the little girl inside of me who carried the weight of the world on her early-developing chest. Who feared (and still fears) looks from strangers, the quick male up and down gaze that she is powerless to prevent. Who takes great care in the mirror, making sure nothing peeks out or pops into view that would make her uncomfortable or anyone else stare too long.
The reality exists that I can’t help or change how other people view me. I can’t change my shape. I can’t change my daughter’s. But I can change how I talk to myself. I can change what I say to myself about my body. I can change NOW, so that years from now, I won’t look back and say, “Gosh, I remember when I was an insecure 36 year old. Why didn’t I enjoy what I had when I had it?”
It starts with filling my mind with Truth. The reminder that God calls me to a specific purpose that has NOTHING to do with what I look like and everything to do with His power in me. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells me that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
When I catch myself wrapped up in my body image, I don’t have mental space to focus on what my true calling is. In Him, I have sufficiency. I have everything I need. Twenty years from now I want to look back and see someone who lived her calling confidently, pursuing the Lord, unencumbered by insecurity. Not plagued by other people’s unspoken opinions.
Seeing my daughter reminds me that I am so much more than an image in the mirror. Watching her grow up reminds me to grow up in my attitude toward my body. My God-given purpose cannot be fully lived out when I stand consumed by negativity toward my appearance, mourning the loss of a youthful glow. That hinders my work as a mom, as a wife, as a friend. I choose break the cycle of body shame and live freely, secure in my purpose and identity in my Creator. That is the way I want to remember life in my 30s.
Erin Kerry is wife to Richard and “mama” to Isabel, Roman and baby Rhett. She worked as an English teacher and ESL Department Head for a middle school in Plano, Texas before going full time as a SAHM and ambassador for Plexus Worldwide. She loves bingeing on Netflix with her husband, playing games with her kids, getting sucked into a good book, running races (slowly), discovering unique craft beers, and trying out new Mexican restaurants. Read Erin’s posts here.