Recently, I published an article about the influence adults have over children in regards to how children learn to talk to themselves. You can read more about it here: https://frommychair.blog/2017/07/14/our-influence-on-our-childrens-internal-dialogue/.
After reading this article, a dear friend contacted me and vulnerably shared that her adult daughter had recently asked her why she was never happy with her body. My friend’s daughter expressed that her mother’s unhappiness with her physical-self caused her to feel like she, too, should be ashamed of her body. It hit my friend hard. Although my friend knew she didn’t see her body in a positive light, she thought she had kept her thoughts fairly hidden. The conversation led my friend to consider how she had unknowingly influenced the way her daughter thinks about her own body.
I have to tell you, in spite of the story that you just read, I think my friend is a really great mom. Here is why. She raised a daughter who had the courage to talk to her about this vulnerable aspect of her life. Her daughter felt safe and confident enough to know that she could trust her mother’s response…one that humbly sought her daughter’s forgiveness.
Oh that I might always be that kind of mom. The kind that my children can confidently approach with the hard stuff. The kind of mom that will admit my wrongs. The kind that will humbly seek their forgiveness.
My friend’s story got me thinking more deeply about how we influence our children’s inner dialogue specifically about our bodies. If we are really going to lean into this matter and teach those within our influence to love themselves better, we have to take the humble approach like my friend and think about more than just the way we speak about our bodies.
If you are like me, you have (mostly) mastered the art of self-control over allowing self-disparaging comments to roll off of your tongue when kids are listening. However, our children are not fooled by our silence…at least not when our actions tell their own story.
What about the way we look at ourselves in the mirror? Do we smile when we are getting ready or do we let out an exhausted grunt when we assess our finished appearance, demonstrating a slightly disgusted glance?
What about the way we respond to compliments? Do we genuinely accept them or do we list 3 negatives and shove the compliment right back in the giver’s face?
What about our responses when shopping for clothes with our children? Do we dread the experience because “nothing fits quite right” and make those aforementioned disgusted grunts every time we look at our self in the dressing room mirror?
What about when we’re watching movies, looking at pictures, or browsing magazines? Do we verbalize a running narrative about the physical appearance of the people we see? Are we giving it more attention than it deserves?
If we are going to walk towards healing together, I have to talk about the tough-to-hear truths…These reminders of our behaviors are not about creating a list of don’ts so that you can simply pretend to value yourself. The change has to happen at a heart, mind and behavior level.
But let us not forget, there is always good news.
A course can always be redirected.
There is this supercool thing related to our brains called neuroplasticity that simply put, means we can retrain our brains…that means we can retrain the way we respond to ourselves and retrain the way the little ones watching and listening respond to themselves.
How about together, we take one step that begins to shift our course and potentially the course of the little eyes that are watching and listening?
Start with the heart, mind, or behavior. You choose. Just start somewhere.
How about we start here…
Let’s smile at our reflection.
Let’s assume a compliment was meant to be accepted.
Let’s teach our children to look more deeply for beauty.
Let’s find ways to compliment others based on their character and what we see looking into their eyes.
If only we could see ourselves through eyes that are full of grace and kindness and are certain of the beauty that lies beneath the surface. Let this be the course we pursue.
If only we could keep the perspective of another dear friend’s wise daughter, Soren (age 8) who sweetly wrote these words, “Thank you soul for choosing me to be your cover.”
Ahhh….let that be our course.