Part 2: Change the Voices in Your Head... Help Your Child Combat Negative Body Image Influences
I'm 9 Years Old and I'm FAT!
As discussed in Part 1: As Early as Age 9. Help Your Child Combat Negative Body Image Influences our children have a world of hurt ahead of them in their tween, teen, and even later years while they attempt to fight negative body image influences. This post came about because of a conversation I overheard between my 9 year old daughter and her friend. Her friend (let's call her Julie) informed my daughter that she would no longer be wearing a 2 piece swimsuit because she felt her stomach was fat. Julie is very athletic and does not have an ounce of fat on her body.
So, How Did I Respond?
My first impulse was to pull the car over and wring Julie's neck! I couldn't believe she thought she was fat, much less that she would say it out loud to my impressionable child! Julie is a little older than my daughter and is very influential on her. Of course I couldn't really follow through with this first impulse. So instead, we started a very long talk between the three of us.
Julie, Do You Think Miss Tammy Is Fat?
I asked the girls if they thought I was fat. They both emphatically replied "NO!" Julie even said "Miss Tammy, you are perfect!". So, I told them this story:
When I was around 14 years old I wore a pair of shorts to school for the very first time. I was so excited. I thought I was rocking my outfit. I had on a green and white loose sweater, a pair of white cuffed shorts, and a pair of pointy white shoes. Hell YES I was definitely rocking it! (Oh shut up! I was cool! It was the 80's!)
I strutted into school eagerly awaiting all of the compliments that I knew would fly my way regarding this well designed outfit. Then SPLAT! I was knocked flat on my face by some smart ass kid who walked by me and called me "Popeye Legs". Yes, I was born with thick legs. I had always been aware of that fact. I was very rarely caught showing off my thick legs. This particular day though, I had mustered up the courage to wear the shorts. It was going to be a new beginning for me and my thick legs. That new attitude didn't last long. The "Popeye legs" comment messed me the fck up! I did not wear another pair of shorts or a short skirt in public until I was in my 30's. From that day on I obsessed about my "Popeye Legs". and I definitely did NOT share them with the world.
Nearly 20 years later as I ran through my house gathering up my children, diaper bags, gym bags, and water bottles to go teach my cycle class I realized I did not have any clean gym pants. I panicked! There was nothing on earth that could make me put on a pair of shorts and then get in front of 30 people and teach a fitness class! But alas, I had no choice, so I pulled on the shorts and ran out the door. The class went on as usual until the end. Shortly after I finished the class another life changing moment occurred. Several of the people who had participated in my class approached me and asked me what I did to "get those legs". I felt my heart sink. All I could think was "Oh no, here it comes again!". Before I had a chance to reply one of the ladies asked if I would be willing to train her because she wanted my legs. WHAT? My exact response was "Why in the world would you want these thick Popeye Legs?" The class participants who heard me say that were flabbergasted. They couldn't believe that I didn't love my legs and told me that they'd kill to have them. They described them as strong, sculpted, and perfect. Unbelievable!
Change the Voices in Your Head
I followed this story up by having a discussion with the girls regarding not letting negative comments of others influence how you feel about yourself. No matter what you do "someone" will always find something they don't like about you and that's ok. Don't ever let the "someone" who doesn't like something about you be YOU. There are enough mean people out there who will try to make you believe you are not perfect - don't join them! You must love who you are and know that you are perfectly made. I quoted lyrics from one of my favorite P!NK songs to the girls "Change the voices in your head. Make them like you instead." We then had a long discussion about what this means.
I Wear the Hell Out of Some Short Dresses Now
As of the day that I wore shorts to the gym and received the many compliments from my class participants I literally "changed the voices in my head". Instead of seeing a cute short dress and thinking "OMG I wish I could wear that", I buy the damn dress and I wear the hell out of it! I frequently receive compliments on my "athletic" legs. My husband tells me repeatedly that he is so happy that I show off my legs with shorts and short skirts now. Even I now like the way my legs look in a short skirt and a nice pair of heels. CHANGE THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD! MAKE THEM LIKE YOU INSTEAD!
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