Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The eye of the beholder

Ladies. Listen up. 

Allow me to be direct.

Every time you refer aloud to your own body, face, abilities, or appearance in a negative way, our daughters learn how to be critical of themselves. 

They hear you calling yourselves fat. They hear you belittling your own 'junk in the trunk.' Our daughters all know that we think we're too tall, too short, too dumb for math, too flat, too curvy.

And they hear that and think "if this woman I admire thinks that she's fat, I'm fat too." And our poor daughters fully believe that, even when they are perfectly healthy. Or even if they are in fact painfully too thin.

Guess where we learned how to do that to ourselves? I can tell you that.

Guess what our culture of self-loathing does to our daughters? I can tell you that, too.

When we eliminate and marginalize our own power and confidence and importance in this world, we're teaching our daughters how to do the same thing. This is why we're still fighting some of the same battles for equality that our mothers and grandmothers fought. We still haven't learned. We still don't have equal pay for equal work because, deep down, most of us don't think we deserve it.  

Love yourself. Teach your daughters how to love themselves too. That's the first step toward real, unquestioned equality.

The rest of the world does quite enough to try to extinguish our power; to systematically, religiously and legislatively remove our rights, and to make us small and weak. Unworthy men and unsupportive sisters do not need our help in this endeavor. 

If compliments come your way, accept them with a smile and a Thank You, do not dismiss them or shrug them off with a 'yes, but...'

When you win awards or pass tests or finish races or win contests, or when you compete and try and train and practice and study and work and earn the rewards of that amazing work--own that too. Celebrate in your accomplishments! Don't caveat them.

Example: "Yes, I finished that 5K but I was near the bottom of my age group." 

Argh! You both started and finished a 5K! Scream your head off, blow your trumpet, wear your tutu and rainbow clown wig and freak out like you're 10 and it's the first day of summer! The 'yes, buts' completely negate your hard work. Don't do that to yourself! 

So the next time I see any one of you tear yourselves down in your own posts, or when we are together at lunch, or at the mall, or within my hearing at all, I am officially calling you out on your nonsense. 

Sisters--and the men who love us--there really are lives at stake here. Yours. Mine. Our daughters. Enough is enough. We need to love our daughters enough to love ourselves, first. We are, each of us, worthy of that.  And we certainly owe it to our daughters, and to those daughters who come after them.

Because when we have women who love and respect themselves, as a cultural norm, it's won't be possible for a 'war on women' to get a foothold. It's not possible for anyone to take away our power unless we give it away through our lack of faith in our own strength, abilities, and beauty

And for our sons? Oh yes, we owe it to them as well to believe in our own strength and beauty. We owe our sons this: future wives and mothers and sisters and daughters and friends who are strong, equal, confident and full partners in our collective future. To give them anything less than the full scope and scale of our talent and heart is patently unfair to them.

So next time you'd like to bully yourself over your hair or your career or your body or any other situation over which you have little or no control: don't. 

Find something you like about yourself instead. Anything. (Some examples: I have a superb eye for medieval manuscripts, or I can wear a crazy rainbow clown wig better than anyone I know.)  Dwell on that one good thing about yourself that you know, deep down, really kicks ass.

Show our daughters--and sons--that little trick instead.  

1 comment:

  1. Yes!! I believe in this so strongly. My own mother constantly complained about her body and did crazy diets all the time. She also would tell me "Just wait, you'll be fat too after you have kids, I was just like you when I was young." I didn't want to believe it. I did pretty good with not thinking I was fat until I did have kids. I've had two and my tummy isn't a flat board like all the women in the magazines. I have people think I'm pregnant when I'm not. For a good while there I started talking like my mom. But I didn't want my daughter to talk like that or feel that way. I've made a resolution that my daughter will hear me call myself beautiful. She's always telling me how pretty I am and I fight against those gremlins in my head that answer back "no, she's wrong, you're ugly!" I'm determined to know I'm beautiful and love myself so that my daughter will see that and hopefully not fall into the trap that so many of us women do of thinking we're not the gorgeous amazing beautiful creatures we truly are.