When this mum realised the impact her own insecurities were having on her son, she vowed to treat herself better. This is a reminder for all mums to be kind to themselves.
Body image issues don’t discriminate
Body image issues – we all have them. That feeling that we could look ‘better’ than we do, in a multitude of small and large ways, is something that many women (and also lots of men!) battle with daily. Mothers in particular can struggle to love their post-baby bodies – after all the changes we’ve been through, it can be really hard to reconcile ourselves with our ‘new’ body.
While many of us think to ourselves, “I wish I could lose weight, I feel so ugly”, for some of us, this inner dialogue can often turn into negative self-talk, whether we are chatting to a close friend or quietly putting ourselves down in front of a mirror. As mothers, we sometimes forget that little ears are always listening and taking in every word we say.
Posting her story to the Breastfeeding Mama Talk Facebook page this week, mum Kristy shares the moment when she realised her own negative self-talk was impacting her young son much more than she knew.
The moment that brought it all home was when her beautiful little boy looked into the mirror and declared, “I’m ugly!”
Shocked and determined to help him feel better, Kristy and her husband did what all parents do when their child is showing signs of low self-esteem or body image issues – they reassured him that he was not at all ugly.
“You are handsome, you look like me,” said Dad, which brought a smile to their little boy’s face. Feeling Dad was on the right track, Mum also chimed in with, “And you look like me a little too.”
It was her son’s reaction to Kristy’s attempt at reassurance that hurt the most. She writes, “he frowns and almost cries and says, ‘What?! That means I am ugly then because mommy says she’s ugly, if I look like mommy that means I’m ugly too!”
“I feel like the worst mum ever”
Kristy says “I feel like the worst mom ever”, but it was this reaction from her son that helped her to realise that she had to change the negative self-talk she had been displaying – if not for herself, then for her impressionable little boy.
“Broke my heart!” she writes. “Living proof that the way you treat and think of yourself can have an effect on your kids. Those little innocent enough comments you make in passing are being noticed and are planting seeds in their heads. It’s so easy to find stuff to criticize about yourself and even easier to say them out loud. I have got to do better.”
A valuable lesson for all mothers
Kristy is not shying away from the lesson she has learned, and she wants other mums to know too: to help our kids love themselves, we have to show them that we can love ourselves, too. Even with our flaws, our wobbly bits, our imperfections.
“Even if I don’t believe it I have got to be more positive about the way I look,” she says. “Nothing good can come from feeding those emotions and my son taught me a very valuable lesson last night. How dare I be the person that instills any insecurity into my kid when I’m supposed to be the one to protect him from that! When I put myself down, I’m letting my son down in the process and that is not okay.”
Though it was a rude awakening for Kristy, she is determined to do better in future for her son, and in turn, for herself.
“I am human so it’s natural to make mistakes, but I am a mom so I have no choice but to learn from them and do better,” she says.
And I reckon she is not alone. This is what parenting is all about, after all. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it is that our children teach us so much about ourselves, don’t you think? And it is in those lessons that we can learn to be a better version of ourselves, so that we can teach our children to be their best selves too.
Choose self love
But though Kristy feels she is the ‘worst mum in the world’, I beg to differ. She is far from it! She is a mum who has realised that her own behaviours are negatively impacting her child, and she has chosen to change. She is bravely sharing her new awareness with other parents, in the hopes that we all can see that in order to teach our children self-love, we have to demonstrate it.
We are not perfect. We are human. And we are lovable and worthy just as we are, and this is something that is so important for every child – and mother! – to know. Wobbly bits (or crooked teeth, or big ears) and all.