Taking a deep breath, I stepped into the dressing room with my nearly 15-year old daughter. I prepared myself to see her stare in the mirror and find every imperfection about her body in the bikini she was trying on. It’s been exactly one year since we shopped for bathing suits. In that year she has developed serious struggles with her body image.
These struggles aren’t new, just more intense as her teen body develops. I remember when they started. She left the house in an adorable dress I told her she should wear.. That afternoon, she got off the middle school bus in tears after a couple of people (boys and girls) laughed and told her she looked pregnant.
She is the oldest of my four daughters which means…this is just the beginning of me navigating my daughters’ body perceptions. I’m not a mom who makes a big deal about weight or scales or how my clothes fit me because I’ve been taught that’s the worst thing we can do when raising girls. I was sure we would bypass all this body image stuff! I was wrong. In fact I’ve come to believe that no girl in modern day culture gets a pass.
Growing up, my grandmother’s house in Miami was filled with two things: siamese cats and National Geographic magazines. The cats were mean, but I devoured the magazines. My favorite pictures being the tribal women. My fascination with ancestral life started as a young girl and has continued throughout womanhood.
After pregnancy and breastfeeding my first daughter, I would joke that my boobs went from being Playboy to National Geographic overnight. That’s probably when my own body issues began. I felt like those women in my grandmother’s magazines.
When I ask women what their biggest stressors are in life, 9 times out of 10, the number one answer is stress about their bodies. We have an entire country of women trying to live in a body that doesn’t fit in with the Kardashian culture America has created. The expectations we put on our bodies sets us up for a standard of stress we are not designed to thrive in.
The wounds in these women over their bodies are old and are there from many experiences. Some of them witnessed a mother obsess about her own weight and talk about how fat she felt their whole childhood. Others were made fun of by classmates. Some were told by their parents that they needed to watch what they were eating. Body shame starts young and sometimes it lasts a lifetime.
We can easily use examples from hunter-gatherer women to see what a woman’s body looks like in it’s most natural state. Certainly every tribe has it’s own rituals and ideas around beauty. I’m not creating a Paleo fantasy that says they’re doing it better than we are. But there is comfort for me when I look at these photographs of women who look like the women nature created. Unlike the woman the Kardashian culture is attempting to create.
I often think that it’s unlikely tribal women walk around all day wondering how they’re getting to Crossfit today while juggling dinner and driving the kids to their after school activities. I assume that it is of little consequence to hunter-gatherer women if their boobs are saggy or stomachs filled with stretch marks. I like to imagine that their tribal men think it’s sexy as hell. Stress management for women is absolutely dependent on self-love and self-love comes after self-acceptance. I would love to see women look to our long ago past for inspiration of how our beautiful, feminine bodies were designed. I would love for women to validate from within and not from modern-day culture.
When I walked into that dressing room, my daughter told me how beautiful she felt in that bikini. She said it complimented her so well. Later, wearing her new suit to the pool, she walked around with confidence I’d never witnessed from her before. I gave myself a little pat on the back.
Body issues will affect us all at some point in our lives, but practicing positive body talk versus shame talk about our bodies is the key to loving what nature gave us. Stop stressing about your body and start living the life you dream of in the one you’ve got.