'My eight-year-old daughter is already struggling with body image. And I know how she feels.'

Like many mothers, Michelle, 47, suffered from Postnatal Depression after giving birth to her daughter, Amber. From this darkness, the body image issues she’d suffered on and off since adolescence emerged again. The scrutiny, the self-criticism, the envy of others.

But with a precious little girl now in her life, Michelle made a promise to herself that she would never pass these issues on to her daughter.

Fast-forward to today, and sadly Amber has come to them on her own. Now eight years old, the school girl’s body isn’t like many of her peers; she’s in the older range of her class and is taller than most.

Michelle recalls one day in particular before school when Amber came into the room, crying, and distraught at the thought that her “legs look fat in these!”

“An arrow went through my heart as I held her,” Michelle said. “This was the first appearance of the body image issues that I so dearly wanted to protect her from.

“Amber was having these thoughts because she was comparing herself to her thinner friends. I had been there too often myself, I know how dangerous comparison can be and I think that is what hurt me the most.”

Michelle tried to switch the conversation and turn her ‘bigger’ legs into a positive, telling Amber that her legs were strong and were important for some of her hobbies, including running, climbing, bike riding and trampolining.

How to talk to little girls….

Video by Mamamia

To further help Amber overcome these doubts, Michelle encouraged Amber to enrol in a circus holiday program, where she could use her strong legs to her advantage, just like the strong gymnasts that Amber had previously commented on.

“I had to find something that I knew Amber loved and that would make her realise that everyone’s bodies are different and suited to different things,” she said.

Michelle has always been conscious to ensure her home fosters body positivity, but after the appearance of Amber’s body image issues, it is something she is even more aware of. She discusses body positivity and is open with her body in front of Amber, ignites a conversation about balanced eating and smart life choices, and actively avoids negative body talk or putting herself down in front of Amber.

“There are so many factors that contribute to body image issues, and although the world, the media, the TV shows we watch all contribute significantly to it, these elements influence not only her but her friends that then make the snide comments that bring her down.”

On Friday November 23, non-for-profit organisation Pretty Foundation has been inspired by stories such as Michelle’s and is challenging Australians to make a commitment to valuing themselves for their inside qualities, not outer appearance, through simply flipping their clothes inside out for the day.

“Pretty Flipped is an amazing initiative that has helped spark conversations between my daughter and I about the importance of our inner values, rather than what we look like,” she said. “With her body image issues, we have realised that they will never truly be over and it is something we will need to be cautious of for the rest of her life.”

For more information on Pretty Flipped, please visit the website.

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