My response to the blog post “ How to talk to your daughter about her body”
I am a psychotherapist that works primarily with women, and a large part of my practice includes women with eating disorders and a range of food and body issues, so I write this response from my own experience and study. I am passionate about working with women on these issues. I find that as each woman liberates herself from society’s and other’s views and values (that are not her own), meanwhile finding and fully honoring her own truth(s), our entire society ultimately benefits from each individual’s liberation, transformation, and empowerment.
I need to thank the author Sara K of this blog I am referencing, as she really got my wheels turning in an inspiring way, thank you! And, I agree with the author that many adults need coaching and guidance around how to talk to their children about their bodies. As a society, we seem to have a rather tortured relationship to our bodies, and many of us are fearful of passing that on to our children (especially our daughters, as women are particularly targeted with objectification and other influences that promote self abandonment, dissociation, and even self loathing). We want to teach our kids a “healthy” way of being in relationship to their bodies and all that our bodies require to function well, like food, movement, rest (that one tends to be downplayed), and the many forms of expression that our bodies are capable of, to name a few.
In response to the blog post, my first comment addresses the advice the author gives on how to, and how not to, talk to girls about their bodies. Here’s the thing: all the best coaching in the world on how to talk to our children (I’m including boys here) about her body, our body, and bodies in general, means nothing if we have not addressed our own issues about our own body. That means, that even though we can learn to say “all the right things,” or learn what “not” to say, the most meaningful and powerful message we send our children is how we actually LIVE in our selves, which includes our bodies. How we show up each day is actually the teaching that is being transmitted, and even the best “hiding” of our unfinished hang ups will not prevent them from being passed down. So, it is WORTH it (maybe even essential) to take our own body and food issues seriously, address them, and get support doing so, if we want our kids to grow up with an integrated relationship to their own body.
Secondly, we cannot underestimate our own biases around food and body image. We are inundated with messages, constantly, about how to take care of, treat, and perceive our own (and other’s) bodies. Most of us are actively trained out of our own intuition and knowing about our physical, sensory, emotional, and intuitive experiences from a young age. Most of us will have to consciously work towards regaining that inner sense of clarity around what our bodies want and need, and maybe even defy cultural advice to honor those inner messages.
And finally, we don’t have to be perfect. We aren’t anyway, and perfection is an illusion that our kids need to see us confront. They too will be fed the illusion that perfection in any form can be achieved and if they just work hard enough….sound familiar? So, you don’t have to have everything figured out, or have a “perfect” body image or relationship to food. I don’t even believe there is such a thing. Honest, truthful, authentic relationship to the parts of one’s self that struggle with these aspects of our life is what I am rooting for. What could be monumentally helpful to our children, I believe, is witnessing us own the places where we struggle or are stuck, relieve ourselves of our shame about it, and move towards healing through our own personal resources and those around us. I think this gives our kids a felt sense of what authenticity looks and feels like, and a knowing that even when they are struggling, stuck, or down on life, that support is available and healing is possible.
The process of excavating one’s truth and experience out from underneath the messages that are heaped on us from the world around us, and our own minds, is a righteous one. It is worth doing, for our selves, for our loved ones, and for this planet (yup, its all connected). When we free ourselves and live according to our own actual experience, amazing things happen.
So, when we really do our own inner work, and continue to engage in it, through supportive relationships, reflective and contemplative practices, and finding ways to tend to our own soul’s nourishment, we may find that we don’t need instructions, on anything. Sure, we can continue to learn, receive guidance, deepen our knowledge and skills, but it must support who we are and who we are becoming.
Ultimately, we need to honor the truth that is coming through us, in the form of emotions, insights, feelings, feedback from our body, and our intuition. Then, when our children look to us as models of what it is to be human (which they do), to be embodied, aware, discerning, messy, loving, thoughtful, struggling, spontaneous, creative, emotional creatures, and everything else that we are, we simply show them.