Beautiful Like Me Project

Beautiful Like Me ProjectWickedStepMom from Life and Times of a Wicked Step Mom has a little project going on over at her site called Beautiful Like Me.  According to WickedStepMom:

“The driving force behind this project is to raise awareness about the lack of self-esteem and poor body image in today’s youth.  I want to change the way that we look at ourselves and the way that the young women and men look at themselves.”

A worthy pursuit.

Tricia over at Shout is helping co-host this project, along with Amy of Five Flower Mom.  This week’s subject is “In your opinion, what is the best way to build self-esteem?” and Tricia has asked me to give it a go and write something about the subject.

I don’t know how well I can tell you how to help your child build self-esteem, but I can certainly tell you what to avoid doing.

I had absolutely crappy self-esteem growing up.  I was smart and I knew that, but I was also a plump child.  Not fat, by any mean, just a little chubby.  I was chubby because my mother had atrocious eating habits, which she passed on to her children, and I was discouraged from too much physical activity – I’d been diagnosed with a heart murmur at the age of two and the well-meaning but misguided doctor told my mother to keep me “as quiet as possible.”  So running, swimming, roller-skating and bicycling, all things I loved to do as a kid, were strictly curtailed and I was encouraged to read (I could read by the time I was three), draw, paint and do various crafts; it helped that my mother was of an artistic bent and I am possessed of a vivid imagination.

By the time I was a teenager it was apparent that I was not going to drop dead any time soon of heart-related problems – the murmur, which I still have, is what doctors term an “innocent” murmur – and while I still enjoyed swimming, roller-skating and biking, I enjoyed my sedentary pursuits even more; not surprising, since those were the ones that had been encouraged.  The problem was, by the time I was a teenager, although I was healthy as a horse, I was a good 30 pounds overweight, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that I am fine-boned, big busted and short-waisted – every extra ounce has always been all too obvious on my slight frame.

An even larger problem was my mother.  Mom had been overweight most of her life and was a yo-yo dieter to boot – whatever new fad diet was out, Mom would go on it, lose a lot of weight, and gain it all right back…plus more.  And she nagged me about my weight – I saw my very first diet doctor when I was 12 years old, and was put on diuretics.  By the time I was 18, she had nagged me to go on every quack diet there was, but by this time I was doing most of the cooking in the house and, well, eating cabbage and grapefruit three times a day kind of paled in comparison to a pan of homemade brownies or a plate of chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Not much deterred Mom, though – I imagine I was the only kid in high school that had taken speed supplied by her mother.

My teen years were a litany of “You’ll never catch a good man if you don’t lose weight” “Don’t wear horizontal stripes  (or all white, or A-line dresses) they make you look fat” “Don’t eat that…or that…or that.”  All while NEVER being encouraged to exercise or truly eat properly.  She also ignored my good physical qualities – my thick, gorgeous hair, my very pretty face, my tiny hands and feet, my fine, unblemished complexion, my curvy figure.  And while she was proud of my intelligence and talents, she never encouraged them the way she drove me to be thin.  It was as if she felt that being thin were the end-all and be-all of a woman’s exitence, and that all the answers to all of the problems of her life, to say nothing of mine, could be found on a number on scale – preferably reading under 120.

Like most people, by the time I had kids I was determined not to make the same mistakes my mother had made.  I won’t claim to have been a perfect mother by any means, but I swore that my kids were never going to feel judged by their physical qualities.  Oh, I fuss at them a little about how they eat, especially Oldest Son, but it’s about eating healthy, and I really try not to nag them.  Mostly, I encourage them to make the most of who they are, not how they look – I’ve vowed that none of them will ever, ever hear me say “You’ll be happier if you just change the way you look.”

And they never will.

21 thoughts on “Beautiful Like Me Project”

  1. Jan, I totally love this. I, too, was put on various diets by my mother starting around age 10 (though not as extreme as yours). Plus I had a teacher who would criticize me for my weight. And I wasn’t allowed to tell people that I was smart or going to a school for “gifted” kids because I might seem “conceited” or like I had a “big head.” Wish I had the time to write a beautiful post like yours (I mean like mine!), but rock on!

    I too encourage my kids in who they are, try not to get into battles over food, let them stop when they’re full (but not come back later for sweets), etc. Luckily they’re energetic and they LOVE to run around outside.

    Elaine at Lipstickdas last blog post..Ding Ding Ding: Summer Kick Off Bell

  2. I loved that post, I think it was your honesty and the fact it was written so clearly, a pleasure to read in fact. I had crappy self-esteem growing up too, though for different reasons which I can’t really explain – I mean I don’t really know why. I’m only a ‘new’ parent, but I fully agree with your attitude.

  3. Great post Jan!!! Thank you for sharing your story and I am sure glad that you learned something from all of that…it’s hard not to unknowingly pass on some of those things to our kids.

    Loris last blog post..On Becoming A Mommy

  4. Jan, THANK YOU so much for jumping in on this, and I’m not at all surprised that you nailed this with much more insight than I would have. I love how you’ve been able to turn so many lessons from your life into new bits of wisdom, and this story is no exception. I’m sorry to learn you were plagued by a dieting mom and how that played out in your young life, and I’m so happy to read how you were able to turn that around to create different messages for your own children. I keep thinking the road to self esteem is really a mind shift away from how we look, and more of a focus on the amazing things our bodies are capable of, when fueled correctly. I know my own self esteem has allowed me to put myself into questionable situations that had I thought more of myself, I would have made different choices.

    Thanks again for jumping in and sharing this story!!

  5. I worry that I will be that type of mother to Sprite. My sister was super skinny growing up and I was healthy, but 10 pounds over my ideal weight. My mother never pushed diet and exercise since I already was very active, but now I find myself measuring what Sprite eats and pushing the healthy stuff, trying to limit (sometimes severely) the bad stuff. It’s a fine line.

    Sprite’s Keepers last blog post..HASAY: My post is like a toddler, cute, but hard to explain.

  6. “Don’t wear horizontal stripes (or all white…” I heard this all the time too!!!! I vowed to let my children wear what they wanted without the thoughts of looking ‘fat’!

    Thanks so much for jumping into this project, it can be tough! But I think you really shared a wonderful story that is a huge factor in building self esteem. I really appreciate your honest heartfelt post.

    Amy @ Five Flower Moms last blog post..Beautiful Like Me: Dance

  7. Jan, it’s a shame that our mothers do this to us. I know they are well meaning, but still. Your mother was southern, wasn’t she? I saw the photo of yourself that you posted in your prom get-up, and you were GORGEOUS! Oh, and by the way, you’ve managed to turn out another brilliant, insightful post. How do you do it?

    Gingers last blog post..Dog Owners Have Feelings Too

  8. Wow, right on! My mother battled weight her whole life, and we could never be too thin. It’s like she feels happiness is not possible unless we’re all the “right” weight. I have to stop her from speaking to my teenaged daughter about her weight all the time.
    Thanks for this post.

    Maureen at IslandRoars last blog post..Memory

  9. I don’t think self esteem was something understood or encouraged in our parent’s generation. I never heard any positives either … it was either about my weight (too high or too low depending on my growth that year) or a zit on my chin, or, or, or …..
    I was in a “gifted” program and yet – I never felt smart. I always felt like I just wasn’t quite doing enough.

    Twenty Four At Hearts last blog post..I’m Such an Ass

  10. Good to see you writing for the project. Great post.

    This post makes me think of my situation which is similar, but different. We had a similar upbringing. My mom didn’t encourage us to do much physical stuff and our eating habits weren’t the greatest. For me, I’m naturally on the thin side. I can pretty much eat what I want and not exercise and still wear my size 6. It’s just the way of it for me. I was back in my regular clothes 2 weeks after having my kids. So I look the way some would consider to be the ideal. Am I healthy? Not all that much? Will I have a long healthy life? Hard to say. Odds aren’t in my favor considering the lack of true physical fitness in my life. But hey, I look good. For the longest time how I looked on the outside was my concern. It wasn’t until I had my kids, who are still quite young, that I started wondering what my arteries looked like. It’s amazing how society’s value system works it’s way into our lives and clouds logic.

    Lisa Ps last blog post..The Present Game – Beautiful Like Me Project

  11. A very wise woman indeed who learned from her mother’s mistakes!

    I haven’t heard of this project but it’s desperately needed in America. I thank God that my daughter who is the mother of my granddaughter is acutely aware of how vulnerable these young girls are.

    Plus, from the get go, she’s been a ‘turn off the TV and go out and play’ mom, knowing the importance of exercise. I might as well continue bragging and tell about how she’s not only a gourmet cook but serves only nutritional meals to her family!

    I wish only the best for this project and will run over now to take a look. Thanks for this post Jan; hopefully, your honesty will make someone out there wake up.

    Janes last blog post.."Ayatollah! Ayatollah!”

  12. Excellent post Jan…Our mothers must have read all the same parenting books.
    Actually…the only difference between my mother and yours…my mom has always been about as big as a twig. 114 lbs the day she delivered me…and has never been on a diet one day of her life.

    Your blog today has inspired me to participate in the “beautiful like me project”
    I have been asked before but shied away from the topic…mainly because my self esteem is currently near rock bottom.

    Thank you for posting

    Monicas last blog post..The 8th Grade Banquet

  13. I love this project. It’s so awesome that you learned from your Mother’s mistakes instead of handing them down to your kids. Building self esteem was always on my mind while raising two girls. I know I made mistakes but I think I was way more aware than my Mother was. I think our generation (Thank you, Oprah-LOL) are just much more aware of what we say and do and how it can affect our kids and others.

    Smart Mouth Broads last blog post..THE MOMENT OF TRUTH

  14. hmm, you sound like a good mum to me. As a mum, you really have a great influence on your child, and telling them to change anything about themselves will always make them insecure about it, so it’s great you encourage them to make the most of who they are, to be themselves.

    ssgs last blog post..Confession

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