The other day I read a beautiful, heartfelt article on how we should talk to our daughters about their bodies. The gist of it was to NOT talk about it. At all. That we shouldn't make any comment about it- good or bad. That we should praise them instead for inner traits that have nothing to do with their physique. While after the first read I cheered the powerful message, after some thought I don't think I fully agree with the proposition that the best way to address body image issues in girls is to avoid discussing their bodies altogether.
In a world where fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, peer pressure, cyber bullying, and eating disorders don't exist, the above tactic would probably work really well. Maybe then we could create a society from scratch where bodies are mere vessels for gentle souls and curious minds. But it isn't. The reality is that even if we don't mention a single word about their body at home, our kids/younger siblings/cousins are probably going to hear about it in their playground/school/college/THE INTERNET. On one side they are told that they should be concerned about how they look and on the other they don't even have an avenue to talk about it because it seems unimportant to their parents. What do they do when they get these conflicting messages? What do they do when someone they like doesn't find them physically attractive? Who do they talk to? Which ideas will ultimately stick with them and inform their outlook and decisions regarding their body?
I often think about how I will raise my daughters and sons (if I ever have any) and how I'll approach this delicate topic. But how can I do anything neutrally when I myself am riddled with the after effects of years of being told that my skin/my curves/my shoulders/ my height are not right/not enough/not perfect? Maybe what I should have heard more of-as an impressionable child, as an awkward, approval-seeking teen- was that I am more than enough, just as I am. That my body deserves my love and care in every stage of its growth, degeneration, and regrowth. That yes, there will be people who will tell you that your smile is wonky or that your hands are too big or that you have too many crows feet around your eyes, but they are ignorant people that aren't worth your time or space or peace of mind. That you need to love yourself on your skinny days and your bloated days and the in-between days. That your worth does not lie in the width or your hips or the curve of your breasts, so you love them in whatever sizes they come. That there might be people who are attracted to you and there might be those who are not, but the important thing is to always- always- know that you are more than what others think of you. That in bodies there is no abnormal- that upper lip peach fuzz is okay, the thigh gap is okay, no thigh gap is also okay, wrinkles are okay, grey hair is okay. That these 'imperfections' are what being a real human is about. That life is beautiful precisely because of all the colours and shapes and sizes. That you are okay and loved and wanted- not because of your body, not inspite of it, but with it, as a part of what makes you YOU.
Maybe once I learn and internalise these lessons above, I'll be able to teach my kids a thing or two. What say you?