“My butt is BIG!”, she yelled as she looked at herself in the mirror. She was in her new yellow swim suit that was lined with pineapples and ruffles, and looked like the cutest thing I had ever seen. She was only five, and she was my daughter.
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard come out of her mouth. Why on earth would she think her butt was big? How is it even possible for those thoughts to be running through her head? She shouldn’t be worried about anything right now, it was my job as her mom to take care of her needs. The only thing on her mind should be how excited she was to go eat her grape popsicle and jump into the pool. I knelt down to get eye level and stared into her big brown eyes. “Baby girl,” I whispered, “you are absolutely beautiful, and I love your new swimsuit. Why do you think your butt looks big?”
She giggled and shrugged her shoulders and skipped away yelling, “Can I have my popsicle mama!”
“Yes, as soon as I get my suit on!” I said back.
I shut the door, and put on my new black, high waisted bikini. I was so excited about the new high waisted suction that covered up everything I didn’t want seen. I looked at myself in my full length mirror before I grabbed my towel, and felt a wave of disappointment. “Oh my gosh,” I said out loud, “My butt is so dang big. I look terrible in this. Maybe I’ll just keep my cover up on and…”
I stopped mid sentence. No, no, no, no… the voice in my head kept repeating. I knew what had happened. My little girl was saying the same things to herself as she had heard from me. She had learned it from ME! She probably didn’t even understand what she was saying to herself, but was copying her mama, the person she loved the most, the example she looked to as to how to act and feel and be like. I had taught her how to bully her own self. I couldn’t believe it.
I also realized that my sadness in how she had talked to herself earlier was because of the same exact thing I had been telling myself for years. Why would it break my heart to hear my daughter say it, but was a normal, every day lie I had believed for a decade? In a world that tells us who and what to be, I had learned by watching the women in my own life at a young age, how to bully myself. It just kept getting passed down from one daughter to the next.
I put my towel down. I grabbed my daughter and had her come into my room. I gave her a marker and told her we were going to color on the mirror. She was delighted! On the mirror I wrote mantras like, “I am Beautiful,” “I am loved,” “I am worthy”. That day, I promised myself that the things my daughter would learn from me would be the things that brought her confidence, self love, joy, and the ability to know the truth about who she is, no matter what anybody else says to her.
I took her to dance class the next week, and I sat with the other dance moms in the viewing room as we watched our girls get ready for their recital. And then, it happened again. The group of moms started talking about another woman who was not there, in a very negative way. They were cutting her down, talking openly about the things she did that bothered them. All I could think of was, “They’re learning it from us. They’re learning all of it, from us.”
Mamas, the things our daughters are hearing and watching us do are what they are using as an example on how to live their lives. They learn how to talk to each other from us, and they learn how to talk to themselves. It’s our responsibility to teach them how to love themselves, so that they can love each other well, too. But it all starts with us learning how to first. It all starts with us quieting the bully that comes out when we look at ourselves in the mirror, and replacing it with a love so big that it overflows into everything and everyone else in our lives.
I dare you to go look at yourself in the mirror today and say, “Gosh, you are so beautiful.”
That’s what I hope my daughter says when she looks at herself in the mirror.
To learn more about Ashley LeMieux and her story, check out her forthcoming book, BORN TO SHINE: Practical Tools to Help You Shine Even in Life’s Darkest Moments.