So I prepared these free worksheets for you, to help you love yourself more, to inspire you to look at yourself differently, so you can stop obsessing about your flaws and start appreciating and loving the body that you have.
I know for myself that the pressure to be perfect can overwhelm, and that sometimes it feels like our bodies are an object to improve, that we’re so far from the mainstream ideal of beauty. Ideal that’s so difficult to achieve. Many of us, mothers, have experienced a miracle of growing life, but also an unexpected body transformation. We look different then we used to, different then the beauty ideal.. and so what? I don’t believe anymore that it changes anything. I feel good and confident in the body that I have. Imperfect. Different. Yet so strong and still beautiful.
It took me awhile to get here. That’s why I created these worksheets, to inspire you to love yourself, to accept yourself and to go on without worrying about your imperfections. Because we all have them.
It’s a bit like adult homework/therapy/self-help all in one. Print it. Find yourself a calm spot. Grab a cup of something nice and comforting. Fill them in. Don’t rush, it’s ok if it takes you a couple of days or even a month to finish them. Just be honest with yourself.
This is my personal story and an explanation why positive body image issues are important for me now. And why I stress so much the importance of raising girls free from self objectification and body insecurities.
There was a time when I didn’t think about positive body image at all, and instead I felt ashamed for how I looked and what I ate. I was obsessing about how I should be looking. At that time of my life, I was wasting much of my energy on worrying about weight loss, and my mood was highly influenced by how others would see me. You can call it a natural path of youth, but I think that it was unhealthy, sad and self-centred. And I have a feeling that many of my friends used to feel the same.
Though I was raised to love and accept myself, and I’m sure that is not what my mother wished for me. My family was praising and complimenting me ( now I think that they should have compliment less my appearance ). I did have all the support I needed. But I do remember that the women in my family were never happy about how they looked. (And they were all beautiful). I would hear the phrases: I need to lose weight; I can’t eat this because I’ll gain weight, I can’t wear that because my breasts aren’t big enough, I’m too skinny, I’m too fat..( now I know that a family member talking low about their body in front of a girl or a teen is linked to her low self esteem).
There used to be no sweets at my home, and we would eat really healthy, which I generally really enjoyed. But I would eat as many sweets as possible as soon as I was out of sight. And since my teen years I would feel ashamed after.
Almost all of my friends would agree that them too need to lose weight, as if it would be the only socially approved thing to say.
[bctt tweet=”All of my friends would agree that need to lose weight, as if it was the only approved thing to say.”]
But maybe they too, were told that they actually should watch their weight. I was, even though I was wearing size medium. And nobody was being mean, my family members just really believed that being even slightly overweight is horrible, unhealthy and something to avoid by all means!
So I did have a bulimic episode during one summer, when I was around 22 years old. I was outside of my home city, working in an extremely boring office job, and surrounded by even more image-orientated culture. My work lunch was a mix of pizza, greasy fast food and muffins, while my family dinner was extremely healthy and lean. And I gained weigh (a terrible sin in my eyes at that time) but I couldn’t stop eating, because that was the only fun thing (except of shopping, can you imagine) that I would do that summer. And I was reading all of these fashion magazines and I would constantly compare myself.
I did force myself to throw up, after eating way to many sweets, hidden from the world in my room. It happened three times to be exact (not enough to be diagnosed with bulimia, but enough to make me understand what it’s like). And I felt extremely ashamed, disgusting and impossible to love.
Luckily for me, that summer was finally over, I did go back to my home city and back to my psychology studies, and I stopped thinking about my look that much. Also, I already knew that bulimy is a very sad path to go down, and that I didn’t want to be there. Happily for me, my life got exiting again, I got my support system around me back, and I never threw up after eating again.
But I was still concentrated on my look, and I had a huge case of makeup. Huge. On and off I would be obsessing about chocolate and other forbidden foods. And constantly thinking about these last 5 pounds that I had to lose in order to be happy.
Of course mass media that I was consuming only maintained my mood. The super-diet-to-try and the get-beach-ready-body magazine issues. The music videos with extremely sexy and half-naked skinny women. Fashion magazines displaying one type of beauty.
So how did I actually manage to get out of it? How did I changed from borderline bulimic to self accepting and happy? How did I stop obsessing about my body image, wight loss and all the forbidden food? (.. the concept of forbidden food is a different subject all together; you know, the more you can’t have it, the more you want it..but I’ll write about it some other time..)
It was a long process to be honest. I didn’t wake up one day free from these issues and self-confident in my own skin. And for a long time I was hiding my struggle from the world. But I do wake up self-confident and happy now ( sometimes still tired though, but that’s a parent life, right?).
So here’s how my change went:
1. I stopped consuming most of the mass media.
I stopped reading fashion magazines, and instead I started taking my style inspirations from fashion blogs that show more variety. I stopped reading magazines targeted at young women and so I wasn’t reading anymore about how I should be getting my body beach ready and I just assumed my body ready. Point. Not being exposed to photoshopped models and other women obsessed with the perfect body ideal, has made me calmer, stronger and happier.
2. I stopped with the food dichotomy : the healthy versus the forbidden.
All food is just food. Some is more nutritious than other. Some is better for emotional comfort. But I don’t have forbidden foods anymore. I eat to nurture my body, and since I have kids it’s even more important that we eat whole, real and healthy food. But I believe in balance, and that’s why we bake, buy ice cream and we don’t say no to chocolate.
3. I stopped objectifying myself.
I started to see my body as a marvellous tool of mine that lets me do things I want ( like have babies) and I stopped seeing it as an object to please others. I’m not a decoration. And I realized that I’m not my body. I have my body to live and to experience life. And with the time passing by, and life experiences that I live, my body changes, and I’m ok with that too.
[bctt tweet=”I started to see my body as a marvellous tool that lets me do things I want to do! “]
4. I started reading more about positive body image.
Reading about other women getting over their eating disorders and body insecurities was very inspiring and encouraging. It had made me see more clearly that we’re not doomed to be unsatisfied with our bodies. It’s the cultural context that made us feel insecure and unhappy. And we have the right to change that context.
Now I believe that we’re so much more then how we look. I think that we should all celebrate the diversity of our bodies instead of trying to all look the same. And as a mother I think that my body is simply amazing, because not only it lets me be a part of this world, but it got to create life as well!
If you’d like to read more about positive body image check Beauty Redefined, if you happen to know French, this blog has great articles on the subject. And if now you’re looking for fashion bloggers showing more diversity clic here, here or here.
Before my daughter will go to school and learn that pretty kids are considered better kids, and before she’ll join the Disney princesses fans team, I want her to learn that beauty is not the skinny and wide-eyed ideal. That beauty can come in different shapes and colours. And that what’s really beautiful is the inside not the outside.
I want to teach her that she is much more than a pretty face. That when people say that she’s pretty, it’s because they try to be nice, since they don’t know how funny/ smart/ creative she is.
I hope that when my daughter will be be growing up, she won’t let how she looks or how other people think that she looks, affect her feeling and what she can or can’t be doing.
I hope that she’ll learn that there is so many more things to do and see in life, then just staring in the mirror and looking for flaws or perfection.
I hope that she’ll like being feminine but that she won’t feel like she has to be feminine all the time, to please others.
I hope for her to live intense live experiences in which she can forget the time passing by, and people around her. The kind of experiences in which she won’t care for how she looks. And that the memory of these moments will help her go through the times where she might feel people judging her looks.
And when my daughter will grow, I want to teach her that it’s ok to feel and look sexy, but that it’s not necessary to be like this all the time.
And that how you look should please you, not others. That people who love you, and care for you, look much deeper in you, and will like what they see because they like you in the first place.
I hope to teach her that chasing the beauty ideals is a waste of time and money. That this isn’t the path for happiness.
I want her to know that happiness comes from healthy relationships, creativity and helping others. And that exploring, learning and understanding is so much more important than just being pretty.
That real relationships are so much more important and rewarding then the lust that men may feel for the perfect body.
That they don’t need to be perfect in order to be happy.
Little girls are adorable. With their cute dresses, adorable smiles and funny faces that they make. Usually while meeting a little girl,the first thing we see, is how pretty she is. And if she’s not pretty (poor little thing, we think), then we usually feel like we should make her feel pretty. So we tell her how nice her dress is, or how cute her shoes are.
And if this little girl is really, really pretty (lucky her, right?), then we compliment her looks with all our heart. Gorgeous hair! And these blue eyes! And what a lovely smile. You do look beautiful today! Like a princess!
It is nice to be complimented, right? And this little girl sure looks happy, being just compared to Elsa. And how pleased her mother must be, to hear that her daughter is beautiful.
Except of that I’m not that pleased. I’m worried. And sad.
Each time a stranger exclaims how cute my daughter is, I just feel like changing the subject. And when her daycare teacher compares her to a little princess I just get upset.
Because I want her to love and accept herself, regardless of how she looks. I wish that she’ll get to live a life free from self objectification, and body shaming!
[bctt tweet=”I want her to love and accept herself, regardless of how she looks. “]
So if people say she’s pretty, why do I worry that she might have body image issues ? Why do I hope that strangers and family would stop concentrating on my daughters looks?
And why do I think that we should stop complimenting little girls looks?
1. Complimenting only looks, gives a message that nothing else is important.
While you tell a little girl how pretty she looks today, you let her know that this is the only thing that you care about. Her being pretty. And nice to look at.
2. Complimenting girls appearance, teaches them that they get attention when they are pretty. When most of the attention that a girl gets, comes from the fact that she’s a pleasing sight to others, she starts thinking that in order for her to get the positive attention, she must stay pretty. So she starts being preoccupied by her looks.
3. Telling a little girl that she’s beautiful, puts her in a tight box of expectations. Because pretty girls shouldn’t get dirty. Or sweaty. Pretty girls should stay pretty. Exercising and getting red isn’t so pretty right? So a lot of preteens stops enjoying physical activity. They get preoccupied with how they look while they exercise.
4. Instead of building their self esteem with compliments, we are ruining it. While we tell boys they’re strong, smart and capable, we tell girls they are like princesses. They don’t get to hear as often as boys that they can do things, instead they hear that people like looking at them.
[bctt tweet=”While we tell boys they’re strong, smart and capable, we tell girls that they are princesses.”]
5. When a girl starts believing that she’s being valued mostly because of her looks, she stops believing in her intellect. She starts thinking that she got that good grade because her teacher likes her. She might start thinking that people prefer looking at her in stead of listing to her. If she’s shy she might want to speak up less, in order to be less seen, less complimented and less in the centre of unwanted attention.
6. If a girl learns that she should be pretty in order to get attention, then she’s just a step from believing that she should be sexy. Just have a look at Barbie dolls, Disney princesses and cartoons targeted at preteens. Feminine characters are always shown as slim and very alluring. They have big lips and big eyes. Often they dress really sexy. And then, a preteen wants to be as close to the girl ideal that she sees in the media as possible. If she really believes that to get the attention she should stay pretty, then before you know it, she’ll start feeling like pretty means sexy. And that sexy equals positive attention.
7. If a girls sees that she gets attention only because of her looks, she might start to fear loosing her looks. If she believes that this is her only valuable asset, as a preteen and teen she might start obsessing about her body not being perfect enough ( did you heard about the new obsession of young girls? The tight gap. I have no words.)
8. Complimenting girls for looks and boys for performance, teaches the kids that the two sexes are unequal. When we tell our kids that they can become whoever they want, and then we use intellect based compliments to uplift boys, and appearance based compliments to please girls, do they still believe that they really can become who they wish? Or do they learn to live by our expectations, and to see their strengths where we point them up? I’m afraid it’s the second one.
So that’s why you might hear me praising my daughters creativity, sense of humour and kindness. Not her eyes. And instead of saying that she’s a princess I say that she’s strong, smart, and capable of doing things on her own.
I want her to believe in herself regardless of how she’ll look like in 20 years. I want her to be kind to her body and to treat her “flaws” as her one of a kind features. I hope for her to appreciate her body for what it can do, and not for how pleasing it is to others.
[bctt tweet=”I hope for her to appreciate her body for what it can do, and not for how pleasing it is to others.”]
One more thing: I’m not against telling your daughter, niece or neighbor that she’s pretty. I’m against it being the message that she’s hearing 90% of time!
So let your daughter know that you appreciate her for so much more than just her looks!
I was asking myself a lot lately how to raise a girl with a positive body image. Because as a mom of two little girls, it breaks my heart thinking that one day they’ll discover how women’s beauty is valued beyond anything else.
One day, they’ll find out that according to mainstream culture, women are supposed to be thin, muscular, and always picture-perfect. That according to the medias, being beautiful means having no flaws. And that being beautiful is more important than smart, funny or gentle.
One day they’ll find out that their entire value may be judged solely by their appearance. Because of all that, they could one day start obsessing about their body weight. And they may develop an eating disorder.
Of course, there are more factors to an eating disorder than only the influence of medias, but according to these researches ( this, and that) the impact of over sexualized body image is much stronger than we could imagine.
But I know that there are things that can be done in order for girls to be less likely influenced by the mainstream beauty ideals. The list is long, and there might be some changes to make in our lives, but I think it’s more than worth it!
1.No fashion magazines at home. Girls don’t need to see photoshopped and unnaturally arousing women as a model of feminity, and they don’t need to compare themselves with these images. Girls don’t understand that models are photoshopped and that it’s their job to look in a certain way, so they might jump to a conclusion that fashion magazines are the reflection of real life. But they are not! And if you need style and fashion inspiration, then there is plenty of that online.
2. Stop the negative comments regarding your body in front of kids. If you ever looked in to the mirror and said that you look fat/gained weight/have cellulite then please don’t do it ever again! It’s bad for you, it’s bad for your daughter! What she learns, is that despising your body is normal. And that looking for flaws and criticizing yourself, is something that women do, regardless of how they look. Remember that whatever you do, she’ll copy (so don’t be surprised to see your 6 year old criticizing her tiny belly if you criticize yours).
3. No I-need-to-loose-weight talk in front of kids. Again, kids learn how to be a grown up from you, the parent, and your girl is learning how to act like a women by imitating mothers behaviour. Do you want your little girl to think that she should be on a diet? Do you want her to think that regardless from her actual size she should loose weight because this is how grown up women are? I know you don’t.
4. Stop the food-guilt association. Stop with the the dichotomy of the good food and bad food, healthy food and guilty-pleasure food. And stop the I-feel-so-bad-I-ate-all-that-cake talk. Food should be the fuel for our bodies, the energy to get us working and playing and sometimes the comfort to lift our spirits. If you struggle with guilt, keep it to yourself. Because for kids, food is just food, and it would be great if it could stay that way.
5. Don’t praise girls only for their looks. Praise them for what they do, and how smart/strong/capable they are when they do things. If a young girl hears that she’s pretty all the time, she might end up thinking that’s her only quality. She becomes unsure of her real value. Her self esteem becomes low, and she starts thinking that her worth is based only on her looks. She can become scared of loosing her beauty: because she’ll think that’s why people love her. She’ll start believing that she should always be beautiful. So next time you feel like complimenting your daughter, tell her that she’s fast, creative or fearless! Acknowledge her sense of humour, her critical thinking or her good heart. Let her know that you value her beyond her pretty eyes!
6. Show them that you love your body for what it does, and not for how it looks. Even if it sounds odd, compliment yourself in front of your girl. Tell her what’s that you like about your body that’s not connected to how it looks. I say that I love my belly because it used to be a home for my babies and it makes for a very comfy pillow ;). I also praise how strong my body is, and that’s why I can lift her and play with her.
7. Do physical activity together for fun! I used to think about exercise just as a way of loosing weight and not as a way to have fun. But I want my girls to see physical activity as a fun way to spend time, to feel strong and connected. I’m not that perfect, so what we actually do, is yoga at home (that’s my kind of exercise) and not running in the morning;) But I do plan on taking her hiking as much as possible this summer, and her dad is trying to insert in her his love for winter sports. So I hope we’re on the right track :).
8. Cook together. And always eat breakfast. It’s proven that kids who are involved in food preparation eat better and healthier. So let them help you around with groceries, recipe search and cooking. Teach them the joy of eating well and the routine of a well balanced breakfast.
9. Talk to them about what they see on tv and in magazines. Explain the principle of publicity. Even if your girl is still young, explain to her that these ladies who obviously forgot to dress in the morning, are there because they’re trying to convince you to buy a shampoo/cream/car (whatever it is). The older they get, the more publicity they’ll see. Make sure they know it’s not real and that there is a purpose in it.
10. Install the positive self esteem and let them know that you love them for who they are. Your voice becomes the inner voice of your kids. When you tell them that you love them, that they’re capable, that they did something good and that you appreciate their effort, then this is how they’ll talk to themselves. That becomes the base the of their self esteem. And girls with a positive self esteem deal better with obstacles, critique and the pressures of the world (like the pressure to be pretty and sexy). Show them how happy they make you feel, how you appreciate what they do and how you love them always!
There are many lies associated to the concept of beauty. We are being told that beauty equals happiness and love. We are being told that there is only one way to be loved and happy, and that is by being pretty. Actually pretty doesn’t cut it any more, we should be perfect.
Of course nobody is born perfect, so ( how luckily for us ) there are hundred of products that can help us reach our goal ! Oh wait, I forgot, our goal of beauty is unreachable, because it’s photoshopped and fake, but we can still spent our energy on trying as hard as possible , can we ? And if it won’t work, and if by comparing ourselves with hundreds of perfect body images that we see every day, we’ll get depressed, then there are other products that we can buy to help us feel better!
We are being lied to. The mass media are repeating the same lie over and over again :you need to be beautiful in order to be loved and happy. You need to be skinny, tall, young, and flawless in order to be beautiful. And if you’re not, then you failed. Nobody will care about you, love you nor hire you.
We are being told that by buying all these products, we will attaint the beauty ideal. The ideal that is unattainable. The ideal that is photoshopped and starved. The ideal that changes every couple of years. And every couple of years there are new products to correct our flaws. Fat. Cellulite. Wrinkles. Stretch marks. Freckles. And so on.
But there is a bright side to it: the economy. Girls, you substain it, bravo! If it wouldn’t be for your insecurities, for your fear of not being good enough and loveable, then the beauty industry would be ruined! If it wouldn’t be to women who believe in this vicious and cruel lie, than what would happen to so many hard working people in the beauty and fashion industry?
But I had enough. I don’t believe in it anymore. And I don’t care what will happen to the beauty and the fashion industry. Who knows, maybe if we would all stop believing , they would change too?
Because it’s not true that the only way to live a happy life is by being beautiful. The key to a happy life is being a part of a community, is being creative and being a part of something that helps others ( and there are researches that proved it). Happiness has nothing to do with size or age.
And it’s not true that there is only one way of being beautiful. If there would be, than we would all look the same, because in our evolutionary past only the prettiest ( and strongest) of people reproduced. But somehow we are all different. Somehow the researchers show that what both sexes find is attractive enough to reproduce, is totally different from what the media are trying to sell us.
It’s not true that by buying all these creams and serums we can stop time and be young for ever and always. Because we can’t.
It’s not true that by buying and consuming we can attaint the beauty ideals. Because we can’t. They are unattainable. And even if you try hard, and you spent all your energy and money on it, you’ll fail eventually. Because everyone gets old. And that’s a fail, according to beauty standards.
Oh. And there is one more thing. Even if for a couple of years of your life you’ll manage to be as close as possible to the beauty ideal, than you’ll still fail. Because you won’t be able to stay that way all your life. You’ll probably end up anxious about loosing your “perfect body”. You’ll worry about people loving you, wandering if you should try harder, become slimmer fitter and sexier, in order to be finally loved and accepted. You’ll waist your life. But you won’t be perfect. Because that is impossible.
Stop believing this lie. Accept yourself. Embrace yourself..
And if you’d like to learn more about how the standards of beauty are affecting our culture here is a must-read : The Beauty Myth !