With the words still ringing in my ears … I paused … I had to respond in the right way. My response felt critical. Fat? Why on earth would she think she was fat?
I thought I would be prepared for such a discussion, I would know exactly what to say and how to say it. I pictured myself sitting on the end of her bed, years from now, talking about my experience as a young girl. A chubby and insecure little girl, who never felt good enough. But it wasn’t that way, it came when I had least expected it. Walking through a car park, after a day of op shopping with friends, hand in hand with my girls. There was no perfect moment to think carefully about my response. The moment was here, this was it.
I advocate for Body Positivity every day, this is what I do, what I am passionate about. So why did I feel like someone had knocked the wind out of me. Why did I feel as though I couldn't think straight.
I was momentarily lost for words. She looked up at me for reassurance, for answers. I knew I would never get this moment back, this moment was the beginning of her story. The easiest and most obvious response was to say ‘don’t be ridiculous, of course you aren’t’ ... because that was the actual truth, as I looked down at my stick thin, tall, eight year old girl. But that was not the answer she needed from me. That was not the answer that would hold her in good stead in her life as a confident and body positive woman. What she needed to hear from me was that what she looked like wasn’t important. She needed to hear from me that the size of her body had no bearing on what I thought of her, nor would it ever. She needed to hear from me that my love for her was unconditional.
She didn’t need reassurance that she was beautiful, thin, pretty ... what she needed was to hear from me, her mother, that what truly mattered in life was WHO she was, not WHAT she looked like. This was the message that she needed, a message that would stay with her through all the different stages of her life, as her body changes and develops, because it would.
I had not seen this coming … I thought I had done everything right. Speaking positively about my body and priding myself on demonstrating a self-love that only years of hard work had been possible. But yet, here we were. Had I failed her?
Girls have it harder than we ever did. Today there is no escaping the media content that continues to body shame and criticize. Exposure is inevitable.
‘So what if you were? I managed to say.
‘Would that mean I would love you any less? Would it mean your friends would like you any less? Would it mean you couldn’t do all the things you wanted to do? Would it mean you were a bad person?’ … No, she replied.
‘So why would it matter if you were?’ I continued. ‘Our bodies are amazing things, be proud of your body, it really doesn’t matter what it looks like. The most important thing is how we feel and how we make others feel when they are around us.’
I leaned in a little closer and looked deep into her eyes, speaking directly to her soul I whispered … ‘your body is beautiful because it is yours’.
Tell your girls, tell your boys, tell each other ... we don't need to label ourselves as Fat or Skinny, let's instead call ourselves LOVED and HAPPY.