Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Came across this picture the other day
I thought it was so appropriate for this month's carnival!

"I'm not beautiful. I'm ugly."

Every time I hear her say that, my heart breaks.

She's only 6 years old. And already, somewhere, somehow she's picked that up.

Don't get me wrong, she doesn't go around saying this all the time.

But I do notice when she's having a hard time emotionally, or if we've had a particularly rough day, she's more prone to the negative self-talk.

Usually, it's also accompanied with things like: "You don't love me" or "I don't love you."...you get the idea.

And I believe it's usually related to feeling scared, unsure or upset in some way.

I tend to react the same way when I'm having a hard time, but I've contemplated the idea that perhaps this isn't normal behaviour for a teensy girl.

But then I remember the world we live in.

And what's not normal is what our teensy girls are exposed to on a regular basis.

Everywhere we go, we are exposed to images of women as sex symbols, depicting today's supposed standard of "beautiful". Magazine covers at the grocery store. DVD and CD covers on display racks. Movie posters. Floor to ceiling poster ads for clothing stores as you walk through the mall. Not to mention, the images of women in bra stores.

We may not even realize we are being exposed to these images. It's not like we go around saying, "Oh there's another image portraying a woman as a sex symbol and which is meant for me to subconsciously file as what is considered "beautiful" by today's standards." The passive nature of advertisement ensures that you just glance at it, it's in your brain and there it sits waiting for a trigger to remind you of it.

Perhaps the trigger is when someone comments on your "funny" clothes, or your "different" hair, or when someone comment on your physical appearance without really knowing you,without mentioning or bothering to find out about all your other personality traits or skills.

And if you are already a grown-up who has had to work through all this and somehow managed to come out the other end with a healthy self-esteem, then these images may not affect you as much. You may think, "Wow, she's gorgeous" or "Nice, I look just like her!"

But that's hardly all of us. For some reason or another, many of us do sometimes feel "un-beautiful". But is this something that begins at 6 years old? And if so, why?

I will admit that I often look at my daughter and think to myself, "Holy shit, she is so beautiful. I hope she doesn't turn into a "mean girl". I hope she doesn't let it "go to her head". I hope she has good skin when she's a teenager. I hope her nose doesn't get too big. I hope she is a healthy weight...."

{Thankfully, I have never, ever let these thoughts slip past my speaking filter.}

And I catch myself. And I step back for a moment and reflect on my thoughts. And I decide I want it better, for me and for my daughters.

I want them to know people are beautiful for many more reasons that the way they look. I want them to be able to see beyond appearances, at the person within.

Namaste. The light in me sees the light in you.

I want them to know they are beautiful. Not because of the way they look, but because of their hearts, full of love, and joy and compassion. Because they are intelligent, thoughtful and kind. Because they care. Because they are exactly who they are.

I want to help them build a positive self-image in a grassroots sort of way.

As an infant, I tended to her needs, I accepted her, I held her close, I loved her.

As a toddler, I believed in her, I encouraged her, I taught her and I listened to her.

As a preschooler, I guided her and I let her explore and lead the way in her learning and interests.

And now as a school-aged kiddo, I continue to do all of the above, and I can see how her little personality has grown and thrived and how she knows she is loved.

But sadly, I can also see how societal influences are beginning to creep their way in...and the questions she asks, and the comments she sometimes make, reflect that she is picking up on certain things.

I just hope that our connection and our relationship continues to be the place she returns to, that she finds safe and accepting.

Even though it breaks my heart to hear her say "I'm not beautiful", to me it's also a sign that she does feel safe with me. That she does feel she can tell me anything, that I will listen, give her space to let it all out and not just try to cover it up with a "yes you are, look at yourself" and move on. And that she knows I am there to help her work that all out.

It is my greatest wish that my children know that to me they are beautiful and loved and accepted, always and forever, no matter what.

I know all I can do is love her, believe in her and accept her and hope that's enough to one day send her out into the real world.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She'll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she's hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it's pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate's love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they'll respect their own and others'.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children's self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she's trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama's Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, "I'm not beautiful." And while it's hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child's lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today's society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can't give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don't You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma's baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter's clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she's in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry's choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.
  • Perfect the Way I Am — Erika at Cinco de Mommy struggles — along with her seven-year-old daughter — at telling herself she's perfect just the way she is.


  1. Thanks for sharing such a personal post! Your daughter is so lucky to have you and I totally agree that by loving her and continuing to be aware (as you so obviously are!) that she will feel confident and love herself as much as you love her!

    Lyndsay @ ourfeministplayschool.ca

  2. My twin daughters are 15 months old and everything you've written about here is what I'm scared of as they grow older! Thanks for your honesty and encouragement, you've given me some great advice to cling to!

  3. I really think it does mean she trusts you. And also is looking to you for the antidote.
    That definition of Namaste is so simply and beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing it here. I'm going to start making it part of my daughter's world.
    Thank for you sharing this.

  4. "I just hope that our connection and our relationship continues to be the place she returns to, that she finds safe and accepting." Yes - I feel this way too. I am already fearful of how the world will accept my children when I'm no longer there to shield them from meanness. But unconditional love and confidence in their own self-worth are surely a solid foundation!

  5. I will be so sad the day one of my kids calls themselves ugly but at the same time, as you say, it's a sign that they're comfortable expressing that. We all need someone to listen to our fears and doubts, because having fears and doubts creep up sometimes is unavoidable. Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  6. There are so many wonderful thoughts here! I love the meaning of Namaste. And your wish fits so perfectly with what I always wished for my children: "It is my greatest wish that my children know that to me they are beautiful and loved and accepted, always and forever, no matter what." The nice thing is that our children do pick up what we truly feel about them ... and what's important to us. It sounds like you're doing a wonderful job! Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  7. That's lovely. I will take with me the idea of seeing the light in others — namaste was the perfect route to take with this topic. Thank you!


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