yWhen my daughter Lara was about 3 years old, I saw her meanly grab at her belly, and shake it a little, with mock disgust.
Shame flooded me.
I thought I had been SO careful protecting my daughter from my own body hate but I was looking at an action I did most mornings between getting out of the shower and getting dressed.
What a terrible inheritance from me.
I wanted Lara to LOVE herself, every square inch of her. My face flamed hot, and I felt a little sick at the idea of Lara growing up at war with her beautiful body.
I paused for a moment and was flooded with a different kind of emotion, not quite shame, guilt perhaps, regret? Why did I so desperately want self-love for my daughter, but it wasn’t something I was seeking for myself?
Surely to immunise her against body shame, I had to begin to love myself.
I thought I’d been very mindful about hiding my body hate. I NEVER talked about someone’s shape or weight gain, or weight loss even. I thought that I had hidden my sucked in stomach, and shape wear from her little perceptive eyes.
Kids are the very best observers, and it was clear that Lara was receiving some damned powerful messages from me.
Truth be told, I didn’t love very much of my body back then. Especially after two pregnancies. I felt like it was too big, too wobbly, not enough waist, too much boob, back boob, crepe paper stomach, a screaming hot mess.
I actively hated my body, it was an avid hobby of mine.
Clearly doing this for myself wasn’t something that had happened, it wasn’t even something I was trying to achieve.
But finding self-love in the name of a different kind of legacy for Lara?
That was a much easier journey.
I started to only keep clothes in my cupboard that fit me. All aspirational sizes were given a teary send off to charity.
I got rid of my shape wear with far less tears – I felt FREED!
I invested in some underpants that fit really well. I LOVE a great pair of undies, and ones that didn’t roll down UNDER my baby apron made me feel so much better about myself throughout the day.
The one thing I did, that I think broke the spell of how I saw myself was simply ‘I faked it ‘til I made it’. I forbade myself from the physical actions that demonstrated how I felt about my body. Harder to change I how felt, but I acted like someone who loved their body.
Recently I realised that I’d kind of made it. Lara, now 12, and I were Netflixing on the coach. She was playing with her belly, but this time, she was making her belly button ‘talk’ by moving the skin around it and speaking in a high pitch ‘I’m hungry, you should feed me!’.
I told her that I could make mine ‘smile’ all the way across – from waist to waist. I showed her the full body width crease I could make with my stomach. We made it frown, we made it smile, we made it laugh, hell we almost hid the remote control in there.
She was delighted ‘It’s like a POUCH’ she cried, fascinated.
‘It WAS a pouch’ I replied. ‘You lived there, and your brother lived there. It’s the cleverest part of my whole body. It made PEOPLE!’.
And you know what? I wasn’t even faking it.
I know I wasn’t faking because earlier that day I wore a bikini on the beach, the late afternoon sun warming my whole, glorious, perfectly imperfect body and only noticed just a little bit that I jiggled when I ran.
I’m not sure when the change happened. Sometime when I wasn’t paying attention, sometime after I’d stopped viciously judging myself, but there’s nothing about my body I don’t love anymore. What started as my gift to Lara, has become one of my greatest ever acts of self-kindness.