I want her to know.
I want her to know that she's strong.
I want her to know that she's beautiful, no matter what her size and outward appearance.
I want her to know that she can do anything, anything, anything.
I want her to know that she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to - and that she's capable of doing whatever she dreams of.
I want her to know that her body can do amazing things. It can grow a baby and nourish a baby.
I want her to know that showing her body respect, with kind words, good nutrition, positive affirmations, and exercise, is the best, healthiest way to live.
I want her to know that what the media says is "the perfect woman" really isn't - perfect comes in all shapes and sizes, and being HEALTHY is what really matters.
I want her to know that she can do anything a boy can do - maybe even better.
My daughter is incredible. At four years old, she has more self-confidence than anyone I've ever met. She practices self-love daily, and could teach me a thing or two. She knows - and enjoys - to eat healthy foods, and that exercise makes your body feel good. When I see her parading in front of a mirror, blowing kisses at herself, I am overjoyed. When her school photos came back this year, she said, "Look! That's me! Beauuuuuutiful Julia." I hope she always has this.
But in all honesty, it's scary raising a girl in today's day and age. All too often, girls struggle with self-esteem, body image issues, and bullying. When I think about how hard it was when I was younger, and think about how much harder it's become with the rise of social media and the mean girl mentality, it's like a punch in the gut to think of her joyful, confident self, being taken down a few pegs.
I'm doing my best to teach her these things, but up until recently, it was just empty words. I wasn't SHOWING her. I am trying to lead by example, showing her that you feel so much happier and healthier when you eat nutritious foods (and that it's okay to have treats sometimes, too!), get enough physical activity, and be gentle with yourself.
That means NOT looking in the mirror and being critical, picking out the parts of your body you don't like, saying you need to lose weight, saying you hate your stomach/hips/legs/etc.
That means looking in the mirror and pointing out the parts of you that you LOVE.
That does not mean saying, "I need a diet," or, "Cake is bad and I'm never having it again." It means saying instead, "I haven't been feeling myself lately, and I think I need to eat more nutritious foods to fuel my body, but it's okay if I have cake as a treat too."
That means not getting upset when your children poke and squish your soft belly and ask if there's another baby in there, and say how mushy it is (and even responding, "I know, isn't that so cool? I grew three babies in there!").
Every day, I strive to be a better example, so she won't have to struggle with the things I've struggled with. I'm not always perfect, but we're getting there, together.