Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No one Youer than You

So when a second-grade girl calls you “bubble butt,” something inside you shifts.  Yes, the culprit is probably eight years old at the most.  She has no sense of tact, just like most of her classmates.  She probably doesn’t even know what “bubble butt” means, although I can’t imagine someone not realizing what that phrase would mean.  It’s pretty obvious...although, now that I think about it, it could mean someone who can blow bubbles out of their butt...but I’m kind of doubting that was her thought.  Despite all these things, I had inside factors working against me.  Since puberty, I’ve been self-conscious about this bubble butt of mine, and my body has obviously filled out even more since then.  Lately, I’ve been particularly aware of my inability to disguise said butt in my work clothing.  Today was the first day I’d worn a certain pair of pants in a really long time because of this, and so this little girl’s comment hit a nerve.  For the next hour after that, I was worried that people were judging whether my pants were too tight, or my butt was too jiggly, yadda yadda.  It was pretty dumb.  As teachers, we definitely have to have thick skins in many cases, but sometimes it’s difficult.

Still, it got me thinking about body image.  Lately I’ve been working hard to help my students feel good about themselves.  It’s difficult to promote self-esteem when since infancy, children are bombarded with images and messages discouraging certain body types and glorifying others.  I loved my Barbies, but it is sad that none of them had a realistic body shape.  Older family members complained about their own weight in front of me since I was young, and as I hit puberty, I had multiple family members and friends comment about my wide hips or protruding buttocks.  Not something a growing girl really needs to hear, but all in good fun, right?  I know that none of the things I heard about my shape were meant to hurt, but they did.  I grew up thinking that I needed to minimize this and maximize that, to the point where the thought of trying on new clothes (pants in particular) just makes me depressed.  I have never been overweight for my height, but I used to think that I could only look good enough if you could see my bones.  Luckily, I never took it out on myself in the form of an eating disorder, but the negative feelings about my own body have festered inside for a long time.

I’ve definitely become more confident with my body as I’ve gotten older and realized that one does not have to resemble a twig in order to be beautiful.  However, I still find myself saying negative things about my appearance daily, unconsciously, as if it is perfectly okay to constantly put myself down.  I pray that I’ll be able to grow confident enough in myself to not criticize my appearance in front of my future children.  My daughter certainly does not need to hear that her mother has a spare tire or a butt that’s too jiggly or hips that are too wide.  I want her to love herself for who she is because everyone is amazing in their own way, and body shape should not get in the way of seeing how truly outstanding she is.  How can she be comfortable in her own skin if her mother is not comfortable in hers?  If she witnesses me criticizing myself, will she not think I may be criticizing her, as well, however discreetly?  The truth is, I’ve always been much more critical with myself than I am with other people, but she won’t know that.

A program with which I am currently involved teaches about having a positive outlook on life and a healthy self-image, and I am hoping that this will help improve my thoughts about myself.  I decided this year to also focus my elementary choir’s spring concert on having the courage to follow your dreams, believing in yourself, and not letting negative people get you down.  If I start bombarding my girls with positive messages as opposed to the negative ones so prevalent in the world today, I’m hoping I might be able to have an impact on them and on myself.  Live true, all.  As a friend said recently on another friend’s blog, “you be you.”  And in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, Today you are You; that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  Truthfully, you are amazing.  No one can take your “you-ness” away from you.