Intro: Today I’m beginning a series of seven “Healthy Monday” posts dedicated to my daughter. I’m appalled and devastated at the manner in which western culture has already begun to define her perception of beauty and her own body image, despite all the rigorous efforts on my part as a mother to keep it from happening.
I naively believed I had this healthy body image part of mothering figured out. But there was a day it all changed for me. I was talking with my distraught daughter. She was curled into a ball on her bed. Her sweet little head was on her pillow while gut-wrenching sobs came one after another. My heart felt like it was being ripped inside me. My (then) eight year old daughter had just told me she believed she was ugly and fat. I was flabbergasted. Shocked. Numb with disbelief. Infuriated that the world had inflicted such pain upon my daughter. How could this have happened? Her daddy and I (with much sacrifice) had protected her at all costs. Daily surrounded her with love and affirmation, and truth about who she was. Reminded her always of her great worth and the beauty that radiated from her heart. Even guarded her from the torrent of media that pours out it’s superficial lies and values to our little ones. Between my torrent of tears and her body-shaking cries, I coaxed her to tell me why she felt this way. She told be she had been carrying this burden since she was five years old. A little girl she knew, loved and admired looked at my daughters healthy body with it’s little girl belly and told her that she was fat. And that her teeth were crooked and her face wasn’t pretty. And my innocent child believed her. And never told me what happened till this day, several years later.
My daughter is not alone. Did you know that at the tender age of nine, 35% of girls are already dissatisfied with their bodies? (1) WHY?! I’ve been on a mission to find the answer, do something to change what’s happening, and help my daughter heal and navigate through this territory of a healthy body image. Over the next seven weeks I’ll share the things I’ve learned here. I value your input on the issue, please comment with links, resources, quotes and any helpful advice you have to share. I’m starting the series with ten of the many things I believe define beauty in a young lady. They may seem cliche, but that’s ok with me, because they’re true!
Disclaimer: if you don’t want to see the words “love” and “beautiful” written over and over again, stop reading now. (Smile.)
Ten Things That Make You My Beautiful Girl (the first 5}
1) Your caring heart.
There’s nothing in the world more beautiful than a heart that cares for others. If you filled every house, skyscraper and shopping center in New York City, Paris and Hollywood with the best makeup, most expensive lotion, most-watched YouTube beauty tutorials, modeling how-to books, and fashion magazines, and used every single one of them, they couldn’t do a single thing to make your heart more beautiful than it already is. Because Your heart is a reflection of your character, and that’s a beautiful, valuable, precious gem that money can’t buy. I love your heart. I’ve seen it in action. The way you care for the people you encounter is an inspiring thing to see, and it makes me so proud to be your mother. There are countless ways to test what someone is made of. I’ll mention two of them here. The way you interact with children and animals, those weaker than you, and those who you will gain nothing from that counts in this world, and number two: the way you treat these same ones when no one is watching. I’ve seen you act on your tender respect for the least of these countless times. And the way your heart cares is beautiful.
2) Your perfect face.
I love every part of it. The beautiful, defined shape. Your radiant skin that gets all rosy with exercise. Your forehead and eyebrows that raise with surprise and furrow with frustration, where I love to gently rest my hand when bedtime comes. Your perfect nose that always finds a flower in which to bury itself. Your cheeks that I’ve covered with countless kisses since the day you were born. I love the way your jaw clenches with determination. If I could choose one daughter from a million girl’s faces, I would choose yours every single time. It’s lovely in every way. I still look at your face when I come to check on you at night while you sleep. I see your lashes resting on your cheeks, look at your ears, your perfect lips and beautiful hair framing it all, and I shake my head in disbelief, a tear rolls down my cheek and I whisper “thank you” to your Creator as I once again am overcome with your beauty. And I love to see your face peek around the corner when you wake up in the morning. I cannot believe how blessed I am to have a daughter with a perfect face like yours.
3) Your strong, healthy, beautiful body.
You have a beautiful, strong and healthy body. As I watch you grow I marvel at your energy, vitality and beaming health. When that incredible body of yours bounces into a room it’s like a ray of summer sunshine that brings energy to all it encounters. God designed every single inch of you with a specific purpose in mind, to bring much glory to himself, and make an eternal impact on the world. Your body is PERFECT. There’s not another man, woman, boy or girl in the world who will be able to do the things you can do, with the unique DNA you have running through your amazing veins . From your height, to your size, to the way you move, to your weight, you are beautiful. Your body is a perfect, delicate, strong and priceless vessel made for incredible things. Your worth is never measured by what others think of your body. Always remember what God thinks about you, how he lovingly made you, how He treasures you, the way he knows you and deeply loves you – and remember and know that your strong, healthy, beautiful body was made to do great things. (Psalm 139)
4) Your sparkling eyes.
I fell in love with your eyes the moment you were born. I’ll never forget the time when you were a tiny baby, and your eyes truly looked into mine for the first time. I was moved to tears at all your eyes said, and the complete trust and love you placed in me. Whether your gorgeous eyes are sparkling with joy, or brimming with tears of pain or sadness, they are an incredibly beautiful thing to see. The eyes are windows to your soul, and because your soul is beautiful, your eyes bravely and brightly shine that inner beauty of yours into the world. I love the way your eyes are filled with expression, and you’re never able to hide what you’re truly feeling. I love the way dark circles under them will always tell when you’re tired. And the way you’ve fought with everything in you from the time you were a tiny baby to keep them open and not miss any of the possible adventures taking place around you. The way you see things amazes me. From shapes in nature, to tiny objects on the sidewalk, the adorable green ribbons a little elderly lady in town is wearing in her white hair, to a classic car driving down the road beside us, to the first bluebonnets and robins in the spring. The way you use your eyes to seek out and notice the people who need to be noticed – those ones no one else sees. Ah…your sparkling, eyes bring such joy to this mama’s heart.
5) Your gorgeous, contagious smile.
How I love that smile of yours – filled with joy, happiness and delight. When you smile, your whole face shines with such radiant beauty! I love the times you’re laughing hysterically with friends, when you tilt back your head and smile and laugh with all you’ve got. It makes everyone around you feel happier! I love to see you smile when you’re alone – reading, or dancing at home, or listening to music. Since you began smiling as a baby you’ve never been one to hand out your smiles to anyone. They’re always deserved. And that makes them even more special. You smile at elderly people. Lonely people. People who are sick, and sad, and feeling down. You share your smiles with babies and little children. And they all smile back. And I watch you, and I smile too. You’ve experienced some deep sadness and pain in your young life, and that makes your smile all the sweeter and more beautiful & meaningful. I love that knowing smile we exchange, where you nod your head slightly, and grin a little at our own inside joke. And you have your daddy’s humor and quick wit. I am always amazed at how you have the right words to say, at exactly the right time, and we all laugh and laugh and laugh. Your grandfather tells the story about falling in love with your Grandmama’s gorgeous smile forty years ago. It’s one of the sweetest stories I’ve ever heard him tell. And you’ve inherited that incredible smile. Keep smiling darling. And never, never stop. Your gorgeous, contagious smile has a tremendous amount of power and influence, don’t you ever forget it.
Next week come the next 5: Your beautiful hands & feet, your incredible strength, your knowledge & appetite for learning, your endless creativity, your brave spirit – and the icing on the cake; your unique identity (the story that can only be yours).
1. Liechty, J. M. (2010).Body image distortion and three types of weight loss behaviors among nonoverweight girls in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47 (2), 176–182. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.01.004