I’ve been privileged in the fact that I have never truly hated my body. Sure I’ve had bad days where I harp on my supposed physical flaws more than normal, but for the vast majority of my life (yes, even including puberty) I have maintained an above-average level of body confidence.
This can be attributed to a few things throughout my childhood, but perhaps the most important one was that I learned to not hate my body through example.
Growing up, my mom was the main female figure in my life. I have always thought my mom was tall, beautiful, and strong. And perhaps this can be attributed to a child’s reverence for their parent but here’s the thing – my mom has never, ever given me a reason to believe that she isn’t any of those things.
I can’t remember my mom ever saying she hated her own body – or even really expressing that much discontentment about it at all. Her body is her body and although she strives to take care of it, it doesn’t consume her life. She’s never acted ashamed of it and has appeared to embrace any scars or imperfections that it endured.
Hold on for a second and think about that. I was living in my mom’s house for eighteen years and in all of that time, I cannot think of ONE time where my mom seemed to be depressed about her body. Not ONE time where her insecurity seemed to get the better of her. Not ONE time where she tried to hide her body out of shame. That was a powerful message for me.
Furthermore, her attitude towards caring for her body was always rooted in feeling rather than aesthetics. My mom loves to run. And growing up, I remember her always coming back from a run saying something like “that felt good” or “I feel so much better now”. It was never about losing weight or shaping her body to fit some sort of ideal. She ran because it FELT good and she enjoyed it. Simple as that. This is HUGE to the way I approach fitness nowadays. The goal for me is never really to look a certain way, it’s to feel a certain way, and the way I look is merely a by-product of that feeling. This makes my fitness habit not only more sustainable, but it makes me look at my body positively no matter what it looks like on a given day, because I learned that the act of taking care of it is what actually improves my mood – not the mirror.
When it came to diet, my family always ate relatively healthy, but my mom has a huge sweet tooth. And if she ate a whole bunch of chocolate in one sitting – she never expressed any real guilt over it, she would enjoy the chocolate and move on with her life. This may seem small, but I realized that I, too, don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying sweets or anything supposedly ‘bad’ for me. I just enjoy it and move on.
Because my mom has always taken such good care of her body – she’s never been limited. When I was little she would be able to wrestle and do tickle fights with me and my sister. She was able to wipe the floor with us in basketball (this one is probably still true), and she could walk or hike for miles if a trip demanded it. Even now, she’s still able to participate in any and all activities our family encounters. Her body never limits her because she looks after it.
My mom is over fifty years old now (I hope she doesn’t kill me for exposing that) and she could still pass for being over a decade younger. She doesn’t work out like a maniac, doesn’t do any crazy diets, she’s had two kids, but she’s still able to be active and participate in pretty much anything that comes her way. So that’s the ideal I learned to strive towards. I don’t ever need to look a certain way, but should strive to feel a certain way and by doing so, I don’t ever have to limit myself in the process.
My mom’s birthday is this week and there is so much to thank her for, but a blog post is merely a blog post so I wanted to focus on something that she probably didn’t even realize she did for me, but that has made a huge impact on my self-confidence. Body image is something that so many women and men struggle with every day and I’m lucky enough to have a mom that protected me from most of the insecurity the media tells me I’m supposed to have.
Happy early birthday mom! You’re killing it.