Teaching My Girls About Body Image

Swimsuit season is coming up, and I’ve been thinking a lot about body image.

Two kids later, my body doesn’t look like it did when I was in my early 20s. Deep inside I have a core belief that this is fine and that I love my body. I am happy about the way I look. I love my stretch marks, and when my kids poke my squishy belly, I’m happy to tell them that’s where they grew.

But…

But there’s this tiny voice in the back of my head complaining about the lack of thigh gap and that squishy belly and the stretch marks and everything else. I know and I believe in my heart of hearts that the voice is a liar. But it’s still a struggle.

I want my girls to not feel that struggle. I don’t want my girls to have to remind themselves that the voice lies. I want them to laugh at the voice. Or better yet, not even hear it.

So there are a few steps that I’m taking that I hope will help.

I make a point to look in the mirror and say that I like my body. “I love my tiger stripes! They remind me of when you were in my belly!” or “I like my legs. I felt so strong today when we went on that bike ride.” I want them to know that it’s okay to look in the mirror and like what they see, and I also want them to take pride in what their body can do. So I set the example.

I don’t talk about weight or weight loss around them. The only time we talk about weight is in terms of them growing. “Look how much you grew!” And realistically, that doesn’t come up except at the doctor’s office or in the locker room of the gym after swim lessons and they beg to step on it because it’s neat and they want to see if they’ve grown. Now, admittedly, I am trying to trim up my figure a bit, but when I talk about that, I talk about it in terms of Mommy wanting to get stronger so I can keep up with them on their bikes and scooters.

With food, we talk about putting healthy food into our bodies, not restricting calories.

I never, ever criticize my body in front of them. I don’t want them to think it’s okay to talk to themselves like that.

I don’t know if this will help them, but I hope it will. I hope I’m inoculating them early against what they will see in magazines. I want my girls to grow up loving themselves just as much as I love them.

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Silly Mirror self image confindence

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Things I am (NOT) Tired of Seeing on Facebook

Have you guys seen those lists floating around listing all the things someone you don’t know is tired of seeing you post on facebook? Things like food photos, selfies, pictures of your kids, updates on your love life, commentary about the weather, cute animal videos, and on and on and on?

Listen, I don’t know who this person is, but let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt that they had a bad day, send them an oatmeal-raisin cookie (great for constipation!), and pack them off to bed.

I don’t like these lists because there’s always a thing or two on them that I feel guilty about. And because I can be an anxious person, I end up worrying that I am making my friends hate me because I post stupid stuff. But then, after a day or two, I come back and start scrolling through my feed, and I realize that my friends are all posting pictures of food, selfies, pictures of kids, updates on their love lives, commentary about the weather (sometimes with cool pictures!), cute animal videos, political commentary, and so forth. And I love seeing it!

I love seeing what my friends eat because it gives me new ideas when I’m stuck in a dinner rut.

I love all of the selfies because I love seeing the new haircuts, the new lipsticks and eyeliners, the cool hats, and the smiles of people who feel good about themselves. As long as they are being safe. Practice safe selfie-ing y’all! Although, is there some kind of trick to getting decent looking selfies? Mine always look really weird. Can somebody clue me in? Because apparently I’m too old to be able to do this well.

I love seeing pictures of everyone’s kids, even when it makes me realized that my friend’s newborn baby is going into kindergarten and I’m officially an Oldie McOldperson.

I love hearing about my friends’ love lives. I love celebrating with them when they’ve found the one, and I’m grateful for the chance to offer hugs and sympathy when things don’t work out.

I love weather posts because I have friends from all over the world, and it’s kind of crazy to see folks chillaxin’ (shush, that’s totally a word) on beaches when I’m in wool socks and long underwear. And the snow photos and storm photos are, let’s face it, just plain cool!

Do I actually need to tell you why I love cute animal videos?

I love seeing my friends happy. And when they’re not, I appreciate the opportunity to hug them and send them love. Post what makes you happy, and don’t listen to cranky people who want to pretend to be the facebook police.

And on that note, here’s an adorable picture of our dog playing in the sprinkler.

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Post Baby Fashion Crisis

Okay, let me be really clear.  This isn’t a fashion blog.  I’ve never been good at fashion at all.  But I have been stressed about the way I dress and the way I feel about the way I dress recently, so that’s why I’m writing about it.

I’ve always just worn jeans and t-shirts, with only a little variation.  My work “uniform” varied little from what my husband wears. Khaki or black slacks, a button up shirt (non-iron if you please), and flats.  Now that I’m not working, I find myself wearing jeans that are either a size too small or a size too big, an old t-shirt from high school (you read that right), yoga pants, or just a plain old nursing tank top that probably has milk or spaghetti stains on it somewhere.

One afternoon, I found myself going out on a date with with my husband wearing a long sleeved t-shirt, a black maxi skirt, my faithful red Toms, kelly green knee-socks, and my red ski parka.  I felt ridiculous.  Was this how low I had sunk?  Bless him, my husband had the grace to tell me that I looked beautiful no matter what I wore, but regardless of how he saw me, I didn’t feel good about myself.

It’s not that I’ve never noticed fashion.  There’s always been certain looks that I’ve admired.  I’ve just never thought, for whatever reason, that I could pull it off.  I’ve always been attracted to pretty dresses and skirts that have a vintage-y feel. Like Amy Adams in The Muppet Movie or like Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) from Once Upon a Time.  But I also like more modern looks, like Clara Oswald from the past season of Doctor Who. And don’t get me started on steampunk stuff.  That Victorian-science-fictiony-adventurous mish-mash of awesomeness is just so, so cool.

But how do you turn all of that into a style?  Honestly?  I have no idea, but you know what?  I’m old enough and confident enough that I want to start wearing clothes that make me feel good about myself, that are fun, and express my personality much more honestly than a ratty old orchestra shirt from 1997.

A friend of mine has been giving me fashion advice lately, and her idea was to think of dressing thematically.  That idea has really helped me feel more self-assured in what I am choosing for myself.  She’s kind, but honest, and not at all afraid to say, “Okay, you know, I really don’t think that’s going to work for you.”  Everyone needs a friend like this.  Someone you send a quick selfie to and say, “What do you think?”

Another thing that has helped me figure out some outfits is Polyvore.  It lets me shop at home and play with multiple pieces from different stores without having to brave the anxiety-inducing mall.  I can play with an entire outfit, all the way down to shoes and accessories.

Having these outfits put together ahead of time really helps me to find what I want when I actually go to the store. This way, I end up with a full outfit instead of a jumble of individual pieces that I don’t know what to wear with what.  I also feel a lot more confident in my ability to, well, dress myself I suppose. I don’t worry too much about finding the exact same things as I put into the Polyvore collections, but it gives me an idea of what kinds of things I can put together.

Having these pictures to go off of gives me the ability to quickly dig through the clearance racks or go through TJ Maxx or Marshal’s or other discount store to see if they have something in the shape and/or color family I am interested in at the moment.

Below are a few examples of pictures I put together for myself to shop from.

Fall into winter into spring

More winter

 

Winter Outfit
 
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This kind of pre-shopping helps boost my confidence.  I will never be a fashionista.  And frankly, I’m not interested in becoming one.  But I do want to feel good about myself when I go out in public, and I finally am finding the confidence to dress the way I want to dress.  Is my body perfect post-baby?  Nope.  Will some people look at me and think I’m a little weird for wearing quirky outfits.  Probably.  And I don’t care.
My advice is this: Dress in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.  Screw everyone else.