I’m Beautiful and This is Why

By Martha Pilling

I’ve approached my own body image at times with intense confidence and power, and at other times with trepidation and vulnerability. But the bottom line is that I’m beautiful and I love my body because it’s amazing. I’m grateful for it and that it serves me so well.

When I was in middle school, I subscribed to Seventeen magazine and devoured every word. But I began to see a discrepancy between the fifteen-year-old, pressured-into-sex pregnant girls writing to the magazine for advice and the endless photos of fully developed girls in evocative clothing and ads for makeup that made me feel there was something—well, everything—wrong with my face and body! I started to realize the superficiality and duality of the messages. I did makeovers with friends, but I didn’t like the way they made me feel about my body. So I tossed the magazine and decided the only makeover I would do was switching furniture around in my room.

I still struggle often to remind myself that popular media wants me to hate my body and buy whatever new product to change or beautify it.

My parents taught me the same kind of stuff Aibileen tells May Mobley in The Help by Kathryn Stockett:  “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” She makes no mention of beauty because it’s just not important. If you’re kind and smart and important, you will feel beautiful. A whole heck of a lot of “beautiful” has nothing to do with what my body looks like on the outside. Beauty comes from within. From what we make of our lives. I know I feel most beautiful when I put others’ needs before my own.

I’m amazed at every inch of my body—even the toneless, shapeless, squishy parts of it—because it got me here. I’m amazed by what a gift it is to have such a beautiful, wonderful, imperfect body. My body gave me a family. My body allows me to love my family body and soul. My muscles and bones carry me to all the many places I need to go.

My body is me, with all my strengths and beautiful imperfections. I don’t adore it every single minute of every day. The times when I’m unkind to myself—I don’t eat right, I don’t exercise, and I don’t carve out time for myself—are the times I rail on myself. When I start down that despairing path, I remind myself of the things I should be doing to recognize my worth: reading a book, going for a walk, calling a friend who might be down, having one-on-one time with one of my children. These things make me feel beautiful because they feed my soul.

How do we teach our kids a positive body image? We know it doesn’t come from just telling them every day how beautiful they are. They don’t believe it, and they need to discover it from within themselves.

  • Start with how you speak about and treat your own body. Do you talk about your weight and all the things you hate about your body in front of your children? Stop it. And don’t do it when you’re alone, either. Your kids know how you feel about yourself, and you tell them by how you treat yourself.
  • Encourage open discussion about what they see in the media. Sexualized images of women are plastered across magazines in the grocery store at a three-year-old’s eye level. Talk about this with your kids. Your sons need the conversation just as much as your daughters. Ask engaging questions: “How does this make you feel? When you look at that image, what do you think the purpose is for that woman’s body? Does it make you feel good about your body?”
  • Help your kids understand that the pictures of women they see in media are lies. They are photoshopped to make them the most appealing possible. None of us have a real-life photo-shopping tool to make ourselves “better.” Many times in movies and serials, fully developed women in their twenties are playing the parts of twelve- to seventeen-year-olds. Is it any wonder that girls and women berate themselves? The media shows hypersexualized girls from a very young age. It’s important for girls to be able to see the reality and talk about what the media is doing to girls and women, and refuse to buy into it.
  • Forbid your kids from stepping on the scale, and only allow yourself on it a couple times a month. If kids are active and healthy, the scale is the last place they should be spending any amount of time. Encourage them to love their bodies and be able to see all the amazing things their bodies can do when they take good care of them.

Body acceptance is a lifelong journey, one that you can help your kids start confidently.

Our books have many great conversation starters, and they can help you improve communication between you and your children. Check them out! ; How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, which is also available in ; and .

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