(A 5 minute feel good read about a Mother’s power to change the world one daughter at a time)
To say I had body love issues when I had my son Sam is the understatement of the century. I was in the U.S. Navy and even before I got pregnant I had struggled with my weight...I could pass all of the physical exams, run, swim, you name it... but big boned was me. Sure I went all earth mother when I got pregnant, but it didn’t make me an instant body accepting guru of self love. No my baby fat enhanced bottom was now putting me at risk of losing a promotion to Lieutenant due to not passing the Navy’s height weight standards with ease.
So I quit. I did make Lieutenant but by that point I had given 10 years to my country both as an enlisted woman and as an officer, the next right step was to become a full time mum instead. We moved to New Zealand, and I started a new life on an organic blueberry farm as a proper hippy earth mother. Still struggled with loving my body though...hippy or not. How did this impact my son? It is hard to say, but when my new partner brought my beautiful teenage ballerina bonus daughter into my life, my own body love issues came into sharp relief.
Do you know that when we are babies as we are looking at our mum and a part of her brain engages...the same part lights up in ours. And when we see someone get hurt the same parts of our brain activates as if that part of us was getting hurt as well. These are called mirror neurons. These neurons are thought to have a large part to play in the development of empathy. But ironically they are not simply mind based but are located in the body as well. They are part of the motor neurons. Empathy appears to be hardwired into our bodies.
So what happens when a mum looks at herself in the mirror and cringes at her reflection and her daughter sees it? What then gets hardwired into her daughter’s body and subconscious about her own body and its worth?
You don't even have to speak the words you just have to have that belief yourself and your daughter is likely to catch it just from watching you...because she is...watching you.
What isn’t transmuted is transferred. Body resistance is like the proverbial poop storm rolling down Mt. Everest. It has the ability to create a stinking steamroll that has the momentum to power down generations of women.
But modern mums face a challenge. If their mums had body love issues, they get the lovely job of working them out as chum in a marketing feeding frenzy. Modern marketing techniques have been able to pull off the incredible feat of selling us the snake oil story that normal women are abnormal, defective, and in need of buying their thingy to be somehow lovable and normal...WTF? It has been achieved through the onslaught of 400-600 photoshopped images of women seen each day. Even movies, videos and commercials scrub the wrinkles out using highly skilled digital makeup artists whose job is to go frame by frame distorting reality to make the stars look preternaturally beautiful. This altered view of womankind into a narrow bandwidth of what is considered "normal" gets mimicked in social media until its defective message somehow reaches epidemic levels of crushed feminine confidence.
Dove in 2016 did a 10000 woman multinational study that found the effect that “low body esteem has on a woman's ability to realize her potential, with nearly all women (85%) and girls (79%) saying they opt out of important life activities - such as trying out for a team or club, and engaging with family or loved ones - when they don't feel good about the way they look.”
Alternate Reality Please
ARGH. Dumbing down. Powering down. Give me some girl power please!
So what can be done?
It all starts with Mindset. To be any help to my bonus daughter, I needed to work out my own body love demons. I decided to go on an adventure to learn to treat my body with compassion instead of as an irritating necessity.
Then I started to wonder...how would the world be different if every woman in the world treated her body like her best friend? If we came from a place of curiosity, from a learning mindset...exploring and honouring what our body loved to do? When exercise isn’t punishment for bad behaviour but instead a loving exploration and care taking of our body. When body differences are celebrated.
When food consumption comes from a place of mindfulness and joy instead of punishment, and deprivation. When grey hair is viewed as soul glitter finally escaping for all to see. When wrinkles become badges of honour for a life deeply lived.
It takes choice. A decision to not be a sheep to the marketers of the world but instead to be a mum who challenges the status quo and raises a daughter who would find it bizarre to question the beauty and genius of her body. Just the same way we would find it bizarre to discover we couldn’t vote...of course we can vote...our great great grandmothers made sure we could to the point that it is taken for granted. So why can’t we as the mothers of this generation change our own minds so that our daughters don’t have to struggle the same way we did and instead can simply start from a place of girl power. If our daughters enter adulthood from a place of strength, power and self compassion...just imagine how different the business and political worlds would become.
It takes a decision to develop a learning mindset. One where you go on an adventure to become your body’s best friend. To treasure yourself as you are right now...not when you have lost x amount of weight or have had that surgery. But right now. Where you put self care as a priority...even if you are a mum. By taking care of you. By going on an adventure to learn to honour your body your family wins. Think about how much energy you have wasted worrying about your least favourite part of your body. What if that energy was gathered up into a beautiful basket and returned to your family...to yourself. You have the power to do this.
A tale of two mums... a tale of two daughters
A mum who is stuck hating her body for aging and not meeting unreal expectations.
A mum who has committed to learn how to treat her body as best friend.
A daughter limiting her life experiences because she is concerned about how she looks.
A daughter so body confident that she takes it for granted and just gets out there and rocks her unique mojo in the world.
Trauma that is not transmuted is transferred. Remember. Your daughter is always watching you with those mirror neurons of hers. She can watch you quit and give in to that toxic inner voice or she can watch you struggle get up and keep learning and growing each day with self compassion. Either way...it is a choice.
There is no perfect way to do this. You will only fail if you fail to try. Some days you will be rock star awesome example of clean living and body treasuring self care. Some days you will eat food that doesn't agree with your belly and veg out like a slug...or possibly starve yourself and exercise til you hurt yourself or feel like puking. But the truth is by committing to the path you will begin to learn to stop shutting down your body's signals and will learn to pay attention and to care as you would for the welfare of a bestie. It isn't a switch...it is more like a spiral to that happy place.
Feel free to come on that Body befriending adventure with us. There is a collection of women who have formed the Luscious Order of Golden Shieldmaidens. Some of us have celebrated our non "preternaturally perfect" bodies in the #everybodyisatreasure project. Some of us are still working up the courage...but are equally on the journey. Every place is exactly right. The trick is to be on the adventure to begin with. Care to join us?