“Mom, are my thighs too big?” my 11 year old recently asked me.
I thought is this really happening this early?? , then responded by asking her “Do you think your thighs are too big?”
“I don’t know.”
“No”, I said. “Your thighs are strong. They’re home to the muscles that make you super-fast on the field. Your legs are perfect just as they are.”
We talked about taking care of her body: when to move, when to rest. How to stay healthy and strong.
And then I was reminded of a time when I was about 10 or 11 years old…the very same age.
I was sitting on a picnic bench sandwiched between by two best childhood friends. We were scrunched together, hip to hip. One of them said, “Let’s see who has the biggest thighs.”
I don’t remember who “won” that contest, but I know that from there on out, I was uncomfortably aware of my thighs.
Were they too big? Did they look fat? I didn’t like how they spread out when I sat. How were my legs supposed to look?
Do you remember the first time you felt uncomfortable with parts of your body?
For so many women, attaching our self-worth to our appearance began at a very young age.
And when we attach our self-worth to something outside of ourselves, the cycle of self-judgment becomes hard to escape.
We tell ourselves we aren’t good enough. Because when it comes to appearance, there is always someone else (who's thinner, prettier, taller, shapelier, better-dressed, or more youthful) to compare ourselves to.
It took me years to realize how much of my self-worth I was attaching to my appearance. My neat appearance offset deep-rooted insecurities I had about myself in other areas, like whether I was smart enough.
Yet even in those moments when I felt most put-together on the outside, I was never at peace within.
Because as hard as I tried to feel better with a cute outfit or the ideal body, those peaceful feelings never lasted.
So what if the tender issues, when our inner critic sounds the loudest, are the exact places we need to explore for finding peace within ourselves?
I had hoped that in the almost 40 years since sitting on that picnic bench, things would be different for women. Yet, women and girls are still burdened with poor body image.
As women, we continue to judge ourselves (and each other) harshly for our imperfections.
And when we judge ourselves harshly for not meeting our (often unrealistic) standards of beauty, we give away our power.
Learning to embrace our bodies as they are cultivates self-acceptance and self-worth, inspiring us to become the best version of ourselves.
There is a saying that, “More is caught than taught”. The degree to which my daughter embraces self-acceptance depends largely on what she learns from watching me.
I want her to learn self-acceptance and self-care, and so I am leading by example. When I place trust in my body, I can respond to its need from love and self-discipline rather than fear and shame.
These days, caring for my body looks like:
Noticing the voice of my inner critic, accepting that may always be the first message I hear, but then asking myself for another thought instead. I allow for a more compassionate, supportive voice to emerge.
Choosing to love my body for its energy and strength. It a part of who I am and who I hope to become.
Granting myself permission to take breaks when I am clearly at my limit (rather than looking for the nod from others that it’s ok to slow down).
Setting aside time to properly nourish myself through balanced meals (rather than mindlessly eating while multitasking).
Inviting in play, relaxation and creativity (detaching from work and a productivity mindset). Rest is an excellent use of my time.
The breakthroughs keep coming.
I want them for my daughter too.
I want them for all women.
We get to choose to love our perfectly imperfect selves. Loving your body is realizing that it is good, as-is. Goodness has nothing to do with the size of your thighs or a number on the scale.
Are there parts of your body that you have been judging harshly?
Our unloving thoughts are an open invitation to practice greater self-compassion.
What kind, empowering thoughts could you think instead? (They’re the same kind and compassionate words you might tell your daughter or a friend.)
Embody those loving words.
Love yourself well, perfectly imperfect.
All of you.
I'm with you on the path to full self-acceptance.
PS- Quieting the inner critic is a practice. Building self-trust and acceptance is the fastest way to reaching your wellness goals. Don't skip this part.
I help women who don’t feel at home in their bodies to reclaim their calm, live from joy, and love every inch of themselves well. If you need some help, you can reach me through my contact form.