Perfection. We all know that it’s not possible to be perfect. And yet, it’s all we strive for, each of us in one way or another.
Much of the time, this perfection obsession manifests itself through the need to look a certain way: stylish, fit, professional, polished, smart, artistic, unique… It’s so ingrained in us to appear as we believe we should, and reject anything less than, well, perfect, that we hardly even notice it when the little people in our lives are right there- standing right there- when we say something like “I look fat.” True story.
I was walking out the door over the weekend with my twins on our way to a 6-year-old birthday party, and I admittedly had not been being very nice to myself. I was stuck in a headspace locked-in by a lengthy and unconscious baseline of negative self-talk, and I didn’t even see one of my kids standing there when I said to my partner, “ugh, I look fat today” — Lemme say, obviously I’m not fat! And I’m genuinely not concerned about that ever being a realistic problem for me. But to the little ears passively absorbing their parent’s words, the message was anything but flippant. Thankfully, I have the kind of partner who quietly called me out on the spot with a reminder to be “body positive”, head-nodding to the 5-year-old putting on her shoes just a couple feet away. So, standing there in the threshold of my house, I fumbled my way out of the loatheful ditch I’d been digging and quickly said, “well, I feel healthy and strong!”, which was true, duh. And you know what, even though I was saying it for my little girl, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. But as we drove off to the party, I was at once grateful that my wife was standing there to catch me and worried by how many times she may not have been there in the past, or will not be there the next time. And that’s something I need to be more mindful of. If I can’t get myself out from beneath the “haze” for my own good, then I need to do it for the little girls who still believe that everyone is beautifully, perfectly imperfect.
We spend so much time talking about being body positive, talking about raising our girls to be powerful, self-accepting beings who make their voices heard, follow their dreams, and allow themselves to succeed that we forget how the micro moments, standing in the threshold of our own homes truly shape EVERYTHING. It’s not their schools, or their peers, or the shows they watch: It’s the people closest to them. It’s us.
At the party, there were several other moms who stuck around to help out and socialize, and I kid you not, EVERY SINGLE WOMAN I encountered made a comment about how bad she looked, how she really shouldn’t be eating that pizza crust her kid just gave her, how she really should get to the gym, how she just started a “special diet”. I didn’t know these ladies before this day, and so it’s not as if these comments came about as a result of a quiet, personal conversation. It’s the first thing they announced. Apologizing for not being perfect. Making excuses for enjoying themselves. It really rang my bell to observe this right after the moment I said these very things at the threshold of my house. It’s a little embarrassing to out myself like this, but I think we all should be a little embarrassed, no? Because we’re SO MUCH better than this.
Ladies, we need to stop talking poorly about ourselves, and especially stop calling ourselves fat and ugly in the presence of your kids. They can’t afford for us to put that on them. We need to start practicing, out loud, how good we feel. How grateful we are for the ability to get up and walk around. For our health and vitality. For our presence of mind. Let’s not teach our children to hate themselves for being imperfect. Let’s praise them for it! It’s going to be hard, and not one of us is going to approach this perfectly — but isn’t that what life is all about?