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A Letter to My Daughter on Body Image: May You Love All of You

Dear Daughter,

We are together more than ever these days.

I watch as you wake each morning, walk into your closet, and choose an outfit that doesn’t go together. You pull up your leggings without noticing the skin that spills over the tight waistband.

You run a brush through your hair and carefully choose a headband or opt for a braid. I passively wonder if you wish for hair opposite of your own in texture and color. But there is no sighing or visible expression of disappointment as you comb through the tangles and frizz. Instead, you smile and make silly faces at your reflection in the mirror.

Virtual school ends, and you’re understandably antsy, overdue for a break. So we crank up the music and dance. You move with innocence and without restraint or self-consciousness. You sing loud, uninhibited, with zest. I take a mental picture of the freedom you possess because these are the seemingly insignificant moments that have the potential to snowball into something more.

And I hoped that since I have been so careful to refrain from putting myself down in your presence and doing the subsequent inner work of discovering what healthy body love means for me, that just maybe you wouldn’t fall prey to the relentless cycle of body shaming.

Girlmom tag board“Am I Fat?”

So, when I overheard you ask, “Am I fat?” my inner dialogue suddenly looked like a scene from the movie Inside Out.

Oh dear goodness, how is she thinking this?

Is she for real?

What do I say that won’t shame her, hurt her, or embarrass her?

I realized then that it was time to have the first of many conversations about your body. Though we have talked about the basic nature of sex and periods and read books about female anatomy and development, we haven’t talked about the messages already being imprinted on your little psyche—nor the ones you most likely will encounter at some point.

You see, I’ve tried to be careful because I never wanted you to take on the messages I received and swallowed whole without questioning. I think back to the memories and moments that once ignited pain and shame in my own heart—they play like a movie reel through my mind.

I Remember When I Started Body Shaming Myself

I remember the countless times when the older women in my family—a flock of overcomers—would line up in front of the bathroom mirror and study the lines, shapes, and crevices of their bodies. It was a sport. Who had the most wrinkles? Whose stomach and thighs held the most flab? Nose shapes, breast sizes, torso lengths, and saggy eyelids were meticulously evaluated and scored.

As a young girl, I’d sit silently, confused. I absorbed their words of disdain and disappointment but wondered how these remarkable women I adored could say these things.

This must just be what a woman does, I’d think to myself. We’re supposed to hate our bodies.

What-Every-Woman-Needs-to-Know-About-Body-Image-PIN

As my body changed and I grew into adolescence and womanhood, I would line up next to them, pinch my skin and add my own disparaging words. By that point, the messages from society, peers, the media, and from women I admired spun a skewed picture of what the female body “should” look like. I believed I’d need surgery to fix the parts of me that lacked the curves that weren’t coherent with what the “ideal” woman “should” look like. Or that I’d need to beat my body into rigorous submission of extreme dieting and workouts—that these might be the panacea to achieving an unobtainable ideal.

As I now hold those memories with more compassion and insight, I recognize these messages were filtered through an inaccurate, shameful lens that was embedded in a societal and familial system that esteemed men and devalued women.

For Now, Dear Daughter, I Want You to Know the Following:

Undoubtedly, there will be times where you compare yourself to another—be it body shape, hair color, personality, intellect, among others. Society and culture will clamor to tell you that you need to fit in a box, that in order to be valuable and relevant, you must look and be a certain way. We females can be ruthless critics when it comes to our bodies, often drinking in messages without considering their source. And though I won’t be able to protect you from outside influences, I can teach and model for you how to discover within yourself the worth and value your Creator has placed inside you.

My prayer is that you will wake up each day wanting to look like you. That as you look in the mirror, you will not see lack but instead will see a perfectly designed masterpiece.

I pray you will marvel at the way your Creator has intentionally imprinted every cell of your body with his love—that you will believe and see yourself as a precious one who is encoded with goodness, beauty, strength, and grace. That as you grow and evolve, you will continue to be filled with awe and wonder with the way your body has been crafted.

My prayer is that you will wake up each day wanting to look like you. That as you look in the mirror, you will not see lack but instead will see a perfectly designed masterpiece.

I Want to Help You Discover Healthy Body Love

So, always feel free to talk to me when you have thoughts of “less than” about yourself. Together, let’s peel back layers and get to the root of the belief. The stories we tell ourselves have the ability to mold our destiny, and yet, no one can make us think or feel a certain way. We are the ones who ascribe meaning to what is being said, shown, or done to us.

I’m not daft enough to believe that you’ll buy every word of these stories I tell you about your body—that all of my exhorting, encouraging, reminding, and persuading will be enough to protect you from body shame. I can only share with you the snippets of my own journey and the new stories I tell myself about healthy body love.

It is one of acceptance, embracing, and celebrating.

May it be yours, too.

And I said to my body softly, “I want to be your friend.”
It took a long breath and replied, “I have been waiting my whole life for this.”
—Nayyirah Waheed


An important part of loving your body is developing an appreciation for what it can do. Dr. Holly Miller OB-GYN joins the podcast to discuss feminine health and all the ways that your body can serve you: Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask Your OB-GYN Answered by Dr. Holly Miller – 119

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Rachel is a freelance writer and a huge fan of peanut butter, humidity, and driving barefoot. Her favorite pastimes include reading up on aviation disasters to “conquer” her fear of flying and finding hope in the storms of life.

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