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When My Child Told Me She Liked Herself

03/24/2016 11:05 EDT | Updated 03/25/2017 05:12 EDT
Photo by Rafa Elias via Getty Images
Beautiful happy little girl in joy.

While perusing the Internet I came across this article, "Neck contouring is the ridiculous beauty trend taking Instagram by storm." My first reaction was to laugh. There was no way this was real. It had to be a joke.

My next reaction was complete dismay. I soon realized that this is indeed happening. No joke. Women are contouring their necks to ensure it looks slim and perfect. This is a thing.

Is this what I have to look forward to when my daughter is a teenager?

Making sure her neck is perfectly contoured?

Because raising a daughter isn't hard enough...

A few days ago my daughter was getting dressed. She came out of her bedroom with less velocity than usual. The expression on her face spoke volumes.

"What's the matter, my love?" I asked her.

"I don't know," she replied quietly. "I just don't feel good in this outfit."

Then, the words I didn't think I would hear from her mouth for at least another ten years escaped off her sweet, innocent lips.

"I think I look fat."

I stood. Dumbfounded.

Her words fell heavy onto my heart.

I wanted to cry.

In fact, I'm certain I hastily wiped a few away as they fled my eyes.

I quickly thought to myself, I could simply brush this off. At five-years-old, she is easily distracted.

But, I stopped myself.

Something had triggered this moment. A voice in her mind was speaking to her. Ugly words had infiltrated her joyful heart. Her always-present smile was replaced with a furrowed brow. I motioned for her to sit beside me. As she nestled her warm body into the curves of mine, I asked her if she knew what the word, fat, meant. She told me she didn't really understand what it meant. She heard a girl on a show ask another girl if the outfit she was wearing made her look fat.

I looked at her. My beautiful little girl. My delightful little girl. My insightful little girl. My talented little girl.

I snuggled her in close to me.

"I want you to always remember something," I told her. "You are amazing. Inside and out. Always remember to be you. No matter what."

"I know that, Mama!" she replied. "I like me!" With those three words, she was gone.

A fleeting moment for her; a lasting moment for me.

I sat and watched her play.

I began to question what I had done, or hadn't done.

I began to pick apart every word I had possibly said, or hadn't said.

I began to doubt everything I had done, and everything I wasn't doing.

That's the curse with being a mom. In an instant we doubt everything we have done. We quickly blame ourselves. I know my little girl doesn't think she is fat. She heard it on television; and, like so many other words, she repeated it back. However, that doesn't make the moment less important. It doesn't make hearing her say that word any easier. She is a product of her environment. She sees everything. She hears everything. She internalizes everything. As her parents, my husband and I can instill all the self-worth in the world. But, in an instant, it can be broken. I hope we can build a solid foundation that will take a bulldozer to crack. But, I can't predict the hits to come.

I can't protect her from the harsh words. I can't protect her from the venomous stings. I can't be her shield at all times. As much as I desperately want to be.

What can I do?

I can keep building the foundation. Piece by piece. Brick by brick. I can keep talking to her. Even when it's uncomfortable. I want her to always feel like she can come to me. I can keep telling her how wonderful and amazing she is. I can reassure her that being you is the most important thing in the world. I can encourage her to surround herself with kindhearted, supportive, and encouraging friends. People who will build her up rather than try to tear her down.

I can do all these things, but they are not foolproof. Nothing is.

Her feelings will be hurt. Tears will be spilled. Heartache will ensue.

My mind knows all of this. But, my heart can't help but ache at the thought of it all.

My biggest hope is for her to remember those three words she said to me on this particular day.

I like me.

I think we can all learn from these wise words from my five-year-old.

Say it to yourself today.

I like me.

I have started doing it, and it feels good.

I like me.

Let's join together in an "I like me" movement.

Let's make an oath right here, right now-that we will never contour our necks. Ever.

I like me.

And I like my neck just the way it is.

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