The Most Powerful Sentence You Can Say To A Mother
I was fortunate to have a career for 10 years before having my children. I was both a teacher and an athletic coach, two things that when I started I was horrible at. I thought in order to be effective I needed to be assertive and unyielding and have horribly strict rules. I didn't understand teenagers and they didn't want to understand me. While my intentions were always true, my delivery was harsh, and my self-esteem was weak so I overcompensated by being too strict, too authoritarian and wasn't productive, inspiring or motivating, all things I desperately wanted to be. It took me 5 years, some serious introspection, and some well timed questions from older teachers to make me rethink who I was professionally, who I wanted to be and what I needed to do to become that person. In short, I dug deep within myself, sought out others to help me and I changed. As a result of the changes I made, I developed deep, meaningful and symbiotic relationships with my students that fostered positive growth for both of us. I am proud to say that I am still in contact with many of the students I taught in those last 5 years and feel fortunate to have been a part of their lives through marriages, children and other life changing events.
One of my former students sought me out after I had quit teaching high school and started teaching fitness classes at a local gym. In addition to being a dedicated student, she was genuine, hardworking and caring. She came to me at a time in her life when she was attending nursing school and had given birth to her first child just 6 months earlier. Our first conversation was mostly catching up, describing how she was doing, sharing her happiness about being able to come back to working out and what she hoped to accomplish physically by moving again. She mentioned several times how great her body was in high school and how she now felt she was nowhere close to that. She emphasized she was willing to do whatever it took to get it back. I asked her if she was breastfeeding ( which she was ) and tried to explain that there was alot going on right now with her body. Trying to re-incorporate vigorous exercise and improved eating habits would be difficult with the already imposed changes from hormones, stress, school and raising a baby. I encouraged her to be gentle with her expectations of her body.
Each week I saw and talked with her in between classes in an attempt to reassure her, encourage her healthy habits and and just let her know that she was being supported. After two months of not seeing her desired results she wanted to try something more drastic and inquired about a more strict eating plan and or/adding in more exercise. She was most specifically unhappy with her belly and it's refusal to go down. This is a common theme by the way, and a question/complaint I hear a lot from women who've had children. I advised against any drastic changes or cuts because she was breastfeeding and tried to remind her to have patience. Our body doesn't change overnight, it changes over time.
After 3-4 of these conversations she broke down crying one day and just said she felt so incredibly unattractive because of her stomach. That she couldn't stop thinking about it and how it was never going to look like it did before.
My heart broke for her.
Here was this BEAUTIFUL, VIBRANT, INTELLIGENT, CARING AND WONDERFUL MOTHER AND HUMAN BEING, and all she saw was ugliness in an area of her body that had performed part of it's naturally intended function to assist her in not only growing life, but in safely bringing it into the world. I continued to try to encourage her to look at the progress she had made physically and focus on all the benefits she was experiencing both physically and mentally as a result of her dedication and commitment to working out and moving. It had in addition had a positive effect on her family members and their relationships. None of this seemed to resonate with her. It wasn't until I asked her one simple question that she got a look in her eyes that told me she finally understood, and they once again filled with tears. What I said was this,
" What would you say if your child came to you and said they viewed their body and themselves the way you have just told me you see yours? "
She looked at me, with tears in her eyes and said " I would cry and try to make her see how beautiful she is."
I smiled and said " Exactly. You must believe it yourself and tell yourself the same things, because don't we deserve to have the same amount of compassion for ourselves that we give to others? The reasons we are beautiful are not external. We don't pick our friends because they have flat tummies, small waists or long hair. We choose the people we spend time with based on their AUTHENTICITY, their LOYALTY, their LOVE, their INTEGRITY, their sense of HUMOR, etc. We choose them becauseTHEY LOVE AND SUPPORT US AND WHO WE ARE. In order for you to teach your child to believe they are beautiful and worthy and amazing, YOU MUST BELIEVE IT and live as if you believe you are as well. In order to foster a sense of compassion in our children, we have to demonstrate to them that we have compassion for ourselves. In order to teach them about self acceptance we must demonstrate first and foremost that we accept who we are.
I feel as if this is an all too common theme for so many mothers and if you are among the women and mothers who view their body in a negative light because of what it has been through, I encourage you to take steps to improve this. Not sure how? I filmed a short video on it for you.
Please leave a comment and or share with another mother who could use support in finding her beauty again.