Hope and faith

I recently received a very thoughtful email from a reader. I've been mulling over it for several days now, composing an answer in my mind until this morning, when I realized that the subject is important enough that I wanted to address it here.

First, part of the email:

I am the daughter of a wonderful woman who has struggled for much of her adult life with weight issues. She did not struggle because she was actually overweight, her struggle was with her internal tape that told her time and time again that she was fat and ugly. She voiced these insecurities and self-criticisms often and I heard them loud and clear. She never once made a comment about my weight--she always told me how perfect and beautiful I was. But when I heard her talk so destructively about her own body, I began to wonder whether I should feel the same way about mine. I never told her that what she was expressing was affecting me and I firmly believe that had she known, she would have stopped. She never would have wanted me to struggle the same way she did and I know you never want your daughter to struggle with body and weight issues the way that you have.

I spent many, many years hating my body. I have finally come out the other side thanks to therapy and yoga and I finally see myself for what I am: a healthy woman blessed with a powerful body that can move and hopefully sometime soon carry a child.

So my caution is simply and lovingly this: be very, very careful about what you say infront of your sweet little girl. You are her mom, her role model and she will begin to internalize your insecurities as her own. You can't protect her forever, this I know--she is probably already exposed to plenty of media that tells her that her goal ought to be to fit into a Size 2. I'm just imploring you to please, don't be yet another voice in her head delivering the same message.

I hope for you and your family joy, love and peace. -M

M, I completely agree. My husband will tell you that when we started having children, I was ready to have all boys. The thought of trying to raise a grounded, confident, healthy young girl completely terrified me. So naturally, the Lord sent her to me first. :)

I've struggled with self-image for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure why. My mother did her very best to show me how warped my thinking was. I recall at one point, she became outraged at the media bombarding women. She pointed to a fashion magazine and told me that the majority of models were thin, white, blonde haired and blue eyed. They represented a vast minority of the population. "You," she said, "are thin, white, blonde haired and blue eyed and these images still make you feel inadequate. What about all the girls out there who don't fit into such a narrow category? Are they not beautiful? Instead of believing that there's something wrong with you, I think you need to start believing that there's something wrong with the message being sent here."

I don't want Little Miss C to struggle the same way I have for so long. I'm careful not to talk about it in front of her. But I know how these things go: kids are perceptive. I worry that she'll pick up on it anyway, the same way I worry that all my children will somehow attribute my depression {and the expression it always produces on my face: anguish hidden behind irritation} as a result of something they've done, too young to comprehend things like chemical imbalances.

I worry.

I worry until the worry is overwhelming, and I become paralyzed as a parent, afraid to take a step for fear it's a misstep. And that's where hope and faith come in.

I hope she sees those times when I'm at home in my skin. I hope she sees me fight my demons and learns that there's a nobility in never giving up. I hope she sees me leaning on the Lord, enduring pregnancies and otherwise trying to do right despite my insecurities. I hope that she sees the joy I'm able to find in my body. The freedom of running, the exhilaration of dancing, the honesty of hard labor, and the peaceful exhaustion of holding my children. I hope she grows up to be as exuberant and confidant as she is now. I hope she's better than me, stronger than me and more at peace than me.

But I have faith that the Lord will make up for all I lack as a mother. I have faith that he sent her to me for a reason, and that if I try my best it will be good enough. I have faith that she will discover her divine worth, and come to know how much she is loved unconditionally. I have faith that she came to earth at such a difficult time because she is noble and strong and will be able to emerge at the other end better for it. I have faith that despite whatever trials she will face, the Lord loves her and will guide her through. I have faith that it's all going to be all right.

I know I'm an imperfect parent, but it's hope and faith that get me through. If I can teach her to have hope and faith as well, all else will fall into place.


Charlotte said...


(With love from a size 14 who's trying to get back to her usual size 12)
(But not trying hard enough to be willing to give up the cookies!)

(Feeling better about that size 8 now?)

mosey said...

A beautiful letter and a beautiful response. And your mother's wisdom is keen.


Kristina said...

I was going to say, Beautiful! Then I saw others said it. So I thought I needed a different adjective. But just couldn't up with a better one. This is beautiful. I'm not a parent yet, but it seems like what most parents hope and strive for.

Crys said...

As a woman who thought her only or at least best "skill" was being thin as a child because of all the attention I got from it, I struggled with finding an identity other than being thin. I never really thought until right now about the fact that I now have a daughter and the effect I might have on her. Gosh being a parent just gets more nuts everyday.

The Queen Vee said...

Our children watch us so closely and pick up on our talents and inadequacies, they are so sensitive to the verbal, emotional and physical messages we impart. I look at my own grown children and feel guilty at times that they have each acquired some of my faults, but then in relief, I notice that they also have some of my best attributes too.

I do think that we as woman are bombarded with womanly depictions that are, for most of us, unattainable. For many of us, these insecurities and comparisons we feel about our looks are constantly there. It would be really wonderful if our daughters and grand daughters would not be burdened with these same issues. As mothers we can just try and do our best to teach and remind our children that each are very special, so unique and special that the Lord himself knows every beautiful hair on their heads. The blind are the ones who have a true understanding of what is humanly beautiful.

I have found that when we are serving others and accomplishing all the many daily tasks we each set for ourselves that there is less time to worry about SELF.

hukolb said...

Saw this in this month's magazine and thought of your post...The struggle will probably never end for most of us...

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