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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Empowering My Daughter

An article I wrote for Plus Parents Magazine:
Personal Stories November 2012
By: Laura Moore
 


Being overweight has been a constant issue in my life. I worked hard at school; I learnt how to make people laugh; I was friendly to everyone; but I never felt comfortable. It was always a case of making myself seem as small as possible, in the hope that people wouldn't notice me, or of being over-the-top funny in order to take the attention away from my size. I absolutely hated my body, and I knew it was the reason I never had a boyfriend. There was no way any man would ever be attracted to me. I was wrong, of course. In 2009 I married a tall, handsome man, in whom all my husband requirements were fulfilled. And he thinks I'm beautiful.

I grew up in a Christian family. We were brought up to believe that God doesn't make mistakes, and that we were "fearfully and wonderfully made." My body is "a temple of the Holy Spirit," and as such I ought to treat it with the utmost respect and care. But from the age of five years old I steadily increased in weight. I was put on steroids for my asthma, and despite only eating what the rest of my (slim and slender) family were eating, I got bigger and bigger. There were clear signs that my hormones were at fault, though doctor after doctor failed to pick up or acknowledge that, until I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 27. One doctor even told me that perhaps I was just meant to be fat! I was bullied at school. I couldn't find fashionable clothes to fit me. I felt decidedly ugly. How could I reconcile what I saw in the mirror with this idea that my body was a perfect creation?

It wasn't until just over a year ago that I finally saw my body for what it really is...

I still don't see the beauty that my husband tells me is there, though I'm working on it. I'm four sizes bigger than the average UK or US woman; my stomach is big and hangs down; I have bingo-wings. However, I now have deep respect, pride and love for my body. Yes, I love my body - not for how it looks, but for what it has achieved. It is imperfect, but it is incredible. This body grew a baby, and birthed her naturally. For 9 months a little person lived inside me. She grew healthy and strong, and she is absolutely perfect. She's only a year old, so she has no hang ups about her body. I don't know at what age she will start to notice herself or begin to doubt her own beauty. News articles speak of seven year olds going on diets; my friend's three year old is worried that she isn't pretty; I was five when I was called a witch because I had black hair.

For now she is safe, but the older my daughter gets, the less I will be able to shield her. I can keep fashion magazines out of our house, but I won't be able to control what other people say to her. I can tell her every day how beautiful she is, but I can't dictate how other children will treat her.  What I can do is give her the tools to deal with those words and the feelings they will evoke; I can teach her the truth about her body; and I can model good self esteem. I will teach her about the sanctity of life; that all people are to be valued and respected regardless of how they look or what they can and can't do; and that no matter what someone else says, it is how God sees her and how she feels about herself that are paramount. But the most important thing I can do for her is to be constantly affirmative and positive about myself.

Everywhere we look, women are being told what is beautiful, and if we don't live up to the airbrushed images we see, then we fall short of beauty. I do not know a single woman who is happy with the way she looks. We are striving for unattainable perfection, and even when others do not criticise, we are our own worst enemies. Sometimes I have to check myself as I become aware that if I spoke about someone else the way I speak about myself, then I would be the rudest, most unkind and insensitive person I have ever met. As Kate Winslet said in a recent interview, "When I was growing up there wasn't one woman in my environment who I heard saying something positive about her body. Everything I heard was negative, negative, negative." I have made the decision to be different, for if my daughter is to grow up thinking positively of herself and her body, I must model this behaviour myself. I must accept and love the way I look, and talk only well of it. I must be positive for her sake

Through her birth, my perfect daughter has enabled me to accept that I am a perfect creation, and I in turn will help her to grow up knowing that she too is perfect.

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. It was quite empowering for me to write it, really. Another step in the healing process.

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  2. Thanks Laura, prayers for continued joys of parenting!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your prayers. Greatly appreciated.

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