It was a Saturday morning like many others in my house, where every single family member needs—and can actually take—a good chunk of time upon waking to become fully functional. I was lounging in bed, drinking coffee and studying when my 7-year-old came in for snuggles.
As I put down my heavy book and reveled in our giggly morning lovefest, my daughter turned to me: “You’re really comfortable, she said, every part of you is comfortable!“
This made me pause.
A few years ago, this simple comment, innocently made by a lovely child, would have sent my mind spinning in a vortex of negative body image. Comfortable was never something that I strove for, physically. What did it mean? That I was soft and squishy? That every part of me was soft and squishy?
I found it interesting that, as a testament to years of mindset and body image work, I was able to see that door opening, and simply choose not to go there.
Often, the result of this type of work isn’t that the negative thoughts go away completely—that would be unrealistic. As much as we’d all like to live in an all sunshine-and-rainbows kind of world, that would simply mean blinding ourselves to the world. Even rainbows need the rain, right?
The power of doing mindset work—be it related to body image or otherwise—is that it helps us realize that we always have a choice: we can embrace the negative thoughts as truth, or acknowledge that they’re simply a story that we’re telling ourselves, and decide to head in a completely different direction.
But back to that Saturday morning.
Why wouldn’t I want to be comfortable for my kid? After all, if I only looked at it from the physical standpoint, there’s a good chance that I was missing a lot of the picture. Comfortable can mean so much: a safe haven where she could simply be herself, and know that she’s loved unconditionally.
“You know what my favourite part of you is?”, she asked. I said I didn’t. I also realized that I was as amusingly curious as I was apprehensive—why is it so hard to take compliments?
“My favourite part of you is your head. Because it’s got your brain in it—your beautiful brain.”
I smiled, both because I appreciated her unique comment—being told we have a beautiful brain is, after all, as uncommon as it is deeply flattering—and because I recognized her words as mirroring some of my own.
In a world where children—girls especially—are often praised for one-dimensional qualities, I’m working hard to change the dialogue.
It’s trickier than it seems. Complimenting little girls on their appearance is extremely easy—especially since we so often mean it: they’re absolutely adorable and melt our heart, so we want to tell them!
Rewriting the script requires more work, but opens us up to more meaningful exchanges too. Praising others on superficial aspects—telling little girls that they’re pretty, and little boys that they’re strong, as those seem to be the most common ones, is as narrow-minded as it is damaging. It shows kids to look at the world and at themselves thought a single, extremely limited lens.
If it ever occurs to people to value the honour of the mind equally with the honour of the body, we shall get a social revolution of a quite unparalleled sort.
Dorothy L. Sayers
By talking about what’s beyond appearances, we get to tap into our unique gifts. We encourage each other to appreciate what’s special about ourselves, and what we have to offer to the world.
We can contribute more than appearance, right? For many of us, it takes years of painful work to come to this realization. Don’t you think we can work to break that pattern for those coming after us?
And as much as this goes for children, this also goes for our fellow adults. Instead of systematically lauding looks, clothes and possessions, let’s look at ourselves from a new angle!
Be it creativity, compassion, attentiveness, humour, loyalty, resilience, curiosity, thoughtfulness or a unique way to see the world, we have so much to celebrate if only we choose a different lens!