Start With Me (and You Start with You)

A couple of days ago, I was standing with a group of moms that I know watching a newly minted six-year-old girl open a stack of birthday gifts. As the girl held up the latest unveiled treasure for all to see, we beheld a sailor-themed navy and white polka-dot bikini. Almost at once, the moms in my group (including myself) expressed our appreciation of this very cute piece of swimwear, and then, as one, we turned to each other and started to joke about how our bikini wearing days are over.

Most of us blamed the loss of our bikini bodies on the very kids we were watching tear around the room on a sugar-high, but in the back of my head, I told myself that I never really had that perfect bikini body in the first place. No sooner had that nasty little thought sneaked into my head, then one of my friends said those very words. I immediately flicked the Nasty Thought Monster off my shoulder and said that it’s too bad that we couldn’t warp back twenty years earlier and tell ourselves to get into those bikinis, because an almost 40-year-old me was wishing that 20-year-old me had been bold enough and brave enough to do so.

We all laughed and joked and agreed that it’s too bad we didn’t grasp those bikini years when we could, and we all hoped that our children – our daughter’s especially – would (though perhaps not too skimpy of a bikini).

em and me

In the pause of the conversation, I relived the smoother, and tighter skin of my youth, and I started to plot out how our own daughter’s wouldn’t fall into this trap of self-doubt about our bodies because we were all newly confident women who knew the beauty of ourselves.

em rain

And then.

And then.

No sooner had I started up my Daydream of Acceptance and Love and Assured Women, when another party guest walked by in a gorgeous wrap dress with a low v-neck. As the group of us looked after the woman in the dress, one of the ladies in my huddle declared that although she loved the dress and wished that she could wear it, she never could because she “doesn’t have the body for it”.

The Circle of Self-Doubt continues to spin.

I reminded her of our joint walk down memory lane not five minutes before. What would her future 60-year-old self say if she could come back in time and talk about that dress? I bet that the 60-year-old would tell the 40-year-old that the time is now for that dress. If you love that dress, get into it. Wear it. Revel in the moment that is now and know you look good.

This particular woman has a nice figure – certainly better than my own plus-size body – and yet I could tell that she didn’t believe me. She laughed and told me that “she should” and “she might” wear a dress like that, but her eyes betrayed the truth. Her self-doubt is holding her back. It’s possible that twenty years from now, she’ll meet her 60-year-old self and realize that she should have taken the chance.

Because now is what we have.

It’s all we have.

And what I wanted to say to her then, but didn’t (darn self-editing) is that I fear whatever it was that happened to us as young girls to make us believe that we couldn’t wear the bikini or the wrap dress or the skinny jeans? What happened to the group of us to make us brush our self-confidence under that rug? How can I make sure it doesn’t infect my daughter?

Without knowing it, I might be poisoning her with toss away statements about my body not being “right” in some way, and the thought that she might come to believe that she is anything other than beautiful and strong and confident fills me with more than a little panic.

So what I wanted to say to my acquaintance at the party, is what I find I need to tell myself: If I am to teach my daughter to love herself, I have to show her how; I have to start with me.



  1. Tarable says

    Really fantastic post, Marilyn. My youthh was riddled with self doubt and self conciousness of not having a perfect body. I have long beat myself up about my “curves” or the few extra pounds that I always carry. Having a daughter really made me think hard about this very subject. The LAST thing I want is for her to inherit any sort of body image issues from me. It’s hard enough being a girl! I have tried to make a concious effort to never belittle myself in front of her and to always say positive things about my own body and hers. This is a really great reminder of that.

    Again, really great post.

  2. Teresa says

    Sooo true. With my almost 13 year old, I’ve really tried to hold my tongue, and instead show her my active side – biking, swimming and running while inwardly swearing about my fat ass. I hope my daughters feel better about themselves than I ever did, but am afraid the societal projections they face every day are extremely tough competitors. I hope that by walking around naked (even now) in front of my son and daughter, they get a perception of “real” and “normal” really are.

  3. Shelley White says

    Yahoo Marilyn! Beautiful post! I know I don’t comment enough, but I had to tell you how wonderful this post is :)

  4. Harriet says

    It’s true. It doesn’t actually matter whether you are larger or smaller or older or younger, it’s whether you want to rock your God-given body or not.

    Great post! I do think it would be challenging to have a girl in that regard.
    Harriet´s last blog post ..Nurturing my child’s nature

  5. erc says

    Not yet at that 60 mark, but am over 50 and can tell you, after a while all of that “wish I looked like her” stuff truly seems petty, vain and a waste of negative emotion. For, in the end, it’s always what a person is on the inside that truly, TRULY matters.

    But alas, I was like that in my mid-30s already so I guess we all go through it. ;)

  6. Di says

    I’ve been wrestling with this very idea lately. My daughter is 5 and my son, almost 3. I want them to know me as fit, confident and capable, regardless of my size. I want them to see me working hard for something I want, and seeing changes as they come.

  7. Jennifer says

    This is perfect. Absolutely wonderful. This past April I bought myself some skinny jeans. Within a few days I had buyer’s remorse. This posting has given me the courage to wear those jeans… in 20 years, I’ll be glad I did. Thank you!
    Jennifer´s last blog post ..My Ordeal (dot com)

  8. Amanda says

    Hear, hear, Marilyn! I think my own personal body confidence has mostly come from knowing what my body is capable of, so it is SO important to me to get my daughter involved in athletics. I hope we can find something she loves and is good at so that she can experience the power of her own body. To me, that is where the love of one’s body starts. I certainly have my moments of hating my thighs, for example, but then I remind myself of how powerful my kicks are and how I’ve made large men flinch as my foot approached their head and I know I wouldn’t have had that power if it weren’t for my thighs.

    It’s definitely time to seize the day and wear that dress or skinny jeans or bikini – life is too short!
    Amanda´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday: What We’ve Been Up To

  9. Lisa says

    Great post. I spend a lot of time despising my body. But to my daughter and my son I talk about getting exercise and staying healthy. I love how young kids are so uninhibited when it comes to their bodies and I don’t want to take that away from either of them.
    Lisa´s last blog post ..On Motivational Speakers and Tears

  10. Mandi says

    I can’t tell you how much this post meant to me! I really truly believe this very same thing! My daughters are absolutely beautiful and I don’t want them to ever lose sight of that! I tell them every day but now I need to do it to myself! If you don’t love you….no one will. Amazing! Thank you soo much!
    Mandi´s last blog post ..Mommy Daughter(s) Day

  11. Sheryll says

    Oh so true! All the negative thoughts that ramble through our heads….. We are all beautiful! We are Mothers, we bring precious life into the world; that’s Beauty in the purest form.
    Fathers must also be very aware of tbeir comments to their little girls and of other women. As we all know we are Daddy’s little girls…..


  1. [...] carry within ourselves. Unfortunately, the session wasn’t recorded but my recent post – Start With Me (and You Start With You) – gives you an idea about what I talked about. At that session, there were a few questions [...]