What I Am Is Not Who I Am

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Who I Am Is Not What I Am: HybridRastaMama.com

I have a daughter. But you all already knew that.

My daughter is 3 ½. You most likely already knew that as well.

Did I mention that I have a daughter? She’s 3 ½ and VERY aware of everything that I do down to the most trivial twirl of hair to more important matters like cussing at bad drivers.

Having a daughter is scary. Really, it is. You see, having a daughter means that I HAVE TO be very diligent about how I feel about my body, how I reference my body, how I look at my body, and how I display my body. My view of and the emotions tied to this view of my body will ultimately reflect in how my daughter views HER body.

God help me.

I am not always a big fan of my physical structure. What I like and what I dislike seems to change depending on my mood and which mirror I am looking in. (Yes, some mirrors are a lot more forgiving than others.)

Some days I am too tired or busy to even acknowledge the image staring back at me. But for the most part, I critique my form daily. It is a hard habit to break. It really is.

I wrote a heartfelt post about how my daughter doesn’t care about what I look like. If you haven’t read it, you really should. Not tooting my own horn but it probably will give you some food for thought.

I, along with most of you, grew up in an appearance obsessed culture. Magazine covers scream from the newsstands with messages that convince us that we weigh too much, that our stomachs are not flat enough, that our butts jiggle too much, that our hair isn’t thick enough, that our breasts are saggy, and that in only 5 minutes per day, we too can look like the hottest celebrity.

Pardon me if this next statement is rude, but the only thing that takes 5 minutes per day is throwing up all the food you ate in an effort to stay thin. Seriously folks – there is no 5 minute quick fix to the perfect body. (And if you are battling and eating disorder, PLEASE get help. Please!)

And what the hell is the perfect body anyway???

When my daughter is older and the realities of an appearance based society hit her, this is what I want her to embrace as the perfect body:

  • A body that is well nourished, through real foods prepared from scratch with love.
  • A body that is neither too big nor too small but just right at any size.
  • A body that doesn’t have saggy or jiggly parts but rather a body that is unique in its features.
  • A body that grows and changes, expands and contracts, that withstands the test of time.
  • A body that allows you to live life.

Our physical vessel must be well cared for. We must treat it like the temple that it is. And this means embracing every square inch of it as OURS.

It doesn’t matter what someone else looks like. Just because her body is bangin’ doesn’t mean she is happy inside. It doesn’t mean she is healthy inside. It doesn’t mean people respect her. It doesn’t mean she respects others. It doesn’t mean that she feels loved. It doesn’t mean that someone truly loves her.
You can only accept as much love as you are able to have for yourself. I truly believe this. When you get caught up in your image, in the physical shape that houses your soul, you close the doors to really experiencing all that life and the life forces around us have to offer. You close yourself off to experiencing the world. When you are so self-conscious about what you are, you cannot allow yourself to be who you are. And really, the who is a million times more important than the what.

So this is what I model for my daughter. I model who I am with all that I am. And this is the best that I can do to instill a lifelong love of self in her.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She’ll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she’s hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it’s pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate’s love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they’ll respect their own and others’.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children’s self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she’s trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama’s Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, “I’m not beautiful.” And while it’s hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child’s lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today’s society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can’t give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don’t You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma’s baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter’s clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she’s in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry’s choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.

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  1. says

    I definitely have the same thoughts and fears with raising my own daughter. But I remind myself that she loves my soft belly, thinks my milkies work just fine no matter their size, and loves me for me. I need to do the same. Great post.

  2. says

    Lovely post. In the eyes of a child, we are perfect, it is only our warped society that causes us to doubt that! Sounds like you are setting a great role model in self acceptance and love for your daughter!

  3. says

    I truly believe that what you describe here is the only way to do it and that if we do this, our daughters will be able to navigate the good mirrors and the bad.
    Now I’m off to read your other post.

  4. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says

    I really want to emphasize (esp with Ailia) that I love my body’s strength and purpose. That I take care of my body because I love it. Being healthy is both a cause and an effect of me loving myself :)

  5. says

    I love that list of a perfect body. I also try hard to make sure T knows what I love about my body. Her view of me is still pretty tied up in my breasts, as she still nurses regularly, but golly if she doesn’t love them! I hope she grows up to love HER body as much as she loves mine :)

  6. says

    I whole-heartedly agree! I have 3 daughters and I am freaking out about doing things right and now screwing this whole modelling a positive body image thing.

    The perfect body also is able to do all the amazing things that it can – support a growing baby inside us, nourish a baby with our super power (making milk), feel and give love.

  7. says

    I agree completely! We are our children’s first teachers and how we care for and love ourselves is how our children will learn. Modeling this is exactly how we teach them to love themselves!
    I love your list!

  8. says

    I have 3 boys. You need to know- this doesn’t just apply to girls. We live in a society where even boys pick up on GQ covers & what the boy down the street looks like, how they run, how they shoot hoops. Boys are extremely self conscious in their own right. And I don’t believe it’s any easier for them. They’ve just been trained by society to tough it out.

  9. says

    I love what you pointed out as positive things about your body. I agree, raising girls is scary. Mine is only 10 days old, and I already worry about protecting her from any input that will make her question her beauty.

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