Last year I told myself that I was going to make 2013 the year of caring for me. After years of living in a hoping to get pregnant, pregnant, nursing, hoping to get pregnant continuum, our family felt complete and I sensed God calling me to better care for the one body He gave me.
In addition to my gym time, I dug deeper into the Word to bend my heart towards God’s perspective of health. I returned to the dance floor to pair God-given passion with emotional and physical health and was even blessed enough to create a beautiful memory on stage with our oldest. And, I quietly downloaded My Fitness Pal to get a more complete sense of the nutrition I was or wasn’t putting into my body.
I felt better and bolder than I had in years and the unhealthy pounds started melting away.
To encourage other moms in this position, I posted a tweet and within minutes a news outlet I didn’t realize followed me asked me to do a story. Given it was not long after the New Year when many make fitness resolutions, I inquired into the intent of the story, making very clear that I have three girls and a deep concern about the message society has placed on beauty. I shared that I believed the body to be a temple and that I want my girls to love their looks in an airbrushed world so I don’t even keep a scale in my house. If they wanted to discuss healthy self-image, I said, I would consider a conversation, but if the focus was on numbers I could not in good conscience participate.
A response quickly followed wishing me the best in continued weight loss and in the parenting of my girls. Less than 140 characters reinforcing the mental battle we as women fight every day.
My value does not come from my weight on the scale but in who He has created me to be.
Needless to say, when Mothers of Daughters decided to highlight Vicki Courtney’s “5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter” and I read this only a few pages in:
“I find it sad that popular culture and mass media have hijacked the authentic definition of beauty. Beauty is defined by God and God alone.”- Vicki Courtney
She had my attention.
My second grader just told me last night that her friend “joked” that she had “big” upper legs. My girl has always been off the charts for height and not for weight. The math will tell you she is long and lean and this mama will add that she is beautiful because of who she is inside and out. However, they are too young to know that that area of the leg is a muscle, not fat. A muscle she continues to define with her constant ballet barre work at the ledge in her room. “I have a beautiful toe point,” she tells me, and I don’t have to question if that is money well spent.
But, I’m smart enough to know that those words she found funny yesterday she will not in the near future. Every message is internalized. That is why, Courtney reminds, 40% of first through fifth grade girls are trying to lose weight. A statistic that makes my heart weep.
Shocked, I filled my mouth with a big bite of food to give my brain time to process all the thoughts let loose by this emotional panic button. Although she was unfazed, choosing silence risked wrongly cementing the belief that I agreed. On the other hand, carefully selecting my words was of the utmost importance because the last thing I wanted to do was plant unhealthy ideas in the mind of the innocent.
Mamas of younger ones, maybe you, like me, are looking at your girl wondering how you got from dreaming of being a mom to sweaty palms over Life-giving friendships, and body image, and body changes, and all the stuff in the seeming blink of an eye. We like to think that the big conversations about life’s weighty issues are for years down the road. But, the truth is, our daughter’s choices and integrity ride on us beginning character discussions when they are still into watching Sofia the First and playing school with their American Girl dolls. It’s during this season, when our girls still think we are “the best,” that we need to actively, frequently engage in meaningful dialogue. These are the pivotal moments that will define our relationship of the future. Either we will write on their hearts that they can come to us with anything and solidify our role as their primary advisor or we will lose that distinction to their adolescent-minded friends.
“If she conforms her identity to this culture’s narrow definition of beauty, you can be sure that it will permeate every corner of her life from this moment forward.”
There is no time to bury my head in the sand.
“I’m glad that you two were both laughing,” I opened, trying to take advantage of the light-heartedness that unwrapped this teachable moment for my six and eight year old girls. “But, there are two very important things I want you to think about. First, do you think ‘big’ is a kind word when describing someone?” They both shook their heads side to side. “Right,” I affirmed, “and, while it didn’t hurt your feelings, it would for some and then they secretly start making unhealthy choices so that no one even jokes that way. You would never want to accidently cause that so please make sure that the words you choose build others up.” They gave a collective round of “okays.” “And, second and most importantly, God made us each to look unique and different. His Word says ‘we are fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14) with His own two hands so always love and care for who He made you to be not what someone else thinks looks nice. And, please, please talk to me if you ever have any questions.”
Then I went to my room, dropped to my knees, and prayed that my example would align with my words.
Because only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful, Courtney shares, yet we want 100% of our girls to.
Unlike some discussions we will have with our daughters this is an issue they will see us live. They will hear what we say about our own bodies. They will or won’t believe you can weave God-birthed loves into living with joy. They will see if we are making healthy food choices and getting exercise to have energy for our day. They will observe if we are looking to fashion magazines or the Word to define beautiful. And they will take from what we’ve modeled and decide if they are going to be about skinny or healthy.
And if, by the grace of God, we can model and discuss this well, our girls will see how living healthy and passionately in step with Him will empower them to be movers and shakers for Christ because a vibrant faith and healthy spirit affords nothing less. With eyes on Him, she’ll see right through the wayward ways of our culture and become the voice of transformation in the Kingdom.
Help us to see ourselves through your eyes.
May we stand on guard to the lies of our culture
And throw away the expectations of the world
To live and speak in a way that glorifies You.
May our behavior mirror Godly beauty
Honoring of our body,
In touch with our unique gifts,
And laughing with abandon.
Lord, may we seize every opportunity
To talk with and guide our girls
So that they live life to Your fullest
And change the world around them.