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Venus at a mirror – Peter Paul Rubens [source]

On Facebook I linked to this article by Kasey Edwards – When your mother says she’s fat.

My mum has a tendency to take on guilt about just about everything in terms of how she raised us (I think most mums do), so initially I was reluctant to link to it, knowing she’d probably feel bad about it. But it was ticking away in my head and I think it’s an important thing to talk about.

The reason I linked to it is not “gee thanks mum for all my hangups, GOSH”. Body image is a complicated thing, and not everyone has problems with it, but I know mum and I do. She and I were talking the other day about how careless comments you hear as a child profoundly affect you, even if, at the time, you didn’t think it was a big deal. She remembers someone commenting on her legs when she was a child, and her mum being horrified. I remember my dad wondering if, when I was about 10-11, I should go on a diet and mum being horrified. In both cases, I think we were both affected more by our mother being upset about someone’s comments than the actual comments, but gradually we came to view our bodies from others’ perspectives and see them as not right, rather than just to be happy in our own skin.

No, the reason I linked to the article is it’s more me thinking how if I ever had children, or a regular influence on children, how my behaviour and words might subconsciously shape their thinking about something like body image. We tend to think in terms of explicit teaching being the thing that shapes thinking and character, but of course the observation of unspoken things is just as strong.

I read some article or book recently (excellent referencing skills, hey?) that asked what message it sends to a child to see their mum get on the scales regularly or to constantly diet or to always be criticising how she looks. That gave me pause. If I had a child, I would not want them thinking they were defective, or only valuable if they looked a certain way. So why is cultivating those weeds in my own thought-life okay? Or, if not cultivating, then not pulling the weeds out.

It makes me think it’s worth continuing to work on my thinking on these things so it’s healthier, both for myself and anyone who might be listening. I’m glad I’ve started to do that, though it’s definitely a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ kind of thing.