isn’t that title uncomfortable?
i want to tell you about uncomfortable.
uncomfortable is being a little girl, a pre-teen, a teenager, a woman, and feeling ugly. feeling fat. feeling unwanted.
now granted, those are likely just feelings. and while they may be totally inaccurate, they mean something to the person feeling them. and because i’m a mom to two beautiful, healthy, little girls, i want to talk to you about the power of your words.
i grew up feeling pretty. not outrageously beautiful, or stunning. but i felt good in my own skin, for the most part. many women deal with some sort of body image perception problem, to a degree. but just because most women do, doesn’t mean that we should just accept that to be the norm, or do nothing to create a healthy change for the generations we’re raising.
i went for a walk this afternoon. the sky was so clear. not a cloud around. and as i walked, i caught glance of my shadow. and i smiled remembering when i loved that shadow the most. when i got pregnant, for the first time, about 6.5 years ago, i loved my shadow. i remember going for a walk and catching glimpse of my shadow with my growing belly. it was so beautiful. my rounded belly, my growing breasts. my whole body was taking on this awesome shape. the curves were so pretty. i remember feeling so powerful. inside of me (ME!) was life. it was so hard to fathom that in that belly was part of my destiny. i remember trying to take a picture of my shadow’s profile. it never did justice, though, compared to what my eyes would see.
i was beautiful.
and then someone, who i thought loved me, called me fat. me. newly pregnant, me, fat. and they said it in front of many people. and then i had others that i love tell me that maybe i should watch my diet. be careful what you’re eating. should you be eating that?
i was so embarrassed. i questioned my ability to nourish my body properly. i didn’t want to go for walks anymore or even be in public, pregnant. going to work was hard. even there, people would make comments about the size of my body. pregnant, totally vulnerable, and i was mortified that i wasn’t beautiful.
for so long i’d felt good about who i was. i never even questioned whether i was ugly or pretty. i was just me, and i liked me. but now i questioned everything i ate, wore or felt.
and when i got stretch marks on my breasts and my stomach, it was like a final sentence of: yep. you really are ugly now.
i’m not telling you this to feel sorry for me. victim, i am not.
but a few days ago, i held my 5 year old as she cried about a comment another 5 year old made about her. they told her that she looked fat in a coat. my 5 year old had never even used the word fat before. that’s not an exaggeration. fat isn’t in my vocabulary when describing people. neither is skinny. i don’t describe people, to my children, by way of their race or weight. in fact, both of my children will describe people to me in terms of “the girl with the dark skin. the boy with the black curly hair. the girl with the skin that’s kind of tan.” i don’t even think they know asian, italian, black, or white. it’s not important to me. so it’s not important to them. i’d rather know that she’s friends with jimmy, the boy who chases her on the playground. than jimmy, the white boy who’s fat who chases her.
are you following?
my children repeat a lot that they hear, from me and from other people who are influential in their lives. and when my firstborn told me that someone she cared about called her fat, well, it made me so sad. she was so embarrassed. so embarrassed that she won’t wear that coat anymore. ridiculous right? maybe. but it’s her feelings. and she’s allowed to feel things. good and bad. but what i do with it is important to her. because, right now, she’s watching me to find her worth.
she’s 5. and she doesn’t have everything figured out. so to her, when someone called her fat, well, they must’ve meant that she was fat. 5 year olds are pretty literal. so it’s likely that her green winter jacket will be sidelined this year. and i’m ok with that.
there’s no forcing self-worth on someone.
i am so thankful, though, that the Lord has walked me through hard places and restored my shadow. as i walked today, i saw this awesome body. these legs are strong, not skinny. this belly is soft, not hard. my butt isn’t little. and my arms aren’t twigs, they hold children.
and i have the honor of imparting that restored love of myself back into my daughter.
you look fat in that coat.
not a big deal, right? right. not to you. but to her, it was huge. so for me to pretend that her feelings are stupid, well, that just adds something new to the list: you’re not important enough for me to listen to.
and that steals her voice.
moms. dads. you want your children to keep their voices. if they’re hushed too much, too often, they’ll quit talking to you. and by the time they’re 10 or 12, you’ll be frustrated beyond measure when you can’t figure out why they’re so mad. why they’re rebelling.
make your home a safe place. your lap a safe place. your arms the place that they want to come to when they’re hurting. there are powerful people in their lives. for better or worse, they will be influenced. but when they come home to you, let it be a time of rest and healing. a place of restoring and refreshing.
pour back into your children. remind them that they are on-purpose creations with important destinies that only they can fulfill. remind them that they are wanted by you. that their voices are heard, their hearts are safe with you, and that they are powerful.
you know, you’re raising world changers.
but what kind?
think about that.
my little one can call another little girl fat now. she can, you know. she knows how to use those words. she’s felt them. she knows how powerful they are now. so she’s learning that her words can sting someone if she needs them to.
or, i can teach her how to encourage another little girl. i can talk to her about how much those words hurt her, and for her to be looking for opportunity to defend one of her friends. to encourage them. to call them pretty, even if they feel ugly.
i’m raising world changers, y’all.
and i refuse. i mean it, i REFUSE to raise little girls who are afraid of their shadow.
may your journey as a parent light a fire in you that causes you to speak powerful words of influence over your babies. and may you quickly see the fruit of those words bringing sweet life to your children.
blessings to you, mommies and daddies. yours is a powerful, sacred and divine job.