Every name I got called. Every taunt, every mocking facial expression directed my way. Anyone who ever made a negative comment about my weight, height or appearance…I remember. Vividly.
I’ve long pondered whether there was something emotionally wrong with me. Why did I still recall the name of the girl who called me fat in the fourth grade, yet remember little else about that year? Why can I, to this day, tell you the colour of the bobbles in her ponytail (forest green by the way), yet absolutely nothing about my teacher, the holiday concert or any other detail of my 10th year of life? Hmmmm.
As I’ve said in the past, words hurt. They are very powerful tools. They can lift a person up or slam them to the ground. Much more than the impact of sticks or stones, words are uttered in a moment and felt over a lifetime.
Having read up on it, I’ve learned that early life experiences such as mine can indeed play a part in one’s development of body image issues. The words from that grade four girl and other similar words, among other things, definitely had an impact. I probably didn’t think I was “fat and gross” until someone told me so (or in my case, until multiple people echoed the sentiment over years and decades). These issues can lead to such things as eating disorders or other mental health challenges – not always – but they can.
Having been through the proverbial mill throughout my childhood, adolescence and portions of my adult life, I can tell you with certainty that body image – the way I feel about how I look – is absolutely impacted by the perceptions of others. I wish I could share with you the extent to which this fact is true, but it’s way too heavy to get into here. Trust me, it’s always been a thing for me, and likely always will be. It’s not fun.
The silver lining? My negative experiences have benefited my kids. The moment I learned that my daughter was growing in my belly, I made a vow and have stuck to it for 10 years. No child of mine will EVER hear me speak ill of my body or be made to feel bad about their body. Not on my watch. Not if there is anything I can do about it.
My kids know that what’s in their hearts and minds matters – nothing else. They know that a healthy body is a gift to be thankful for and that not every kid has one. They know that being kind to yourself and others, respecting the earth, eating healthy foods and living an active lifestyle are just how we roll. They know what to do when someone is mean to them or makes them feel mistreated, scared or insecure (stay tuned for an upcoming blog tackling that one!). Above all else, they know they are loved and accepted just the way they are. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all they need to know.
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About this blogger:
Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program at the Halton Region Health Department. Wanna know more about her? Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)