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An Open Letter to my Child About Body Image


My Dearest B,


Being your mom is one of the greatest joys I have ever known. You are not yet two years old, but you bring such happiness to our lives that we can barely remember life before you existed. Every day I see new sparks of amazingness in you. You are bright, and sweet, and gloriously active! I wish I could give you the world. I want to protect you from the evils, and pain, and difficulties of this world, even though I realize it would just do you a disservice to not learn how to navigate these things with strength and grace on your own.


There is something that I want to be sure you always understand though:

You are incredible just as you are, no matter what that may be.

Society has a way of always wanting to tear people down, to make them feel guilty or shameful about who they are, for any number of reasons. A big one, and one that I see time and again as I work with clients, has to do with how we look. People seem to always be told that their bodies are somehow not good enough.


Why our society focuses disproportionately on this, I will never know. As human beings, we are so much more than our size, shape, or weight.

Our bodies do not dictate how generously we contribute to society, or how much work we put into learning new things.

Our bodies have nothing to do with our wisdom, or our kindness, or our various talents.

And yet, it is what society chooses to call people out on, when they don’t fit into an incredibly narrow definition of what is supposed to be considered ideal.


Big is NOT Bad


You were born weighing 9.5 pounds, which was certainly a surprise! You have always been a bigger child. You have been off the growth charts in terms of height for most of your life. Your weight has consistently tracked around the 85th percentile. You are bigger than many other children your age.


And I need you to know that this is 100% okay.

An open letter to my child on body image. Your body is not the most important thing. Help your child develop a positive body image!


Do not let society tell you that you need to be smaller. Do not let anyone convince you that your big appetite is wrong or bad. You are a growing child, and your body knows better than anyone else how to fuel that growth.

Even when you’re no longer a growing child, your body has the wisdom to know best how to fuel and nourish you. Honor that wisdom.


While you are still so young, you haven’t yet given a single thought to your body, except to point and show me where your various body parts are as you learn their names. No one has yet made you question the right or wrongness of your body, and I want so badly to prevent that from ever happening.

But I can’t. Someday, when I least expect it, it will happen. Some flippant comment from a stranger will cause you to suddenly wonder if your body is normal, or if something could be “better” if only you were somehow different... if you were smaller, or louder, or quieter, or your hair was a different color, etc.


I cannot prevent comments from others. But I can do my best to instill in you a sense of respect and appreciation for the body you have.


Your body is wonderful. It is capable of so many great things. It allows you to run, and jump, and roll, and play. It allows you to sit in my lap, or walk by my side. Your arms are what allow you to hug me and show that you care. The body is a very cool, and extremely interesting, machine. Someday I will teach you more about the impressive things it can do. But for now, I just want you to know that it is amazing, no matter what shape or size it takes, and no matter how it looks.


Your body is something to love, respect, and care for (after all, we only get ONE body).


In the work I do, I meet people who have deeply internalized the message that their current bodies aren’t good enough. That thinking has led them down the diet cycle of frustration and misery, and eventually they come to view the way they eat and move only in terms of how it can potentially change their body.


I try very hard to help them find their way back to the basic truth I am trying to teach you from the very beginning, that their bodies are completely wonderful and worthy of love, respect, admiration, and care just as they currently are. You do NOT become more worthy of these things by changing your body. You deserve them, and your body deserves them, just by virtue of the fact that you are a human being.


And when you love, and respect, and care for something (or someone), you want to treat them well. A big part of that is simply kindness - showing yourself the same kindness that I’m teaching you to show to others.


Another big part of that is doing things that promote your health and well-being: things like getting enough sleep, handling stress and other tough emotions, and eating well and getting some activity in your day.


These things all play a big role in health. And your health does play a role in the shape and function of your body. But that is not the point. Eat well, sleep well, and move because they are awesome, wonderful, and healthy things to do! Your body will be happy and healthy if you treat it well, no matter what it looks like.


What it all comes down to, is not letting your body become the most important thing.


While I want you to love your body no matter what, and to never listen to anyone trying to tell you otherwise, what I also need you to know is that outside of thinking positively about your body, it doesn’t really need much other thought.


We pay too much attention to bodies these days. And in the grand scheme of things, they are really rather unimportant.


Your body is not who you are.


Don’t let it become more important to you than the multitude of other things in your life.

  • Your kindness matters.
  • Your positive attitude matters.
  • Your curiosity about the world, and your learning and growing and imagining matters.
  • Your ability to work hard matters.
  • Your strength of spirit, your determination, your persistence, your creativity, your resilience, your adaptability, and your compassion matter!

THESE things make you who you are. You body is simply the thing that contains all that amazingness.

Love it, respect it, and treat it well, but don’t obsess about it. It’s just a body! Eat well, move and have fun, get good sleep, and have a positive outlook. That, and the inner awesomeness above are what truly matter.


One last thing:


It’s not just about you, or how you view your own body. My wish for you is that you always appreciate that everyone is different, and that differences are a good thing. If everyone was the same, the world would be a boring place indeed!

So just like every person has a different sound to their voice, and different color eyes, so too does everyone have a different size and shape to their body. And all of those sizes and shapes are worthy of kindness and respect.

Do not concern yourself with the bodies of others. They are not yours to worry about.

See the person inside, and treat that person with the same kindness you want them to show you. Be a force for positivity in this world. We need it now more than ever.


I love you, to the moon and back,

Mom



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