it stops now
How Our Mothers’ Body Issues Became Ours
As a little girl, I always thought my mother was beautiful. I remember sitting on the edge of the bathtub watching her put her makeup on. She’d fuss with blush and curling irons and tweezers and mascara… and a spritz of perfume to finish it all off. She would dance out the door in her pumps, skirt swinging, teeth white against her bright lipstick... and I was always mesmerized. I couldn’t wait for the day I could wear high heels and mascara so I could be beautiful like her.
Over the years, I watched her in her beauty routine. I also watched her in her self-loathing. No matter how gorgeous I thought she was, she always had something to say about the way she looked.
“Ugh my hair is SO FLAT.”
“I hate my legs. I can never wear shorts.”
“If I wasn’t so fat I would go swimming more often.”
“Just call me Thunder Thighs.”
“I’m starting another diet tomorrow. This will be the one that will make me skinny!”
“I can’t go camping because I don’t want anyone to see me without mascara.”
This caused so much cognitive dissonance for me. On the one hand, I thought she was absolutely beautiful. On the other hand, she was telling me she wasn’t. I overheard her and her sisters plan diet after diet. They would meet up for workouts and talk about all the calories they needed to burn off. I remember the first time she told me that I would have to be careful not to gain weight because “that’s just what happens with women in our family.”
I was in fourth grade the first time I caught my reflection in a sliding glass door and asked myself, “Am I getting fat?” As I grew older and a little more aware, I heard the same complaints from other women about their bodies. It started with my friends’ mothers, and as we got older, my friends and I joined in, nitpicking this or that - jiggles, blemishes, etc. I tried my first diet in 7th grade - it hilariously consisted of not eating anything until 2pm, at which point I would allow myself to have a Cherry Coke. Then I would have whatever the family ate for dinner and wait until 2pm the next day for my next calories. (NOT a diet recommendation - LOL! As a middle schooler, I clearly had NO idea what I was doing.) Those were the 90s when the message to women was “Just be tiny.”
What was happening to me is a vicious cycle that has happened to countless women. I grew up learning, not to be thankful and amazed by my body, but to hate her. No one directly told me anything was wrong with me as a child, but the message from every woman in my life was clear: hating your body is part of being a woman. My mother got that messaging from her mother and her friends and their mothers. It is a terrible, never-ending cycle. Unless…
Unless we decide it stops now. With our generation. I’m seeing hope for this in so many places. Women are starting to give a huge F U to the old body standards. Marketers are realizing that they don’t need to airbrush out cellulite because pretty much every woman has it. Models are coming in all shapes and sizes instead of just one. More women are boldly declaring that they are happy with their bodies no matter what anyone else thinks.
I love all this. I hope that our daughters grow up hearing how incredibly magical their bodies are. I hope they realize it is simply a miracle to be alive and moving and breathing. I hope they understand that they are beautiful -- 100%, completely, unquestionably beautiful. And they can.
It starts with us. It starts with our decision to only speak about our bodies with love. It starts with deciding no matter what the scale says or what size dress we’re buying that we are gorgeous and worthy. It starts with complimenting other women’s beauty when we see it - inside and out.
We can do this ladies! Let’s end the false story passed down by our mothers and their mothers. Let’s empower ourselves and our daughters to take up as much space as they need and to show up however they choose. ❤️
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