How did I get here? What happened along the way that brought me to this point? Where I could say “Good Morning, Ugly” to my reflection? Where I would fear the prospect of passing on my body image issues to my daughters?
Guess it’s time to recognize when I was first told I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t what I was “supposed to be.” That I was too much or too little.
Time to name the lies and call them out and replace them with the truth. Time to recognize the soft spots and tender places where I’m vulnerable to attack so I can reinforce them with armor.
Time to unpack some of my body image baggage.
As far back as I remember, I was admired for my cuteness. I remember adults telling me how beautiful I was. I’m told once a stranger asked, “do you know how cute you are?” and my response was, “Yeah. I know.” Out of the mouths of babes.
My eyes were a startling amber-hazel. My eyelashes luxuriously long. I had thick, chocolate brown hair, full, rosy, cherubic cheeks, a smooth, olive complexion, and a sparkling, easy smile. I was an adorable child.
The problem is, it began to define me very early.
I participated in pageants and won time and time again, which lead to an agent and auditions and commercials and minor film and television roles.
My childhood suddenly became dominated by capitalizing on my looks.
I remember playing soccer with a friend in 2nd or 3rd grade and falling on the field, scraping my knee. I burst into tears knowing I had an audition later that week. I wasn’t going to look perfect. I had to look perfect.
My example is extreme and certainly not commonplace, even for other child actors. We all internalize things differently. I’m sure not every professional child actor or pageant contestant had the same experience I did. And event though your experience is probably quite different from mine, I believe we have much more in common that it might seem.
What I am absolutely certain of is at such an early age, my body image and self-perception was first impacted by how adults treated me. What they said, how they reacted, what they chose to encourage and discourage.
Which is why I’m also filled with such hope for my daughters. It can end with me. I can have a huge impact right now, in these first few years, laying an unshakeable foundation before their peers step in. Hand in hand with the Lord in prayer, I can cover them with protective armor against the onslaught of body image attacks that lay ahead.
But before I can do all that, I need to deal with my own stuff. I need to sketch out how it was I felt about myself, my looks, my body in my early childhood, so that I might better understand what my daughters might be thinking and feeling in these early years.
What are your earliest memories of your body? Maybe you felt free and comfortable, loved running naked and playing games? Maybe you felt special for the attention you got for your pretty hair or adorable dimples? Perhaps you felt awkward and ugly in comparison to a sibling? Take some time to really think about your earliest body image beliefs. I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via e-mail!