Having recently given birth to a baby girl, my mind has often wandered back to a conversation I had during trek training with one of the girls late last year. I remember the session, the weather, where we were, and the conversation even then, struck me as poignant. I was in my first trimester.
The dialogue went something along the lines of us bemoaning the amount of time we had spent during our teens, twenties and we hate to admit, a proportion of our thirties, wishing our bodies to be something they are not. Whether that ‘thing’ be taller, slimmer, curvier, it didn’t matter, it just seemed to be an imposed longing that eroded away our appreciation of what we did have, with the effect of making us self conscious and hesitant.
But here we were on this beautiful day, invigorated, sweaty and radiant from trek training, marveling at how confident we now felt in our physicality. And it had nothing to do with being taller, slimmer or curvier.
Why, as women, does it often take us until our late thirties and beyond to love our bodies and want for them strength and health, rather than anything that our misguided popular culture considers beautiful? Why do we spend precious energy and attention on unreal expectations, fad diets and negative self body image? The member in question, a mother to a near-teenage girl herself, hoped for something different for her daughter – as now do I.
The thought that for one minute my girl would not love the skin she’s in, or suffer any of the angst and self consciousness that so many of us go through, is horrifying to me. That she would resent or punish her body as many women do is unimaginable and distressing.
We went on to talk about how being strong and fit, being able to walk, talk and carry, to lift and stretch and physically exert ourselves without embarrassment, is what now empowers us and makes us love our bodies. How can we pass this on to our daughters and younger generations of women?
Step one is to practice loving our own health, physical and mental well being above our appearances. In doing this, at any age, we send the most powerful message we can to our children and indeed everyone around us. We exert love of ourselves and self confidence and with that - beauty.
And this is contagious, or so I have experienced amongst wild women. A late night swim after trek training in a beautiful moonlit rock pool, stripped down to our underwear, proved this. What started as a reluctance to seize the moment due to inhibition and self consciousness turned into a thing of exuberance, joy and beauty as one by one these inhibitions were let go and the experience embraced – ‘how could we have considered passing that opportunity up’ is what we all later reflected. How many of these golden opportunities have we passed up previously due to self consciousness and doubt?
What I wish for my daughter is freedom from false and shallow ideas of what her body should be. I want her to strive for health, strength and well being with the body and mind she has been given. What better gift can we impart to our daughters than this? She has after all shown me a new respect for my own body and its capabilities with her appearance in this world and I hope, over the years, to return the favour!