"Don't take my picture...I don't have make up on."
"My hair is a mess; don't you dare snap that picture!"
"Ugh, I look like a fat cow in each of these!"
I'm not happy to admit that these self degrading words, these self-esteem shattering phrases, these negative body issues have been verbalized and have managed to escape my lips on more than one occasion. I am the queen of the self-put-downs, and it isn't a good thing.
As I have mentioned before (http://crazycakeseskimokisses.blogspot.com/2013/01/loving-ourselveseasier-said-than-done.html) I have become more self-conscious about what I say in regards to my body around my girls. I don't want them to grow up thinking it is normal or okay to say hateful things about themselves...because it isn't. If you can't love you, who can? No one.
I've noticed that lately, I struggle the most when Laila wants to take pictures. The moment she whips her camera out and asks to snap a few shots, I always respond with, "Okay, but don't put me in the picture."
Yesterday, Laila asked me why.
"Why don't you ever want to be in pictures mom," she inquires.
"Well, because the pictures are cuter when they are of you and your sister," I respond, trying to avoid the true answer.
"Why are they cuter if they are of us?" Laila asks.
"Because the two of you are beautiful on the inside and out," I say.
"Mom, do you think you are beautiful?" Laila continues.
I don't know how to respond. My mind starts to flood self loathing thoughts.
I don't want my picture taken because I haven't had a haircut in over a year. I have been too busy taking care of a baby. Feeding. Rocking. Playing. Going to numerous doctors appointments. Washing. Teaching. Worrying. Trying to put on a happy face. Diaper Changing. Tickling. Never Sleeping. I don't want that memorialized in a picture.
I refuse to have my picture taken because I don't like my body. I want to look like I did when I was twenty-one...to be that skinny again, that put together, that young. Before everything started to go south. A time when grey hairs were the furthest thing from my mind. When I didn't have to worry about toning it or tanning it, because it all was still toned. I want to slip into a pair of size two jeans and eat a carton of ice cream and not worry. I despise the fact that I now know what muffin top is and that my maternity jeans are too snug in some places. I am mad at myself for not getting back into shaper sooner after having Ceci. I'm angered by the number I see glaring back at me when I step onto the scale. I don't want that captured in an image.
I avoid having my picture taken, because I want to complain. I want to cry. I want to change the way I look, and I am mad at myself because I haven't. I have let myself down; I have spent so much of my time being negative about myself, instead of doing something proactive to fix what bothers me. I don't want my picture taken, because I am disappointed in myself.
Of course, I don't utter any of these words to Laila. No, I catch these words deep in the pit of my soul. I refuse to let them hit the air...to enter the beautiful mind of my six year old daughter.
"Do you know what I wish, mom?"
"I wish you would be brave," a little grin dances across Laila's face. "Be brave and let me take your picture, because I think you are beautiful."
I look at her. How? How can she think a sleep deprived, grey haired, baby weight toting woman is pretty?
"Be brave mom and believe that you are beautiful," Laila says.
And I try to. It is my gift to my girls. This is my act of kindness, as silly as it seems. I am going to work my hardest to instill a positive self image in my girls. I will let my daughters take my picture if they want to, whenever they want to, without any negative remarks. I will teach my daughters to love themselves. I will remind my girls that make up and hair products and beauty rituals, while fun, aren't what makes a person beautiful at all. That beauty is more than what can be seen on the outside. That some things can never outshine a good heart. That the bravest thing we can sometimes do is love ourselves.
Here are Laila's pictures she took that day: