Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Love My Butt

I know this may seem odd at best and completely self absorbed at worst, but I'm being serious here. Something has been on my mind a lot lately - something relating to body image and self esteem and parenting. I'm going to try to make sense of it here, if that's ok with you.
There are not many other parts of my body that I would say I "love" - there are a few I like, and a lot that I simply tolerate - but I've always been happy with my backside. There's nothing particularly special about it really. I've always just.... liked it. Simple and easy. So why haven't I been able to do that for all of myself? My thoughts on the whole thing are a bit convoluted, but hang with me for a minute.
My beautiful mother has a rather large rear end (sorry Mom - I'm outing you a little in this post). It's true. But it's great. She never seemed to mind it. In fact, I think she rather likes it. And my Dad used to call it the Great White, in this completely adoration-filled way, like it was one of his favorite things about my mother.
I look a lot like my mother. She calls me her Mini Me. Everyone who knew my mom when she was my age gushes about how uncanny it is when they meet me. So it was natural, I think, for me to like the parts of myself that Mom liked in herself. It was even more reassuring to know that men might like it, too. (I have a lot of thoughts of the power of a Daddy's words on his little girl, but that's for another day.) I never consciously thought about all of this until very recently, but I think the way my mother spoke about herself (and the way my father spoke about her) influenced the way I thought about myself.
And to be honest, I never really heard my mother speak kindly of many other parts of herself. I remember her lamenting that she had inherited her father's nose. I know she wishes she had longer eye lashes. I know she thinks her hands are knobby and unattractive. Basically, she picks herself apart, just like the rest of us. But here's the thing: she is incredibly beautiful. The only person who isn't completely convinced of that is my mother. And that sucks. She deserves better.
So do I.
So do you.
I have a very long list of complaints about my body; my tummy pudge that won't go away no matter how hard I work out or how clean I eat, my big nose, my short legs, my broad shoulders, my small boobs, my crooked smile, my small eyes, my thin hair. (As I'm writing this I'm picturing that Dove commercial that made so much buzz. Have you seen it? Ugh.) But I think it's time to throw that list away.
I am a Mom now, and little ears will hear what I say.
When I was 21, I was in a Christian discipleship program for young adults. It was like boot camp for your faith. Early every morning, our director took us through a workout. He often brought his two beautiful daughters with him. I think they were something like 4 and 6 at the time. They were incredible little girls: super active and strong and happy. They would get right in there with us - work their little tails off - and then hit the showers with us afterward. One day, one of these beautiful little girls started crying in the locker room. When we asked her what was wrong, we were horrified to hear her say that she thought she was fat. Each and every one of us felt an instant pang of guilt, one that I carry still. We knew exactly where she had gotten that idea. Us. The way we spoke about ourselves. (To the parents of that little girl: if you're reading this, I don't know if I ever told you just how sorry I am. I am so, so sorry.)
Our words have so much power.
If I put those ideas into my own daughter's head.... shame on me.
I know I can't be perfect all the time - none of us can -  but I can certainly be better. I can work on it. What if I simply started saying, "I love my shoulders, because they are strong. I love my tummy, because it is soft and feminine."? Even if I don't necessarily believe it. Just say it anyway. And maybe I don't even need a "because." Maybe I can just say, "I love my legs. I love my eyes. I love my nose." Phew. I just tried that out loud, and it was hard. Even sitting here all alone. It will take a lot of work. Because I'm not talking about just changing thoughts, I'm talking about actually changing words: what comes out of our mouths when others can hear. And that's scary. Because it's safer to sound self-deprecating than self-idolizing, isn't it? No one wants to sound conceited. Can't you just hear everyone thinking, "Well someone sure thinks a lot of themselves"?  (I could go on for a long time about why I think this is. About how society likes it that way: to describe confidence as conceit and to promote self degradation. Because if we are never satisfied with ourselves, of course we will have to spend more money in the pursuit of something better.) I say phooey  to all of that. It doesn't make you conceited to accept yourself as you are. It makes you healthy and happy. And if someone thinks less of you when you start thinking better of you, well phooey on them too. Because you are more important.
And so am I.
And so are my kids.
I'm going to work on acceptance. Satisfaction. Contentment. And I'm going to speak them out loud so my children can hear me. And I'm going to pray that my daughters will find it perfectly natural to say the same things about themselves, and can avoid at least some of the struggle we have all been waging for so long. Maybe we can all work on it and can raise a new generation of people more likely to be kind to themselves and to each other.
And maybe, by working on this for the sake of my kids, I'll actually start to believe some of it.Wouldn't that be lovely?


  1. Love it!!

    I wish I had learned this lesson earlier in life. The fact was, I didn’t fit the ‘accepted’ norm of a beautiful California girl…not tan. Not tall. Not skinny.
    However, there were and still are parts of me I DID come to love. I love my breasts then and still do now. For lots of reasons. They were bigger than my sisters ;-) they let me go braless for a lot of years. They nourished my children. They still look pretty good for an older gal. and, kyle loves them! (TMI??) I loved my green eyes. They are like my momma’s and I like that. And though I didn’t like my backside for a time when I was younger ~ there was no ‘baby got back’, J-Lo booty lovin back then but again, I came to appreciate its uniqueness. The great white it is and always will be - and while humorous, will be said with tenderness. My body let me do so many things well and with strength. It carried 3 children which was 3 of it’s best accomplishments!!

    All in all, I lament that maybe I didn’t do a better job, set a better example of loving your own skin. I never wanted my daughters to feel badly about themselves or have poor body image. I tried to never say ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I need to diet’ while you were growing up but rather, if I felt changes needed to be made that it would be more a matter of ‘I’m gonna work out more – get stronger’ or, ‘I’d like to eat healthier’ therefore helping my girls to avoid feeling the angst I felt growing up. Sigh. Maybe I did some things right, maybe there was more I could have done. I think sometimes, angst just comes with the territory.

    BUT, your feelings, your thoughts, your ACTIONS can help change that.

    YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Inside and out. Realize that. And yes, I know I’m your mother and of course I think that and yes, it’s true that daddy’s play an important role for girls and their self-images. But you are also super intelligent and you should know this down to your core. LIVE IT. Be the change!

    I will follow 

    1. Mom, you are - and have always been - a wonderful Mom who sets a wonderful example. I hope you know that I don't hold anything against you. You did the best you could, and I think it was better than most. I really think that there has been a generational/societal shift that has lead to more awarness and openness. I am so grateful for everything you did for me as a little girl and it really is a blessing to know I take after such a beautiful and amazing woman.

    2. Awww honey thank you! I had an awfully strong role model too.
      Im proud of both my girls for being smart strong women!

  2. Such a great post - really thought provoking. I really need to work on this myself for both my own self esteem and my daughters - Alice @ Mums Make Lists xxx

  3. My butt is one of the few things that I like about my body :) I work hard to keep it looking nice and my husband has always loved it. I think you have a great attitude, and I agree that the example that we see from our parents has a large influence on how we see ourselves. I try to make sure that my two sons know what a strong and confident woman is like by the attitude that I exude. Great post!

    1. Ann, you mention a great point: about how our boys will learn from us what to expect in a woman. I often worry more about the daughters I don't even have yet because I know from personal experience how we girls/women struggle. I need to remember that I have important things to teach my son, as well.
      I'm glad there are more moms out there fighting to set a good example for the next generation!

  4. Oh my friend!! I love your butt too!! But even more so I love your gigantic heart!! :) and yes...that little girl was five at the time. Now at thirteen she is well aware of the cultural body image and the struggles that come with it. BUT she also remembers watching all of us struggle and overcome...that is what impacted that little mind and that is what gives her strength to do the same. :) so no sorries...thank YOU for impacting a beautiful little five year old and showing her that although she too will struggle with what culture says about her body she truly is BEAUTIFUL!! Just like you :)