Looking at the bags under my eyes in the mirror, I sighed an exasperated, “Ugh. I need some make-up ASAP.” Then in the reflection I saw the chubby face of an ever-observant two-year-old watching me and listening. My daughter, Lillian, had stumbled into the bathroom unannounced as kids are prone to do.
Inwardly I bit my tongue and wished I hadn’t said that. Sure, at two years old, she’s not entirely sure what make-up even is, but she recognized the sadness in my voice and patted my arm saying, “It’s okay, Mom. It’s okay.”
We all have things about our bodies we don’t like. I was born with a couple oddities like albinism which results in being pale all the time, as well as a small lump of skin above my right eye which becomes more prominent when I raise my brows. Aside from that, like most women, I also have a lackluster body image–oftentimes feeling that If only my thighs were a little thinner, or my eyes a little bigger, then I’d be prettier. I’d like myself more.
While I had those thoughts just this week—the summer sun is a cruel mistress when it comes to my wardrobe—I don’t want it to be true in the near future. I don’t want my daughter to hear me complaining about my body. I don’t want her to think she has to wear make-up or look a certain way to be attractive. I want her to think and know and believe in her heart that she is beautiful just the way she is.
In order for that to happen, though, I have to believe it myself. Children have an intense sense for when a person is being honest or not and they can smell a lie from a mile away. Just try telling a toddler there’s no more ice cream when there is, in fact, half a pint in the freezer. They know. They always know. And I want my daughter to know that she is beautiful regardless of how thin her lips are or what size jeans she wears.
But I have to know it first.
As a mom, I’ve been given both a challenge and a gift. The challenge is to look at myself in the mirror and like—no, love—my body. I must start viewing my crow’s feet as reminders of the sunny days I’ve experienced. I’ve got to look at my arms and remember that, though they could be more toned, they are strong enough to hold and rock my little ones in the middle of the night when they’re sad. The stretch marks that now zig and zag across my belly are a beautiful road map to how I got to this strange, but joy giving, place of motherhood.
And I’ve been given the gift of passing on these rose-colored glasses to my daughter. I have the opportunity to raise a girl into a woman who is not only strong and smart, but confident and feels good about who she is and what she looks like. In this society with such a warped view of beauty, I have the privilege to instill in my daughter a positive body image. It is perhaps one of the greatest honors I’ve been bestowed as the mother of a little girl.
So while I may not like the way I look today, I hope to like it a little bit more tomorrow. And the next day. And as the days turn to years, I hope my daughter and I can both look in the mirror and say with a breezy confidence, “I’m beautiful.”