A quarter century on this earth and nearly two years postpartum, I fear I am sometimes dissatisfied with my own body. I feel more active than I’ve ever been with the addition of an exuberant little explorer who keeps me running and squatting for a good portion of each day. Yet my postpartum baby flab still hangs like a loose tire around my waist, and I struggle to find myself physically attractive. However, while I envy my best friend’s long, slender legs, she wants my child-bearing hips. We never fail to find imperfection in our natural physical traits.
Yet for my daughter, her body is perfect. Less than two years on this earth and every limb in her tiny body moves with great enthusiasm. Her buoyant spirit is evident in the way she hops around with happiness emanating from the balls of her feet past the tips of her fingers. It’s winsome how she treats her tiny vessel as a means for exploring the world, untouched by society’s standards of physical beauty.
I see my daughter and how she’s incognizant of society’s flawed perception of physical beauty. My heart aches for her future self in a world where body shaming is nearly inescapable. I wish I could leave her unscathed by the criticisms of others, to bottle up her blissful spirit and protect her from the hurtful comments and images that have left me scarred.
I can’t control what others say, or how the media portrays physical beauty. But I can encourage my daughter, and even model, how to love your body and feel positive in your own skin.
These are the things I will tell her:
Your body is beautiful. Your body was stitched to perfection in my womb for over nine months and houses a resilient spirit that will continue to grow and sustain life. Love your body from every unique bend in your fingers to every individual thread of your fine, dark hair, because you are the only one on this earth who possesses this vessel.
As you push your own physical boundaries and venture out into this diverse world, you might begin to question your body — Why am I not tall enough? Slender enough? Graceful enough? Strong enough? You might even draw comparisons between your body and others. The answer to these questions is and always will be, you are enough. Your genetics might hinder you from reaching staggering heights, but don’t be discouraged because strength is built from the inside out. As long as you keep in mind that you are enough, the peace and patience that follows will help your body meet your spirit and take you further than you could imagine.
So I ask you, please respect your body. This is the only one you are given in this life, so don’t let anyone ever try to tell you how you should feel about your body. Only consume things that are life-giving so your body can continue to sustain you through the various seasons this life will bring, from extravagant youth to tranquil old age.
And It may be hard to conceive now, but as the years pass by your body will inevitably wear and tear. Decades of gravity and experience will stretch and retract the skin on your bones and you may be surprised at the wrinkles that will one day greet you in the mirror. It is then that you will know your body has treaded through deep waters and scaled enormous mountains, bringing you through a life full of splendid memories. In this moment, love your body just a little bit more as it continues to bring you through this fleeting life.
As for me, I have almost healed from years of relentless body shaming. Having you to model that people of all shapes, sizes, colors and histories are beautiful the way they are has restored my faith that one day body shaming will no longer be a powerful source of self-hate. My hope is that you won’t be phased by the comments and images that have affected me; that you will love yourself shamelessly. That when others see body-shaming no longer has a foothold on us, we’ll all stop talking about the perfect physical appearance and see the beauty in every single one of us. That day begins today.