In Her Words
Do you see your personality, your wit or something else?
-Michelle Kemper Brownlow
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What is the first thing that pops out at you? Is it your charming personality or your comical wit? How about your generous nature, kind heart or unconditional friendship and devotion? Most likely these are not traits you see when you gaze into the looking glass. But why? One reason is that the most endearing qualities of a personality are secluded, on the inside. But it’s also safe to say that the most common reason we don’t see the aforementioned qualities is that the not-so-endearing roll around our middle, the saggy bags under our eyes and the way-too-gray hair is staring back and blinding us to the beauty on the inside.
As a society, we put a considerable amount of focus not only on how we look but also on how others look on the outside. Just in case you were wondering, innocent children are watching and learning. My oldest children are 10 and 11, and I believe most of you would be shocked (I was!) to hear how many times they have come home and told me who thinks they are fat and who wishes they could be skinnier, prettier or more popular. We are talking about fourth and fifth graders. This is a crime!
I know there is research out there that says eating disorders are genetic. I believe that they are, in part. But I also believe that the emphasis we put on how we look gets the ball rolling. I have heard parents talking openly in front of their children about stepping on the scale and being horrified at the numbers or saying they were not having dessert because they were on a diet. I even heard one grandmother say to her granddaughter, “No, thanks, if I eat that, it will make me fat!” You can’t tell me that doesn’t send a message to the little girl with an innocent ice cream mustache!
Maybe, as a recovering bulimic, I am overly sensitive to this issue and terrified at the thought of having passed this ugly gene to my children. But I think we all need to stop blaming Hollywood and listen to what is coming out of our own mouths on a daily basis. How many times do we make a comment that could be the culprit to a stumbling block later on in any child’s life?
I am passionate about the health and wellness of all children. I think there is more that we, as families, can do to give our children a firm foundation on which to stand, but this foundation must be built from the inside out. What our children feel about themselves on the inside will shine through to the outside. The esteem they gain from our positive affirmations will steer them clear of falling into the “Why can’t I look like him/her?” game. They need to hear that God made us a certain way for a reason. He wants us to see the beauty that He sees in our differences. He wants us to see the beauty in everything He has created, even in my freakishly short legs and long torso.
Michelle Kemper Brownlow is a freelance parenting writer from Pennsylvania who also blogs about self-image and other issues of motherhood at My Semblance of Sanity.