If you’re female, read (and share) this please

By Caitlin Kelly

Because the Internet works like that, I saw this blog post thanks to Aby, my male friend in Bhutan.

But then, of course, it made Freshly Pressed this week, in full.

Myrtle Cook of Canada (left) winning a prelimi...
Myrtle Cook of Canada (left) winning a preliminary heat in the women’s 100 metres race at the VIIIth Summer Olympic Games / Myrtle Cook (à gauche), du Canada, remportant une éliminatoire pour l’épreuve du 100 mètres femmes, aux VIIIe Jeux Olympiques d’été (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

It’s must-read material for every girl and woman who worries about her body and whether or not it is thin/shapely/pretty enough.

It is:

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter…

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe.

Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork…

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture…

Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages.

It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

Imogen Heap - Ellipse
Imogen Heap – Ellipse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you — like me — have no daughter (or kids), I still hope you’ll share this important reminder with all the girls and women in your life, of any age or size, who long to be told how terrific we are as is.

Not just when we’re sufficiently skinny/pretty/media-approved.

Do you know this amazing song, Bad Body Double, by British singer Imogen Heap?

She describes this toxic, life-long body-image insecurity so eloquently:

Say hi there to my bad body double

This is my bad body double trouble

Oh no, my bad body double, mmmhm

I’ve got bad body double trouble, oh.

She’s trouble

She’s trouble

She’s trouble, alright.

Yeah, yeah

Sometimes I manage to lose her

Shake her at a bar, in the gym for five minutes

It feels so good to be back to my own self again

Can get quite confusing.

We look very similar except she’s got some grays and

A little extra weight on the sides

And dimply thighs,

I hear that stuff’s a bitch to get rid off

(No, no, no, no)

We’re having quite an intimate, personal moment (not now)

Could you maybe come at a slightly less awful time? (not now)

She can see I’ve got someone quite nice here with me

Can’t we just be left alone…

I guess that’s a no then

42 thoughts on “If you’re female, read (and share) this please

  1. It’s wonderful to see this message spread. I read the blog piece originally on the Huffington Post and promptly shared on Facebook. I have a little girl and in knowing my own struggle to see through the conditioned thoughts instilled through media, entertainment and finally enforced in my own mind, I hope she has a brighter image of her light. I then shared with my ex, because I feel both mothers and fathers, should reinforce a healthy body image in being a woman or how one treats/views a woman.

    1. So true that fathers (and other men) can validate a girl for her kindness, intelligence,humor…many important qualities beyond her appearance. My father never commented on my appearance during my teens — at least not negatively — so I didn’t waste energy on that.

  2. Reading your first lines, I remember my ex-stepdaughter saying to my ex: ‘Daddy, I have to go on a diet, just like mommy, for Stepdad told me I have a bit of fat too’. Now I expect he said it in jest, for he is very fond of the girl, and would not have been together with her mother if he had not liked… women with a little more body mass. The girl was not fat at all, and had even been underweight when she was younger, but this remark together with seeing her mother being on a diet constantly made her think she was fat too – at the age of 7.

    1. So much of this comes from one’s family — my mother and stepmother also were very thin and aware of it. Only in recent years did my Dad start the chorus. I do need to lose weight, but shaming someone into it does not work. It just makes you miserable.

  3. This post is excellent! I’ve been going through a period of insecurity about my body recently, specifically my teeth. I know, it sounds ridiculous. But when I was thirteen I refused to have braces put on. Now, I kind of wish I had. My teeth aren’t awful but they aren’t perfectly straight either and I have a gap like Madonna. Oh well, I need to learn to accept myself as I am and if anyone has a problem with my appearance then that is their issue, not mine.

      1. Yes, I have considered it, although my dentist advised me that I would need to have two perfectly good teeth extracted and the end result would probably – negatively – change the shape of my face. I’ll see how my consultation with the orthodontist goes next month.

  4. I remember a friend in college saying she was fat, she needed to run more, she needed to eat less, etc etc. I couldn’t believe it. She was thin and fit. I asked her where she got this? What is that voice inside her head that says this? Her mother, she replied, preached the benefits of being thin and fit, her entire growing up. Later I worked alongside her sister at summer camp, she was even more tormented by her mother’s words. I pledged to never talk about weight in front of my daughter. I try not to complain about my weight. I just tell her I need to eat healthier. When I run I tell her it helps me feel better. When we hike, bike, or walk as a family we preach the importance of the environment. But it is hard sometimes to be that positive force in my daughter’s life when my pants don’t fit right.

    1. I left my mother’s care at 14 and went to live with my father, with whom I did a lot of sports. So I was fortunate to be spared all that nonsense — I was then also healthy and never overweight. I gained when I was in my mid-20s and went from a size 10 to a 12. That’s long gone…:-( I hope to get back to a 14, maybe a 12, but I won’t kill myself if it doesn’t happen. I’m strong, fit and flexible enough to get my wrists flat to the floor…and those are my measures of bodily value.

  5. Reblogged this on Fitness the Write Way and commented:
    This was amazing. I think the message should be passed along to all genders, though. Love yourself for who you are and who you are not. Love your body and treat it with respect. We have all had trouble with this at some point in our lives (yes I am assuming) but it’s time for the world to realize this body is just our vessel. This body doesn’t make me who I am, but it does carry me along. So it’s time to grow to love it and respect it.

    1. I agree…I always took my body for granted (which athletes do and young people do, for sure)…until I had to have 4 orthopedic surgeries in less than a decade. Now I just appreciate being able to move without pain. Perspective helps!

  6. thank you for sharing this. // growing up, my mother was always great about making all of her children feel beautiful. she never once said a negative thing about us regarding our bodies. however, she constantly spoke negatively about her self. i would never blame my mother for my own negative feelings regarding my body that creep up from time to time, as she always had the greatest intentions when it came to us. It does, however, with a reminder from this article, make me realize that there is as much value in positive reinforcement & encouragement towards children, as there is in modeling self-love.

    1. My Dad is 84 — about to go (!) sky-diving with his 32 yr old son….so I come from a line of fierce jocks! But my Dad likes his women thin and pretty so I’ve taken some serious heat from him since I gained weight in the past decade…It’s very very difficult to shed it post-menopause but I’m trying. My larger battle is not freaking out about others’ opinions of my size or shape. But it’s difficult.

  7. CRGardenJoe

    I liked the post very much and shared it despite having the Y chromosome. I know that the pressure on men is a lot less intense in terms of looks, but I fear the younger generation is their quest for “equality” is partly leveling the playing field the wrong way–but starting to put pressure on boys to conform to an idealized physical perfection. I like the post because of it’s attitude that applies both to boys and girls–teach them to love doing and let their bodies take care of themselves. Eat right and enjoy yourself and most of the rest is just details.

    1. Hey, so good to hear from you again!

      Eat right, enjoy yourself — and MOVE! The only way I’ve finally started to lose some more weight is by really increasing the intensity of my workouts, as dieting never works for me.

      I agree that loving your body for its strength and agility is so more more important than focusing in a nasty self-hating way on its size or shape. So it’s a real battle not to internalize the heavily retouched or Photoshopped IMAGES we see everywhere in the media. They are not real so we try to achieve something that is not even possible. Very sad.

      As we age, our size or shape may well change, but being strong and active is something — with luck — we can maintain into our 80s and beyond. I hope to! I recently started lifting weights to strengthen and tone my upper body. I can’t believe how much better I feel and look as a result. Really simple stuff, (initially prompted by vanity!) but reinforced by results and markedly improved strength.

      1. CRGardenJoe

        Yes, the “move” part is part of the enjoy–I often bicycled but only in recent years have become a bicycle commuter and started doing an annual bike across Iowa event. I think the only way to keep moving is to find the moving that you enjoy.

  8. This is a terrific post – so glad it got some Freshly Pressed time. I remember you and I discussing (online) about the advantages of having attended all-girl’s schools and one of the points was about how we were able to grow in an environment untouched by society’s dictates of beauty. It’s heartening to see that someone is giving mother’s such good advice!

    My nephew went to private school (co-ed) and he has told me that the girls in soccer were less likely to put up with male-crap than other girls. Go Ladies!!

    1. Me, too!

      I will forever be grateful for an education — and all-girl summer camp — where make-up was forbidden and we were awarded and rewarded for being smart as hell, not thin/pretty. Girls are so brainwashed and then waste acres of talent and drive and self-confidence on the wrong things.

  9. It’s a great message and one, as other commenters have mentioned, that we should all say to ourselves, not only to daughters. In fact, if anyone needs to really grapple with this concept (about the female form) it’s probably men!

    The objectification and sexualisation of women has never been more in your face and the ‘body beautiful’ propaganda is flaunted constantly in popular media. The thinking must be challenged to be changed. Healthy is sexy but ‘sexy’ is not necessarily healthy especially if it’s predicated on clothes-hanger chic and pornified femininity.

    Keep chasing good food and endorphins. Good energy, life force, positivity – these are tangible qualities that take us all far away from negative self-image and low self-esteem.

    The model that currently prevails reduces men to locker-room horndogs and tries to convince women that that way lies power. It’s insulting and degrading to both sexes and is a taint on healthy sexuality. The powers that be don’t want us to get along as adults, they want us to dwell in some semi-adolescent state of hypersex and insecurity. That’s the wedge that facilitates the myth-vending. Resist the stereotypes! Resist the cliches!

    Okay, stepping off my soapbox now…

    1. Rant on, my dear…I agree with you.

      It’s very interesting — and helpful (if sad) — to hear the male side of this issue. I am very lucky to have a husband who, when I start to lose weight, shrieks “Nooooooooo”. 🙂

  10. This is such an important message. I have a very young daughter and I hope that she grows up to be a healthy, independent and compassionate woman. I agree with the viewpoint that “healthy is sexy”, and particularly, healthy in mind and spirit. I find it very sad that nearly every woman I meet has body-image issues….I know that there are deeper psychological issues at play too, but their manifestation in poor body-image and the self-harm that accompanies it, is shocking, detrimental and sometimes fatal. The irony is that I don’t believe men or women find the starved skinny body in any way appealing! The one thing that really annoys me is how some famous fashion designers justify the anorexic form by saying that clothes ‘hang better on it’….This is so ridiculous; it is like a painter saying that his canvas must be of specific dimensions for him to apply paint to it!

    1. It’s so important for Dads, especially, to be sweet to their daughters…as they are the first male gaze/feedback we experience. If it’s approving and encouraging (and that of mother’s), it’s a great buffer against social toxicity. I was valued, as a teen and child, for being smart, creative and sport-y. Still am!

      Now I need to lose weight and my father, who I see a few times a year, loves to bring it up. It causes terrible fights between us.

      1. I agree. Really, I think it all boils down to giving one’s children unconditional love and as their number one role model, ensuring your own values are in order (inc. healthy diet, exercise, etc.). If the parent is healthy – physically, mentally and spiritually – it has a knock-on effect on the children.

      2. True.

        Although (having come from a pretty odd family in some respects), kids can survive a lot. In some ways, I have my parents’ (best) values — curiosity, compassion, adventurous spirit, drive, ambition — but I consciously avoided some of of their poor choices as well. My father is 84, and going sky-diving this week…but my mother is in a nursing home in very poor health.

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