Growing up, my mom was my gold
standard of beauty. She had the softest skin,
freckles and black hair that tended to frizz just like mine. I
remember watching her once in front of her mirror. She stared at her reflection and said "I'm ugly"
with a frown. Just like that, she shook my whole world. How could my
beautiful mother think she was ugly? And if I resembled my mom—which
I did—did that mean I was ugly too?
My story is entwined
with my mother's. Over the years, I watched her alter her appearance
in minor and major ways. I felt the need to reassure her of her
beauty always. That day when she called herself ugly, I told her she was beautiful.
I received mostly criticism from her. The phrase "You're pretty" was almost always followed by "but you need
to lose weight." One time she recounted a dream to me:
"You were thin and so beautiful." She looked genuinely
My dad (pictured above with my mom) tended to echo the statements.
Like most fat kids, I faced bullying at school. At home, my meals
were scrutinized. All this made for a
painfully self-conscious girlhood and adolescence.
My life didn't
change until I left for college—a whole 400 miles away. Left only
to pursue my goals and explore my interests, I flourished. I didn't
lose any weight, but I gained confidence. I did well in school and no
one could take that away from me. I formed some great friendships. I
also met and fell in love with my future husband. I started to
experiment with my style—and even started a body-positive fashion
blog back in 2008. I felt unabashedly beautiful.
I'm 30 years old now
and I'm a mom. Pregnancy taught me to love my body in a new way. I
felt profoundly grateful for what my body could do. Giving birth was
Body confidence, or
a lack thereof, starts at home. That's why there's no negative body
talk here. I'll stand in front of the mirror with my daughter, like
my mom did with me. She's a toddler and just learning to name all the
different body parts. She'll jubilantly say, "I like my feet! I
like my tummy!" I'll say, "I like my tummy too!" If you want
your kids to be confident in their bodies, you have to be confident
Like most fat kids, I faced bullying at school. At home, my meals were scrutinized.
My husband has a
slightly different, but complimentary outlook. His message to our
daughter is, "You're just right, just as you are." According to
him, if someone else says differently, something is wrong with them.
The role of dads in building their children's confidence cannot be
overstated. When it comes to my daughter and her daddy, he hangs the
moon in her sky.
Jay Miranda, her husband and daughter
We parents become
the voices in our kids' heads.
Oh, and it turns out
body confidence increases health. It's
been found to produce better results for women than negative
messages do. This has proved true in my life this year. I finally got
over the last of my latent fears about exercising in public. I've
been going to yoga class regularly and for the first time I'm eating
with energy and vitality as my guides.
I don't want the voice in my daughter's head to be the negative one my mom created for me. Yes, I want my
daughter to feel beautiful, but mostly I want her to learn that it's not all about beauty. There's so much more to her!
This article is part of mom.me's collaboration with The Representation Project and their #buildconfidence campaign. Research shows that body image issues originate well before adolescence and that parents are pivotal in instilling confidence in their children. #BuildConfidence campaign celebrates and empowers parents, caregivers and mentors who model positive self-esteem and body image. Share this article and tag #buildconfidence to help us spread the word!