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For a child, a positive body image starts at home. Here’s how this mom handled the unsolicited advice hurled her way.
My daughter is good-looking. I say good-looking and not beautiful here because just like every child is to her mother, she is undoubtedly the most beautiful person for me. But what I want to talk about is her good looks.
Obsessed with ‘fair’ or ‘not fair’ skin, right from the day a girl steps, rather bawls, into the world, we start the ‘is she pretty?’ game. Yes, we had the right boxes ticked – fair, tall, and whatever else you would like. She soon became the ‘cute’ kid on the block and I soon became used to the onlookers, who would coo, “arre dekh, she is so cute!” I was quite nonchalant about the role ‘good’ looks had to play in my parenting process till I came across a few interesting comments. Don’t I always? These comments made me pause and think. It wasn’t just about having our girls pretty, we also had biases about ‘pretty’ itself.
Well, one of my primary duties to my daughter, which I take very seriously, is building immense self-confidence. And yes, for most of us, it starts with looks. Not with how we really look, but how those closest to us tell us about our looks. My younger sister always, for most of my college years, called me ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Beautiful’ before I left for every party. She made my evening – and I never needed another compliment. I have never forgotten her words. She built the right body image for me even before either of us knew those terms. I choose to pass it on to my daughter. Enjoying your looks is not vain. Dark, fair, thin, curvy, short, tall. Don’t let anyone ever stop you from giving yourself a flying kiss in the mirror.
Please note, my daughter wasn’t walking on her own till she was 13 months old, like ‘most kids her age’, hence this comment.
Oh, how long before we stop the ‘beauty with brains’ compliments? Somehow, there is a universal belief that good looks and good brains are mutually exclusive. And if ‘by God’s grace’ you are decent looking and have a brain, be prepared to either remain apologetic about it or at least, not flaunt it.
I want my little girl to never feel the need to ‘look’ a certain way to fit in. She may be smart, brilliant or just about averagely intelligent, but she would not let any stereotype define her. Not all who do math are geeks, and not all who dance are creative.
My favorite topic. Don’t let her be a model. I asked why? The usual labels played out. When I didn’t budge, there was an interesting argument – these models are ruining body images of young girls today. Now this stayed with me. Interesting right? I also read this a lot in mass media – we conveniently pass on the entire burden of the burgeoning body image issues/disorders to those in the ‘glamour’ business. Now, now, before you raise a red flag, hear me out. According to me, body image issues start at home – they start by a simple statement made by a mother in front of her daughter about ‘Oh God! I’m looking so fat and horrible in this skirt!’ Or ‘Your friend Priya was looking so good in that dress, no flab at all!’ Or ‘Don’t wear skirts, you’re too short/stubby.’ In these 3 sentences, what the mother told her daughter was –
While these seem harmless instances, if they remain a constant and regular affair in a girl’s life – by parents and siblings alike –, it’s not too long before she feels disastrous about the way she looks. Add to this peer pressure and you have a potent mix. Now,lets all of us just blame it on Katrina. Easy. Wrong.Body image starts at home. And it starts with Mom.It starts young,really young.So does the focus on health versus looks. But that’s another blog.
Now coming to the issue about being a Model. I don’t believe my job as a parent is to decide what’s the ‘good’,’right’,’best’ career choice for her – it is and will always be her choice. My responsibility is to talk to her about the pros and cons of each choice and make her aware in the best possible way about what could lie ahead of her. Secondly, how will she ever learn about breaking stereotypes if I serve them to her for dinner every night! As her parent, it’s my duty to let her find her feet. Without biases.Without my own set of prejudices. And without an unreasonable ‘because I said so’.
She can choose to be a model or a surgeon. Or both. She is, after all, her own person.
Header image courtesy Shutterstock.
Entrepreneur. Learner. Doer. Feminist. Free-Spirit. Spiritual. Non Ritualistic.
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