PA’s reflects on body image…My 4-year-old recently looked at his little chocolate hand and said, “I want to be white.” Flabbergasted, I replied, “What do you mean? Has someone commented about your skin?” He explained that as a ‘project’ his teacher had all of his classmates place their hands in a circle so that they could learn to appreciate their differences. My immediate thought was, ‘What the hell?’ It’s February and this is the best you could do for a Black History Month project? Especially since there are only four black children in the entire school and 50% of them are mine? This is where it begins. It is in these moments that children are made to feel ashamed of their God-given physical characteristics and the effects could potentially last a lifetime. I spent the remainder of the evening explaining differences amongst people and because God made us all, you should always treat people with respect and kindness.
I thought back to when I was in second grade; my family had moved from a predominantly Black neighborhood to one that was the complete opposite. I was now one of the only brown faces in my school, and I felt like an anomaly. I recall trying to sit with my legs elevated off of my chair so that my thighs wouldn’t spread. After all, the white girls had slender thighs that looked the same whether they were sitting or standing. I expressed my concerns to my mother, who quickly explained that God doesn’t make any mistakes and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Her reasoning sounded like Charlie Brown cartoon to me, “Womp womp womp womp”. I just wanted to fit in, and to not feel like an outsider. As I grew older and my perception of beauty began to change, I learned to appreciate my curves, my color and my differences. I now want the same for my children. I want them to be confident, self-assured and comfortable in their own skin. I want them to know that they can accomplish anything. I want them to know that they are great and that the color of their skin is not a hindrance, but an asset. This conversation made me wonder about body image. Are decisions about how we treat one another honestly made based solely upon skin color? How much of a role does social media play in determining ‘what’s poppin’? According to the Office on Women’s Health, parents should “Restrict television viewing, and watch television with your child and discuss the media images you see (para 4, 2009). Also, “keep the communication lines with your child open” (Office on Women’s Health, para. 4, 2009). Implementing these small changes can make a world of difference and have the potential to impact a lifetime. Is there still an inferiority complex that exists amongst minorities? The thought of what our society places an emphasis on is exhausting, disgusting, and overwhelming. We have to teach our children to accept themselves exactly the way that God made them. Otherwise, our youth don’t stand a chance.
LB’s offers her thoughts… I danced around the Thanksgiving table like a devilish imp with loved ones in reckless abandon and jubilee. It’s finally Thanksgiving and I get to let loose and celebrate the wonderful year we’ve journeyed through. There is usually a basketball game blaring in the background, and a toast is made to each three point shot. Let’s not forget the plethora of spirits and the sweet taste of pigs in a blanket (topped with spicy mustard). I love sports, but when coupled with this time of year, it’s a true love affair. I LOVE this time of year because I get to slow down and enjoy a delicious meal with loved ones. For a moment on the calendar, I can finally breathe and relax. We are all giving thanks for the blessings we have received throughout the year, and cares are discarded, even if only for a few days……breathe, smell, taste, touch, laugh, love, enjoy, repeat….We pregame all day until it’s time to dine on succulent turkey, sage infused dressing, roasted potatoes, buttery rolls, and heavenly scented gravy. A few glasses of red wine accentuate the flavors, creating an intoxicating aroma that lulls me into a trance. Or am I really drunk? Okay, yes, more than likely. Should I go back seconds? Thirds? What does it matter? Who’s counting?—My damn scale that’s who. And I will have to account for all of those calories on my day of reckoning. At the first sign of warm weather, spring will rear its beautiful head, and I won’t be able to hide! I knew I had enjoyed falls’ bounty and winters’ good graces by wearing heavy sweaters, long sleeves, and bulky coats that hide the true damage I may have inflicted upon myself. I seriously wondered if I had gone too far. Now I had to start the torturous ritual of trying on spring clothes to see what no LONGER, fits. See there? I’m already setting myself up for disappointment, and this is a key factor in negative self-talk as it relates to my own body image. Why do I constantly whip and punish myself for my weight? Why can’t I just enjoy the changing of the season? I am not alone, and this reaction is normal according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Many women in the United States feel pressured to measure up to a certain social and cultural ideal of beauty, which can lead to poor body image.” (Office on Women’s Health, 2009, para. 1).
With vacation season quickly approaching, I decided to make my physical and mental health a priority. I accept where I am physically, and am working to become healthy in every aspect of my life. I refuse to waste time complaining about stretch marks while standing on Cape Cod or Myrtle Beach. How can I appreciate the beauty and blessings of life, while thinking negatively about myself? I plan to only worry about what sunscreen I bought and to let elephant ears with powdered sugar be food for my soul!
Office on Women’s Health. (2009). About body image. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/body-image/about-body-image/index.html
Office on Women’s Health. (2009). Body image and your kids. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/body-image/kids/