No matter how confident we are, regardless of our level of self-esteem, at some point in our lives every single one of us has wondered whether we're good enough. I was at the pool this weekend, and as I walked the perimeter looking for an empty chair, I felt like I was on display. I was self-conscious about my less than perfectly toned thighs and I cursed the blemishes on my face. And when I found a chair and settled in, I looked at every other woman who walked by and tried to figure out whether I was more or less attractive than her. At the age of 13, I'm sure Abby already has compared herself to her peers, and if her self-confidence is what it should be, she's not concerned about how she measures up. But, unfortunately, someday she will be.
Though I stopped reading parenting books when the kids were little because they made me feel badly about my skills (the same reason I don't read Better Homes & Gardens, Self, or a single cooking magazine), the one thing I remember is that, as parents, the example we set is the number one influence on our children's lives. If we are committed to our faith, eating well and living a healthy lifestyle, our children are more likely to be similarly committed (maybe not as quickly as we'd like, but someday). If we demonstrate kindness, service to others and a strong work ethic, our children will likely do the same (or at least one of our children will pick up these traits). Naturally, the negatives apply here as well. If we put ourselves first in every way, judge others and allow ourselves to be consumed by bitterness and hate, we're raising kids who may do the same (unless they decide to be completely different because they are ashamed of us). If we have no use for reading and lifelong learning, exercising or spending money wisely, well, you get the picture. What I'm taking a long time to say is that a mom's self-image can have dramatic effects on her daughter(s). If I complain about my weight and my blemishes and I constantly compare myself to others, Abby may very likely follow suit. And let's face it, the last thing our daughters need is any help in feeling badly about themselves.
So why this topic now? Probably because I watched the whole season of American Idol and Jennifer Lopez is just depressing as hell at look at every week. And then there's Jennifer Aniston who reportedly wants to lose 10 pounds before her wedding, which is good news because her shape was starting to concern me. But then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Aussie mom Tara Brumfitt who has embraced the "reverse progress body movement," showing off her rock solid body builder physique "before" and her soft, beautiful, mommy figure "after." With her daughter as her motivation, Tara's working on a documentary called Embrace. “How will I teach my daughter to love her body?” she wrote on her website. “How am I going to encourage her to accept and love her body, when I am standing in front of her with a surgically enhanced body? What type of hypocrite or mother would I be?”
I had a friend recently confess that she considered breast implants, but when she thought of the message it would send her daughter, she decided against it. This was in sharp contrast to another friend who offered her physically fit, athletic 12-year-old daughter a reward if she lost some weight.
I don't generally say much about my weight in front of Abby, but where I increasingly have expressed frustration and insecurity is with the appearance of my face. From first time fever blisters and recent breakouts that take weeks to clear, to those obvious fine lines above my lips and the dark circles under my eyes, I know I'm growing older and I feel considerably less attractive. And this is obvious to Abby because I recently bought stock in Mary Kay cosmetics and am having their makeup and skin care solutions shipped directly to our house by the palate.
I used to be an all-natural kind of girl like my mom, who never wore anything on her face except lipstick, But now I'm using special facial cleanser and zit cream. I bought foundation powder. And just last week, I asked my Mary Kay rep to stop by and give me a makeup lesson. She showed up with a case larger than most of my pieces of luggage, and tried to sell me everything under the sun. Rather than just covering those dark circles, I really need their special heavy duty eye cream. If my blemishes aren't clearing up with the treatment she sold me, then I may need to wash with another Mary Kay product. She showed me numerous combinations of eye shadow colors, and lipsticks that I could brighten with a separate purchase of gloss. She left with my order for mascara (waterproof, of course), eye shadow, eye liner and blush/bronzer, but what was most interesting about this
The Mary Kay rep tried to hook Abby like a drug dealer. "Ooh, I bet you'll like this eye shadow." Nope. Abby doesn't wear eye shadow. "Oh, how about these great lip pencils." Nope. Abby doesn't wear lip color. "This gloss would be fun, right?" Abby explained that she prefers the EOS lip balm. Mission Failed. That's my girl. You don't need makeup, my dear. Your natural beauty is undeniable. I can only hope that she will avoid painting her face simply because mom does, and as a teenager, it's important to avoid anything that makes you look like your mom.
So that's my two cents on how society's notion of beauty makes raising girls more difficult than parenting their brothers. I'd love to know your thoughts on the subject!