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).
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.
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.