I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, And Gosh Darnit, People Like Me!

An excerpt of a post on Blogher.com by Caitlin Boyle regarding body image:

There are two ways to determine your self-worth: You can base you sense of self-worth on how highly other people value you, or you can determine your own value. Many of us never take the time to consider how and why we value ourselves; we base our self-esteem entirely on outside opinions. If we don’t make the "beauty spectrum" in the media, we must not be beautiful. If no one else asks what we think, we must not be smart. If a friend walks all over us, we must deserve it.

The trouble is that everyone sees life through their own unique filter. How they perceive you is too wrapped up in how they perceive themselves. Waiting for people who are inundated with negativity to decide you’re good enough is ridiculous. Who says you need their validation? You don’t.

Powerful words. I thought about them this weekend when my daughter asked me if I thought she needed to lose some weight. 

I feel the need to give you a bit of that dreaded backstory here. Growing up, I was the fat kid in my family. Always on a diet and never happy about the way I looked. Then one day a few years ago when my kids pulled out the old family photo albums and I started leafing through the pages, I had a moment of clarity. The “fat” kid I was looking at hadn't been fat at all. Not even close. So why had I felt that way my whole life? Because that 's the feedback I received from others.

Mainly my mom. 

There is no one in this world I love more or who has been more supportive of me over the years in every other aspect of my life, but the more I thought about it, the more I recalled little comments about my weight and comparisons to some of my smaller friends that I hadn't noticed at the time or at least hadn't given much power to. That is, until she overheard my daughter's question this weekend and commented that she would look even prettier if she lost a few pounds. Not downright insulting, but the message came through loud and clear to me even if my daughter hadn't caught it. You are not good enough the way you are.

So I sat down and had a talk with my mom. It was hard. But it turns out she never realized how her comments about my weight had affected me all these years. I didn't completely change her way of thinking, she has always lived by the motto that you can never be too rich or too thin, but she agreed to be more conscious of the things she says and that's really all I can ask.

It turns out my daughter wasn't considering losing weight because she thought she looked bad, but because she wanted to increase her base running speed in softball. I told her we could talk to her coach and see what kinds of drills would help her meet that goal. And if she loses weight, she loses it, and I expect it will be a by-product of the increased exercise which makes her a stronger competitor in the sport she loves to play, not because someone tells her she should.

Have you ever had a life-changing revelation?


Old Kitty said...

Good for you and your daughter! I'm sorry you had to go through such negative body image but such is the power of a mother's words! Your words to your daughter are just lovely!! And yay that you were able to be honest with your mum too - open communication is so so important between parents and children.

Have a great day now! take care

Ann said...

Having that chat with your much loved mum was a very brave thing to do. The chat you had with your daughter was a very smart thing to do. Your daughter is a very lucky girl.

Claire Lachance said...

That's a great post! People don't realize how damaging little comments can be, especially to young people, until it's too late. Very sad. Thank you for posting this!

Jennifer Groepl said...

Loved this post and featured it on my blog today. I agree whole-heartedly that people don't always intend to be hurtful, but those comments add up - especially when it's family members saying them.

Shelley Koon said...

Wow Lisa - I could have written the part about the "fat girl" I too was sure I was fat (my aunts and uncles told me this every time they saw me. Looking back on pictures I see it wasn't true - not at all. Funny (and yet so sad) how we begin to believe...

Just a heads up, I have set up a Google Reader with all of YA Group 10 in it to help organize all of our blogs - I am missing 2 people (technical issues I am trouble shooting) but hope to get them added in soon! Link is:


Faith said...

When it comes to our bodies, I'm of the belief that we have to love and accept ourselves first -- value ourselves, as you put it so well -- and then seek change. ONLY THEN. If we diet or exercise or get plastic surgery to find value, it will NEVER WORK. It's only when we love ourselves first, then say "I choose to do [X] because I love this body I have, and I want to do well by it because I only get one!" that we make a true, lasting, SATISFYING difference.

It sounds like your daughter is on the road to getting that, based on her goal of increasing her running speed. That's a wonderful goal, and like you say, if she loses weight, it'll be a byproduct of a different, personal goal. Best of luck to her!!!

erica and christy said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. I'm so glad you talked to your daughter and found she had a sports-related goal behind her reason to lose weight and love the healthy way you chose to help her solve her problem. I'm also glad you were able to "see" the real you, even if it didn't save you years of not feeling good about yourself. Christy

Kari Marie said...

Wow. Good for you for having the courage to talk to your mom about this after all these years. What a powerful moment. I'm so glad you discovered your daughter's true motivation.

Katherine Owen said...

Thank you for this post. It applies to a lot of things in life that we measure ourselves by. Hopefully, the long chat with you mom will lead to her catching herself before making these unkind thoughtless remarks in the future. I have similar memories of childhood into adulthood with my mom and mother-in-law. I'm vigilant around both when it comes to my own daughter.

My other takeaway from this is for an entirely different set of reasons in relation to my writing and book reviews. Thanks for posting this thought-provoking piece.

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