I am your basic Millennial. I came into my teen body in the late 90’s and, as soon as it started to change and grow, I finely tuned my inner monologue to speak mainly hateful and destructive things. When college arrived, I beat my body up with hours at the gym and only allowed myself very specific foods, hoping to force my body into an unreasonable ideal.
By my mid-20’s, with lots of trial and LOTS of error, I had arrived at a healthy and accepting relationship with my body. And then, within 3.5 years, I had 3 babies. And gained and lost over a 100 pounds.
I entered my 30’s knowing I was done having kids, knowing I was exhausted, and knowing I didn’t look the way I wanted to look. And then I began to perceive that, not only would I need to work on myself FOR myself, but I would need to be a walking example for body love and acceptance for my three young children.
As a family, we make mostly decent food choices. We also intentionally make strictly delicious food choices, like pizza, various take-outs, and ice cream. All things in moderation, as they say, but also all things I eat right in front of my kids. While I want them to know the importance of fruits and vegetables and proteins, I want them equally to know that they should enjoy the other foods life has to offer and not feel guilty.
At birthday parties, for example, I want them to see me eat cake and I want that paired with laughter and excitement. I don’t want their lasting image to be seeing me turn down a treat because of the way it might make me look. I want them to see me eat broccoli and know that I’m making a positive choice for the nutrients my body craves. I want them to help me prepare a healthy dinner on a weeknight, and also see me relax with pizza on a weekend.
I also want them to see me work out. I want them to know the power being active has over your spirit and your confidence. I want them to realize strength comes because of effort, so I purposefully work out while they are awake a few times a week, instead of trying to squeeze one more thing into the precious kid-bed hours.
I want them to know we can be active as a family. We can hike, we can kick a ball around, we can take the dog for walks, or we can ride bikes. I want them to see that exercising is more than running into oblivion on a treadmill. And I also want us to collapse on the couch as a family to renew our spirits through the power of doing nothing.
I want them to hear my outer monologue praising my body for the amazing things it does. Inner monologue, be damned, I’m waiting on my 40’s for it to kick into positive mode. But what comes out of my mouth is no longer asking how clothes make me look, discussing my size (or anyone’s, for that matter), or belaboring any feature of my body in front of my children.
I want to try to accept compliments and do my best to show my children that I am worthy of loving my body and all it does for me. I want to say aloud “wow, I look strong!” or “this color really looks good on me.” I want to verbalize what will resonate with them.
While I can’t control my children’s’ growing and developing inner monologues or the influence the world will have upon them, especially when they become teenagers, I hope that I can help shape their self love early on. Perhaps I will save them just a little bit of the dead weight of body hatred so many of us Millennials carry with us. I hope they grow up loving their strong muscles, their beautiful selves, and enjoying all that life has to offer.