As my kids get older, I find myself in that awkward parenting position where I have to explain things like interacting with the opposite sex, how to behave when you're interested in someone else, what behaviors are acceptable and what to expect from others in return. And because people, particularly children, are typically first drawn to looks, I find myself also explaining an idea of beauty.
I have always had a poor self-image. I don't think my parents did anything to cause this, but I don't remember them helping me develop a healthy self-image, either. There was no discussion of eating disorders, being happy in my own skin, exercising for health vs. desired body shape, etc. We never talked about how a young man should treat me, either (other than, once, 'if he treats you badly, here's how to disable his car'). And all these topics (car disabling included) are ones I really want to touch on with my kids so that, hopefully, they will have a more balanced image of both themselves and others. I don't want them to evaluate themselves based on others' ideas; I want them to create their own idea of their own beauty based on positive notions, not the public image. Will we discuss the public's idea of beauty? Sure, because they're going to be exposed to it. But I hope to show them how warped it is.
To that end, I need to find healthy images to show them as well. They're out there. The Internet can be an ugly place, sometimes, with images of gaunt girls and buff boys everywhere. (Look at the Google images for yoga! How many realistic women do you see? Even in a supposedly 'healthy' setting, the message is being sent that this thin, fat-free body type, this thin, hourglass shape, is the ideal, and nothing else is acceptable.) But I want to tell my kids that no matter what shape they wind up being, or what shape other people are, people are interesting. People matter.
One thing I want to share with my children is this video of Dustin Hoffman that's been making the rounds on Facebook this week. The fact that he recognizes the struggle that women feel every single day, the expectation that somehow we're all supposed to magically be beautiful and that our internal beauty is less important than our external, is crucial to me, and I want that to be seen. Something else I want to have on hand soon is this book. I want them to see what women are, that our mere belief that we are beautiful makes us so. I wish there was something similar for my son, because I think that more and more these days boys also feel the pressure to be the right shape, the right degree of fit, though obviously nowhere near as much as girls do. For now, though, these links are a start.
Feel free to share this post. Share with me other books, videos, and ways that you have helped your child create a beautiful self-image... and ways you have helped your children see the beauty in others.