So many of us were raised to hate ourselves. Our grown-ups didn’t plan it that way, but it was an unintended consequence of their efforts to encourage us to be our best selves. And their own baggage was accidentally passed down to us along with their beautiful eyes and wicked sense of humor.
We want better for our kids and grandkids (and nieces and nephews) because we’ve lived with the consequences. All that self loathing led to numerous unsuccessful diets which may be more damaging to our bodies than the excess weight. It led to feeling not good enough, a leading cause of bad first marriages and lack of career advancement.
Start With Yourself
There’s a lot of talk these days about loving your body as it is. That can seem impossible. You don’t have to look in the mirror with enthusiasm and joy. But why not strive for having a more neutral feeling towards your body? If you can look in the mirror and think about something besides how much you wish you were different, that’s a huge step in the right direction. If Body Acceptance seems unattainable, try for Body Neutrality.
How does this help the kids in your life? You’ll be giving them an example of someone who’s putting their time and energy into something they want to do instead of culturally-mandated self improvement. You’ll show them it’s possible to eat dessert without saying that you’re being bad and will start a diet as penance for one slice of cake.
Your Clothes Send a Message
When you dress the body you have now instead of wearing whatever you can find that fits, you feel better about yourself. That confidence carries over into everything you do. Your kids and grandkids already think that you’re soft and cuddly and give the best hugs. If they see you dressing according to your personal sense of style (whether that means understated classics or eye-catching toppers) they learn that it’s OK to dress according to their own tastes even if that’s nothing like what their friends wear. You're also showing them that you deserve nice clothes as you are now. They'll learn that you don't have to change to be worthy.
Think Before You Speak
Children hear everything - not just your words but all the attitudes and assumptions behind them. If you tell a kid that they’re so cute, they’re so pretty, they’re wearing such a pretty dress you’re telling them that their looks are important. The younger they are, the less they have to do with their appearance so you’re not even complimenting their hairstyling skills.
The problem with this is that our looks change. We get older, go through awkward phases, gain weight, lose weight, change our hair color, and so many other transformations. If we only get complimented on our looks, any of these changes could make the compliments go away.
Try to mix things up. Tell them they’re smart, clever, or kind. Maybe they light up a room, or have a smile that makes your heart happy. This may require getting the kids to actually have a conversation with you. Try asking them about what they’re reading or playing lately and then tell them that you love how enthusiastic they are about it. Telling a child that you’re happy to see them compliments their whole self in a way that can’t get cancelled out by superficial changes.
You Deserve Better Too
You want your kids and grandkids to grow up loving themselves because you didn't. But don't forget that you deserve to love yourself too. Those kids certainly think you're worth it.