I have to be upfront, I don’t have sons, so I can’t begin to talk about how self-esteem and confidence affects them. Due to this what follows will be about women and their daughters. Maybe you can relate.
I used to be thinner than I am now, I would say more confident, more of well, everything. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had the wear and tear of three children, and a lot of cheese. Over time, I expanded, to a point where I was unhappy every time I looked in the mirror, in fact, we don’t have a full-length mirror in the house at all. I pulled on dark jumpers, leggings or those jeans that look pretty on no one. Even in the summer I’d be clad in black, usually thicker materials.
‘You must be roasting in all that!’ people would say.
‘No, I’m fine.’ I’d say while trying to keep in the shade as much as possible.
I don’t know when it happened that I put on a small amount of weight and decided forever more I shall wear black and be covered top to toe, but it did. The problem is, this doesn’t help. You hide everything, and then maybe like me, you just eat your feelings. Then you eat some of your guilt, then you buy a bigger size. It’s a cycle. One that my daughters were watching. It honestly never occurred to me that as they watched me ponder my wobbly bits daily that these little things would creep in and start to make a lasting impression.
‘I’m so fat, ergh, it’s disgusting!’
‘Look at this, what is this!’ I’d moan while jiggling my belly fat.
‘I’m so fat, these trousers just don’t fit’.
I have a few posts on my blog about loving yourself. The truth though is those moments were few and far between but I wanted to share those feelings while I had them.
In 2015, my eldest daughter came into my room and said:
‘I’m so fat mum, these trousers just don’t fit’.
The look on her face, the defeated expression, even the tone of her voice was me. It wasn’t her, it wasn’t something she should be worrying about. This was something that had come full circle and slapped me in the face. I began to stress to her how much it didn’t matter, how much it was okay, and how I shouldn’t say these things at all. I took to the internet to find loads of body confident bloggers, plus size bloggers, other writers and women of inspiration.
That wasn’t enough, it was never going to be enough.
I had to change. So I tried. I had brightly coloured hair, wore heels, sometimes did my makeup, changed from darker clothes to a lighter brighter selection. It was hard, I’m not going to lie. I felt at time likes a dressed up circus elephant. This was something I had to do, though. I had to start on the outside and work inwards. I had to show them a more confident person, a more outgoing person, a person who was ready to take on the word in her fat pants.
After years of trying to hide my whole body in a canvas of black fabric, I sit here now, and I’m writing this in a pair of trousers that are almost so bright they might hurt your eyes. The term ‘fake it till you make it’ really applies here. I had to pretend to be confident, sassy, brave, and on top of everything someone, they could look up to and know that I was doing my best.
Eventually, it became a reality but not before I broke down on my bed watching telly one night. I sat and I cried, from deep inside my stomach, you know the type. It’s the cry that changes something, it clears you out and focuses you. I knew that I could no longer pretend, I had to be it. In order to show my girls that they can be confident in themselves no matter what, I had to be too. What’s stupid is, I have been reasonably successful in my work life, my friends and family, for the most part, are amazing and supportive – even if I rarely see them. My network of people is amazing. I couldn’t find that tiny spark of love for myself that everyone else already had for me. I couldn’t see beyond my fat ass.
I attended a roundtable talk a while after this, we talked about confidence and self-esteem, and how it had an impact on our children. A group of 12-15 bright, successful women who deal with the media on occasion, who share their lives on social media and multitudes of readers daily discussed in-depth how what we felt and what we said had a deeper impact on our children than we realised. You know that what you do and say your children pick up, but the insecurities, the trauma we put ourselves through, they see that and pick up on that too. It’s not all about looks, but if you say that you don’t care at all you’re likely lying or hiding from it like I did.
Since that day, the one where I decided to not pretend to be a human shadow anymore, I work happier, I work harder, I enjoy life a lot more, I no longer point out anything that wobbles, even though I know there are still bits of me that do, the truth is I love it all now.
I can see that reflected back to me with the girls, they love themselves, and so they should. Confidence is something you can pass on, it’s a gift, all it takes is some self-love, it really starts with you. So this is me, asking you, in the only way I can, to not be so hard on yourself for the parts of you that you don’t like. Try to, even on the worst days, when even your socks don’t fit, see the beauty in yourself, so they can see the beauty in themselves.