I was an awkward teenager. I wore exactly ten butterfly clips in my hair. I listened to Backstreet Boys on repeat and danced around my room with my deodorant can (‘Impulse’ obvs) as a microphone with my best friend. I had metallic braces. There wasn’t a whole lot going for me at the time. And so it should be – everyone needs to go through the gawky teenager phase.
However, there was one thing my mother did to ensure that, along with all the other issues in my life, the way I saw my body wasn’t one of them.
Raising a daughter is no mean feat. The challenges that parents face in the technological age are overwhelming, and one of the most obvious and significant is a young girl’s perception of their bodies, and more specifically their image. From the ridiculous standards set by the advertising industry, to negative self-talk, to social media standards, and not to mention the pressure from their peers, it’s no wonder this issue is so complex. Navigating the world with a young girl can be overwhelming and parents experience a certain level of helplessness.
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss whether there’s anything wrong with marketing that tells you ‘summer bodies are made in winter’. Post continues after audio.
But there was one thing that my Mum did when I was growing up that significantly influenced the way in which I see my body, and has resulted in the positive perception of my body image as an adult.
We didn’t own a set of scales.
That’s right, in the 21 years that I lived with my mother, we never owned a set. They just weren’t something that ever appeared in our bathroom. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered from a conversation with Mum that this was highly intentional.
My mother made this decision when I was very young, and what seems like a simple one, it wasn’t. She knew, even then in the 90’s, how influential the world could be when it comes to body image and being a teenager.
Her decision sent a very clear message to this young teen, who had just learnt every word to Destiny’s Childs ‘Bootylicious’ by reading it off the CD case (the old fashioned way), that weight wasn’t important. It taught me that weight isn’t a priority, and certainly wasn’t something that’s connected to personal value or worth.
Naturally, as a teenager, I still weighed myself when I went to my friend’s place. Sneaking into their parent’s bathroom and dragging the scales out to alleviate my curiosity satisfied my rebellious streak. But the knowledge that my weight had no significance in my household, and that I was safe from the pressure of body image at home, was incredibly empowering. It meant that conversations about my body were centred around physical health, and conversations about food concerned moderation and balance, instead of calories.
In adulthood, I now have a very secure sense of who I am. My weight and body image isn’t connected to my self-worth, and I have very healthy relationships with food and my body. Do I binge on chocolate sometimes? Yes, I’m only human. Do I complain that my love handles are a little squishy? Absolutely. But I am confident with my body, and all it's curves.
There are many things that I’ll be taking from my mother’s parenting when I decide to have kids of my own. And this seemingly small, yet powerful decision is certainly one of them.
What are your tricks for raising body positive kids? Tell us in the comments below!