Learning to love ourselves

compact powder on white surface

By Lauren Edwards

My 14-year-old daughter is a beautiful human being and a kind and caring soul. As a child, she would often have an injured insect in a makeshift hospital ward on her windowsill, caring for an exhausted bee by tenderly hand feeding it sugar water or carrying a butterfly with a broken wing from flower to flower to help it collect pollen.

She has always been a confident child, self-assured in a way that I envy, content to not follow the crowd or overthink whether she is good enough for someone. She is a fearless rollercoaster fan, loves picking up big spiders and is not afraid to get mucky or play fight with her two older brothers.

However, lately, a few insecurities have begun to trouble her innocent mind and it is has forced me to majorly reflect on the way I view myself. My beautiful child told me that a girl at her school told her that she should get her ears pinned back as they were ‘sticky out.’ I assured her that her ears were lovely and perfect, whilst I considered that this was the main flaw I regularly moaned about myself. We both have sticky out ears, it’s true, and as I pleaded with her to appreciate her beauty and health and not to worry about something so insignificant, she reminded me that I never wore my hair up.

She then said how this girl had also pointed out her ‘baggy neck.’ Baggy neck?! She proceeded to pull down a normal part of skin from underneath her chin and urged me to “See!.” Of course, there was nothing wrong with her neck and I urged her not to do this to herself. She continued to point out invisible flaws on her body and obsess about how her looks were not good enough, as I continued to try and help her see what I saw – her beauty inside and out. Then she reminded me about how much self-loathing I do on a daily basis, how I moan about my ‘frizzy hair,’ my ‘dark rings’, my ‘bloated looking tummy’ and my ‘sticky out ears’.

She was right, us women love to put ourselves down don’t we? How many of us are guilty of being given a compliment only to twist it into an insult about ourselves instead? Someone will tell you that you look nice only for your reply to be, ‘Oh no I look rough today/I’ve put on so much weight/my hair is a mess.’

I find it almost impossible to take a compliment about anything I’m wearing without pointing out that I bought it from a charity shop or that ‘it’s really old’. It is almost seen as impolite for a woman to be happy about her looks. We’ve even created a whole plethora of terms to negatively describe our body parts so that we can moan about our ‘muffin tops’ or ‘bingo wings.’

Adele returned to the spotlight this year 100 pounds lighter and was heavily criticised for ‘letting her fans down’ by being ‘too skinny’. Body shaming is sadly all too common on social media as trolls can openly comment on the way people should look. You only have to look at the front covers of gossip magazines to see headlines about a famous woman with cellulite or how they look fat in a bikini.

We need to change the narrative. We need to take compliments and say thank you and resist the urge to disagree. We need to empower one another and celebrate our wobbly bits and imperfections. Tell another woman that she looks beautiful and more importantly look in our own mirrors and say it to ourselves. We are wonderful, incredible humans with bodies that can bear children, arms that can give much needed hugs and smiles that can make someone’s day. We need to set an example for our young generation. I need to help my daughter realise how wonderful she is, and I will start today by scrapping my hair up into a ponytail and showing off my sticky out ears with pride!

“Never allow yourself to see your body as a collection of separate problematic items.”

Caitlin Moran

“My limbs work, so I’m not going to complain about how my body is shaped.”

Drew Barrymore

“We all casually put ourselves down 20, 30 times a day. I need to work on how I honour the person I’m privileged to be, the voice I’m privileged to have and the health I’m privileged to hold.”

Laura Dern
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