It finally happened. That moment that every mother of a little girl fears. Standing in a fitting room with my 10-year-old daughter, trying on back-to-school clothes, when she looked in the mirror and stated: "I just wish my legs were skinnier." I took a deep breath & swallowed hard, knowing full well that this was a turning point. What I said next would burn into her memory and stay with her for years to come. My heart ached for her - for the arrow that had pierced her heart and made her believe, even for a split second, that she was less than. I felt angry that society had already affected her at such a young age and made her question something so beautiful & special. All the while remembering that I was not too much older than her when I started to believe those same lies - which, years later, led to a destructive eating disorder. I desperately wanted to save her from the pain & agony that I went through.
I paused for what was probably too long and tried to form words that would adequately convey the truth which I longed for her to grasp...that she is fearfully & wonderfully made. Though she may be taller & bigger than all of her friends, her size has nothing to do with her self-worth. I took a step back and thought about what I would say to my younger self, if given the chance. I wanted to discover where this seed had been planted and just how deeply its roots had grown. So I simply asked, "What makes you say that?". She responded that her classmates had skinny legs, that they looked better than her in certain clothes and that she wanted that for herself.
My mission as her mom is to encourage her to accept & love herself as she is, so I said the only thing I could say: You are born to be who you are. You aren't supposed to look like your best friend or your cousin or your neighbor. You have a beauty that is unique & cannot be duplicated. The world will tell you that your body & your face are everything and that they alone determine your value. Don't listen to the world. Listen to your heart. You were blessed with a healthy, strong body. You also have a brilliant, creative mind. Your heart is tender & you're sensitive to the needs of those around you. You have a natural ability to lead & you do it in a way that makes others want to follow. You were given the gift of music and you have an artistic eye. All of these characteristics define who you are - they are what make you special. No one can take them away from you and no one has the exact same combination of gifts and talents. Comparing yourself to others will rob you of gratefulness for the many amazing things you are and all the incredible blessings you have been given.
As we walked out of the store that day, holding hands & smiling, I knew it wouldn't be the last time we'd have this conversation. In the years to come, she will need to be reminded again that she is beautiful just the way she is. I know this because even I need reminding from time to time. And when those moments come, I will pray for wisdom to have the right words to say so she will believe what is real over the lies that threaten to steal her joy. But, for now, I will cherish watching her run, play, sing & dance - carefree, confident and blissfully unaware of how radiant she truly is.