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8/04/2007
Alone In A Crowded Room
T and I have an ongoing debate about having a third child. I sometimes feel that our family is not yet complete, that someone is missing. When the subject comes up, T usually slaps me until I wake from my infant daydream and reminds me how little personal time and money we have now. If that doesn't work, he'll pull up posts from my blog that set it out in black and white.

But still, I think I would like to have another. Another boy.

That's the problem. Frankly, the idea of having a girl scares the hell out of me.

I haven't always felt this way. I was absolutely convinced that Hollis would be a girl, up until the day we got the results from my amniocentesis, definitive proof that the baby-to-be had one X chromosome and one Y. Only then did I adjust my thinking and prepare for raising a man.

As you all know, your view of the world changes irrevocably once you become a parent. You look at your past, your partner, your society through the lens of parenthood. When I emerged from the sleep deprived haze of new mommyhood and started to look at my world as a mother and not just a woman, I realized how very difficult raising a strong, confident woman in our society can be. Part of this problem is our skewed perceptions of ourselves as women, our body image.

Sitting in the airport waiting to come home on Sunday, my BlogHer roommate* and I started talking about body image. I honestly can't remember how it is we got to the topic. I think we were both feeling a bit raw and vulnerable after the 36 hour blitzkrieg of people, booze, and expected jocularity. For two introverts, there's nothing more draining.

As we were talking, it dawned on me that my roomie doesn't see herself as the intelligent, accomplished and beautiful woman that she is. When she looks in the mirror, or even looks inward, she still sees the fat girl from school, ridiculed and unloved.

I was floored.

My roomie and I have spent quite a few evenings together, with kids and without, since we met through the blogosphere some 6 months ago. In my interactions with her I would never have guessed that she was anything less than confident and secure. And yet this lovely, well educated woman doubts herself. For her, BlogHer brought all those doubts roaring to the surface. She spent much of the conference feeling as if she were alone among all those women, rejected and unsure of herself.

I'll admit there were times at the conference when I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at walking into a ballroom crowded with women I did not know. Overwhelmed when I hadn't made lunch or dinner plans ahead of time and found myself searching for one of my bloggy crowd in a slight panic, hoping that I wouldn't be left sitting on the sidelines, the wallflower, alone. We all have those moments, don't we?

When I felt that doubt creep into the back of my mind at BlogHer, I did what I always do. I told myself to get the hell over it and ask those nice looking women if I could sit at their table for lunch. Then I pulled up a chair, sat down, and had a great conversation.

I am not always tuned into the feelings of others. I'm a bit socially awkward, but not because I'm shy. I'm a bit reserved, but I think pretty much anyone who met me at BlogHer can tell you that I'm not a shy person. I just don't easily read social cues. Or I read them too closely. Being social, being tuned into others, is exhausting for me. But I've never worried that someone wouldn't like me. I mean, yeah, I'm sure there are people who do not like me. I just don't worry about it all that much.

I'm not sure why it is that I have this self-confidence. I'm sure it had something to do with the way I was raised, the experiences I had. Yeah, Junior High sucked, but I have yet to meet a person who actually enjoyed being 13. High school was fun for me, not filled with angst. But I think some of my inner peace is related to how I view my body.

I began swimming competitively when I was 8 and continued for the next 10 years. Sure, I had some soccer, baseball, softball, and gymnastics thrown in there for good measure, but I was a swimmer. Every day, sometimes twice a day for 10 years I pushed myself physically and emotionally. My body was not just a pretty shell for the latest clothes and a boy to admire. It was a machine, a functional, beautiful machine that I could push to incredible heights. To be honest, I still consider myself a swimmer, an athlete, despite my current pathetic lack of muscle tone. It's just part of who I am.

During those crucial pre-adolescent and adolescent years when I was becoming aware of myself as a social and physical creature, I had a place where I always fit in. At swim practice I had friends who saw me as an athlete, just like them. While my "friends" at school might suddenly decide to stop speaking to me because I didn't have the right jeans, my swim mates didn't care because I had a kick-ass breaststroke.

Even now, 15 years and I'm not going to say how many pounds later, that confidence remains. It's an indelible part of me that I completely take for granted. It has nothing to do with my physical appearance and everything to do with the person I am inside. Losing weight, for me, is a path to a healthier lifestyle, not the route to happiness and self-actualization. I so take this confidence of mine for granted, that pinning down the source now, at 34, is difficult for me.

In discussions with my friends, I realize that most women are not like me.

Many, many women I know have a very skewed image of themselves wrapped up in either a cruel and damaged childhood or their worth as a ratio of physical appearance to weight, a sort of masochistic fraction. Despite grades, education, marriage and children, many of my friends still don't see themselves as worthy of love and happiness.

What is it that causes this? Is it simply society's emphasis on the physical, the shallow, the conformist? Or is it something more? Does parenting come into play? Or many confounding elements made up of all of our past experiences?

I'd really like to know, so please tell me what you think in the comments. And tell me what you think we can do to make sure that our girls have confidence beyond their smooth faces and trim bodies.

In the meantime, I'll concentrate on raising my boys to know not just their own worth, but the worth of women.



* I'm not going to name my roomie or link to her unless she gives me the go ahead. Some of my regular readers know who she is and that's fine. But she has a private blog and I think she would prefer that her family not read this. So if you do know who she is, please don't mention her name in the comments.

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47 Comments:

Blogger jen said...

your roommate is gorgeous and so are you. inside and out.

and what you wrote is one of the main reasons i was terrified to have a girl yet at the same time HAD to have a girl.

because we can do it better the second time around maybe. lovely, achy post, sister.

Blogger Jill said...

At the risk of seeming controversial, I think it's the boys we have to worry about. Boys today are more at risk for all of the following: school failure, mental illness, being a crime victim, being a criminal, etc.... Just yesterday I was amazed to read that in some cities (including my own Minneapolis) women in their 20s are outearning men (as they should be considering their higher education levels). I think it's the boys who are falling way behind this decade. I know I worry about all three of my boys more than I worry about my girl.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Jen - Thank you. You're a sweetie. And you're right. She is gorgeous.

Jill - I don't think what you're saying is controversial. And I don't disagree with you. Raising men is hard, but in a very different way. I didn't really focus on boys in this post.

But as for the income study you saw, I'd be willing to bet money that by the time those women are in their 30's, the men will be out earning them. More women go to college. More women go to law school (finally) and I think it's evening up in business school and medical school, but it hasn't yet translated into the upper echelons of income and power. I'm not sure why. I'm also not sure if body image has anything to do with it, or if it's just becoming mothers. I guess that's not really what my post is about.

I just know that I look at all these women around me in real pain and I wonder how we can stop that.

Blogger flutter said...

I worry about kids in general. It just seems there are so many factors that come into play that can damage their little psyches. Good parents are so brave.

Blogger slouching mom said...

oh. yes. i know this insecurity. i wish i understood how to lose it like the unnecessary baggage it is. and i wish the same for all the women who keep hauling it around, year after year.

and, like you, LM, i'd worry all the time about my daughter, so it's probably best i don't have one. ;)

Blogger Scout's Honor said...

Wow! Thanks for the great post. I have had terrible self image from the time in high school where I weighed in at 111 lbs at 5'8" and now today where I've hit over 200. Neither way nor any weight in between was I ever, ever happy. It's something I still struggle with every single day. My family life growing up didn't help.

I decided long ago my children wouldn't have my issues. They are competitive swimmers too, so your post has given me so much hope. My daughter is seven and has been on a team since age TWO. She's been competing for well over 4 years. She does have a great body image (as well as a six pack and some delts I would give anything for).

I've also seen her (as well as my sons) develop that wonderful swimming social network as well as the work ethic and discipline that comes from practicing 5 days a week. I don't think that you'll find this benefit in every sport, but this seems to be one where fit, muscular, and smart reigns supreme over bring super slim.

We had the privilege of going to a clinic with Megan Quann Jendrick (a rocking breaststroker who has gold medals and world records who happens to coach for our team). Her body is solid. Not a thin, waif, but gorgeous, muscular, and solid. That's who I want my daughter to look up to--someone who values her body, talks about good nutrition, and works hard.

Blogger Slackermommy said...

My emotionally abusive childhood definitely messed with my self esteem. My weight was the one thing I could control and my sex appeal was something my parents could not take from me. I wish my weight and how I look wasn't so important to me. I work hard to not make it important to my daughters. My oldest is chubby but it hasn't been much of an issue. She has asked me if she is fat and I remind her that she's not fat but athletic. She's a dancer and a gymnast so I tell her that she has to have a strong body to be able to do those things. What I have found to be the best way to foster my kid's self esteem is to keep them active and to be part of a team or doing something that they love and feel they are good at. That does way more for them than focusing on how they look. Who knows though? We can say and do all that we think is right and society, media, their friends, and life experiences can go and mess it all up.

I'm not sure what causes it. Probably different things for different people.

But I know what helped cured it for me. A loving husband who always made me FEEL beautiful - even if I didn't think I was physically beautiful. And that's not to say that I needed a man to validate me - but it helped to be loved for ME. And to be valued for ME.

I guess that's why I am excited to raise two boys too. I want to make sure they have the utmost respect for women and that they realize that beauty comes from the inside.

What an amazing post. I had an abusive mother in my life until she left (best thing that EVER happened) when I was nine but the damage was done. And like Slackermommy, the one thing I had control over was my body. Unfortunately, I didn't respect myself enough to know that love and sex aren't the same thing and I am grateful for a healthy dose of talk therapy and a father that loved me, otherwise who knows where I'd be.

I've got terrible body image and never see myself as others do. It's the damage of a verbally abusive mama whose voice I work everyday to quiet.

I was desperate to have a girl and I'm terrified about raising her. My husband came from a family that loved and supported him and he's got a lot of self-confidence. I try to speak of my daughter's brain and accomplishments and still tell her she's pretty - I don't want that to be all that she's about. And I wholeheartedly believe that having a sport (or music, dance, etc.) and something my daughter loves outside of her friends will make all the difference.

Thank you for this post. As someone who felt very much an outsider all weekend at BlogHer, your words here made me feel not so alone.

Blogger Treadmillista said...

When I was pregnant with my second baby I had convinced myself that she would be another boy (we didn't find out either child's sex before their birthdays), for many of the same reasons you discussed in your post. How could I, this horribly flawed, insecure, never able to believe that I am beautiful, always thinking if not saying "I'm so fat," even right after running my first marathon, teach a daughter not to get caught up in those same things? Well I did have a daughter, and from the moment she was born I decided that it was no longer acceptable for me to lament about the thighs I have, or the fact that my butt is bigger than I'd like it to be...at least not outwardly. Inwardly I'm still working on it.

I only became a runner in my early twenties, and it has greatly improved my view of myself. I am capable of running 26.2 miles so what difference does it make if my thighs have some cellulite? It takes a long time to replace the negative thoughts that used to occupy that place in my brain though. I hope that by modeling healthy behavior and constantly teaching myself I can teach both of my kids to have a healthy respect for themselves.

I don't know that you need to be afraid of having a daughter, you obviously have things very well figured out already, and I think your boys, another boy or a girl would be very lucky to call you Mom.

On the third child thing...I'm right there, wanting one but yet afraid of what a third would do to my world...feeling that at 33 I don't have so long to figure it out either.

Great post!

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

I understand about the third child ambivalence. I suppose someday I'll feel peace or fortunate or something less than furiously angry that the choice was taken from me and I don't have to ponder but can just move on now.

Anyway...the point is, it's understandable that you wonder. Your boys are just old enough now to be thinking about it. I hope that you get settled, one way or another, about it. (HUGS)

Your roomie is absolutely fabulous. Brilliant, interesting and gorgeous. I actually specifically commented to her about it because I was so struck how great she looked in the photos. And you. Well let's just say hubba-hubba. I keep trying to think of what actress I've seen that you remind me of. But that's not even really important to me, actually. It's just that you are such a neat person.

Nevertheless I hear you about body image. How we look does matter, to some degree, to ourselves and to others. If we're honest.

Now...this post.

O.M.G. You sang my song sister.

That is exactly what I do. I get all caught up in my own little mind (or something) and it doesn't occur to me to do things like make dinner or lunch plans, and I find myself suddenly walking into a vast room and dude, your thought process? Mine exactly. I would also sit right down with a table of people and enjoy it.

I remember consciously deciding as a child to Get Over Shy because I'd either be stuck my whole life or could get out shy and get in life.

But again, I had lots of things to use to bolster confidence. I believe that activities like you describe are crucial.

Substitute in dance for me, and you wrote my exerience and thinking.

This is awesome:

"Even now, 15 years and I'm not going to say how many pounds later, that confidence remains. It's an indelible part of me that I completely take for granted. It has nothing to do with my physical appearance and everything to do with the person I am inside. Losing weight, for me, is a path to a healthier lifestyle, not the route to happiness and self-actualization. I so take this confidence of mine for granted, that pinning down the source now, at 34, is difficult for me."

Absolutely.

It's why the accusations of "vanity" during my weight loss process were so hurtful. My body is more than how it looks.

My body self-image is lower than it has ever been and people are baffled: but you lost all that weight, you look great, etc.

Yes, sure, but that wasn't really the point. It was to get healthy and feel better, but I feel worse. It's not the weights fault, it's the disease. But I feel horrible about my body because my body feels horrible, no matter how it looks.

I think our girls need healthy lifestyles, need to feel healthy, and to understand that their bodies aren't sexualized objects intended to look pretty but are tools in life, just like their minds and hearts.

I plan on keeping my kids involved in activities that bolster confidence and esteem and hope it does for them what it did for me, and you.

AWESOME POST!

You are so sk*rted.

Julie
Ravin' Picture Maven

Blogger Bon said...

great post, and one that hit me hard in a lot of ways. i've always wanted a girl, desperately, and am only coming to believe now that i will not be deeply, ragingly disappointed if i don't get to experience that...yet i too would fear for my daughter in terms of societal pressures and body image. i guess, like jen, i just feel compelled to put all the work i did undoing that damage in myself to some good in someone else, though i know that maybe things wouldn't work out quite that cleanly.

i had disordered eating through college and well into my twenties and am only emerging into a real confidence with my body now, as a mother. but i think that my vulnerability to those struggles did come in part from how i grew up - a perfectionist nature not mitigated by any unconditional approval or notice of physicality, and the absence of a father figure. my sense of self wasn't really corporeal, and then when sexuality and sexual assualt came into the picture, there was no place of strength from which to cope with those experiences, so i turned in on myself instead. it's not an uncommon story...but one that the confidence and athleticism and security you write of from your own experience could have mitigated, certainly. i've been lucky in that in my adulthood i've found ways to heal that damage and those absences, and to value myself...i don't think these challenges - of raising girls or being one - are hopeless.

Blogger InTheFastLane said...

Running Cross country and track helped me in the same way that swimming helped you. I went from a chubby middle schooler to a confident H.S. and college student. Sure I still made mistakes. But, my body was powerful and when I worked hard, it responded for me. I have struggled again, after 3 kids with my body image again. But, the running is something that has become such a part of me that when I run, I feel the confidence come back.

Three kids??? ours happened "by accident" and we have never regretted it.

Blogger Mamma said...

You have no idea how much this post resonates with me in so many ways.

Alone in a crowd is often how I feel. Unfortunately, I am way too in tune with social cues and I wish I wasn't. I hate that I worry about whether or not people like me. I use my body to give people an excuse. If I'm fat then it's okay for you not to like me. That way I can pretend that it's not because I'm just not worth knowing.

The funny thing is that the "adult" in me knows that we're all so much more worried about ourselves that we probably don't notice each other.

As a feminist with three boys, I feel like it is my duty to raise boys who respect girls (and them women) for who they are...not what they are. I'm trying. And if I'm going to be honest, I'll claim success if they don't ask for phone numbers they never intend to use.

LM--I love you. Thanks for this terrific post!!

Blogger M said...

Good Morning, I am one of your blog stalkers. I enjoy it very much. After reading your last post, I feel like you were describing me and i am still trying to figure out why I have fallen into that trap!

Blogger Karianna said...

I wish I could feel comfortable with my body.

When I was a dancer, that was my identity that gave me confidence when the "popular kids" went off on their own - and yet I was one of the "heavier" dancers at a weight that would be considered very thin by normal standards.

I did swimming too, but our team had cliques where the popular kids were tall, lean and muscular, whereas I was short and had huge breasts, despite my tiny waist.

I suppose it is good that I don't have a daughter! And yet, I think I know what *not* to say, simply recalling those things that were said to me as a child.

Anonymous Momish said...

Great post! I think you are right about a lot of what causes insecurities in women stemming from childhood complexes. I too am like you in that I never felt shy or insecure when it came to being in a crowd or making friends.

However, I think our insecurities are all relevent to our damaged self images from our earlier years. While I never had any hang ups about my body or physcial appearance, I still have hang ups about other things. To this day, I still have to remind myself that I can accomplish a project or task, that I can be and am successful at what I do. That I am not out of place in a nice restaurant or boutique. That I would not be "an outcast" at a BlogHer convention.

I am a complete mess when I am faced with powerful and successful women and men. I cannot get over the hump of my past enough to ever place myself next to them as a peer. This is despite the fact that I have a college degree, a successful career that makes an above average income and a lovely home and family.

In many ways that I cannot overcome, I still see myself as the poor kid with minimal resources to ever make something of myself.

Anonymous Jenny said...

You and your roommate are gorgeous and fabulous social butterflies. Isn't it odd that we can't see that about ourselves?

I have the same issues, plus eating disorders in my past. For me it was all ablout control. I felt my life was out of control but I could control what I ate, so I ate nothing. Sick, I know.

It makes me scared that I have a girl. I don't know how to protect her from that.

Anonymous Emily said...

"I just don't easily read social cues. Or I read them too closely. Being social, being tuned into others, is exhausting for me."

I have the same issue, as does my son. Yet, I am an extrovert people tend to like. It is odd.

Even odder is that I have a pretty good self-image. You wouldn't expect that, given my background. I wish I were a bit more in shape, but I tend to be pretty confident.

How do you give that to girls? Beats me -- no one ever tried to give it to me.

Blogger QT said...

This is a great post. I think on so many different levels we struggle with what we want to be and what we are - and not just related to our bodies, but are we smart enough, are we successful enough, etc.

Sports was definitely the only thing that got me through those awful years of 12-18. I actually quit sports in 10th grade to concentrate on grades, but I loved the fact that my body could DO things. The surest way to turn my mood around nowadays is to work out, to remind myself that this body I have is a machine, and it can do so much more than look pretty.

And the blogging world is strange because, for the most part, we are blind to what a blogger really looks and acts like. We know things about them that may truly be intimate. We have skipped over the awkwardness of a first meeting in favor of the deep, dark secrets, so to speak. So meeting people that you already have intimate knowledge of is so much different.

Blogger Ally said...

I really appreciate this post. I related to what you're saying-- I feel like I have a healthy self-image, despite being about 30 lbs overweight right now. I credit my positive self-esteem to my involvement in sports growing up as well. There is something about being part of a team and being good at something, especially something physically active, that really lays the foundation for feeling good about yourself long-term. I have two girls and a boy, and I've thought often about how my parenting can make or break my girls' self-image. I try hard to let my girls see me as a beautiful, strong woman. I never, EVER critcize myself--especially my body-- around them. I also try to teach them that beauty comes from within-- that they are beautiful to me, but not so much for how they look, but for who they are in their heart of hearts.

I love what you had to say about swimming. I didn't swim (not REALLY swim-- I just lolligagged about the pool) growing up because I just didn't get that opportunity. But Eleanor (age 5) is a really good swimmer already, and I'm hoping to encourage all of my kids to swim. What you said about it serves as a good recommendation.

Thanks again for this thought-provoking post.

Blogger ewe are here said...

Ah, the third child question, should we or shouldn't we... I keep wondering myself, probably because Baby Boo has been such an easy baby.

I've always wanted a daughter, but, at the same time, I absolutely hear you about the body image issues they have to deal with on a day to day basis. All those airbrushed images in magazines, and reality stars and socialites who've starved themselves and surgically enhanced themselves to boot... no wonder so many girls have developed eating disorders and unhealthy habits.

I was an athlete as well growing up, although my sport of choice was volleyball. And, luckily for me, staying slim has never been much of a problem (well, except for the handful of extra post-Baby Boo pounds I stive have to drop). Like your swimteam friends, volleyball kept me away from the stupid girl behavior to a large degree... and I'm really thankful. Should I ever have a daughter, I'll strongly encourage her to take up sports. As it is, I hope to teach my boys to love and respect women for who they are and not be fooled by all those false images out there.

(This is probably a tad hard to follow... rather late and tired.)

Blogger Christine said...

ok, this was one of those tear jerker's for me, and i cannot really articulate it in any coherent way. i guess it just has a lot to do with the fear i have of raising a confident young woman and the anger i feel towards my self for feeling so vulnerable to negative body images out there. i want to be more confident. i really do. but how?

Anonymous mayberry said...

I have a girl and YES, this is one of my biggest concerns. She's 5 and has already had other children make comments like "your legs are fat." I wanted to scream!

Blogger Moondance said...

Wow, so much good stuff in this post I want to respond to.

I heaved a huge sigh of releif whem we found out Owl was going to be a boy. I just didn't think I could do a good enough job on a girl. We have so much opportunity with sons to make the next generation better for the feminist worries. If our sons value their sister and wives and daugters the same as would if the were male, then those women have less to fight against.

Mommy off the Record's comment was spot on. I too have a husband who makes me feel beautiful, even when a look in the mirror confirms he needs new glasses. Last week I saw the movie "Shallow Hal," and I think that must be what happens - he just really doesn't see it!

What surprises me is that athletes like you and many commenters have body image problems. I guess the whole point of it being a problem is that our perception is not related to what others see.

OK, better stop before this gets any longer.

Blogger Heather said...

This is an amazing post. Good for you for writing it.

I was a swimmer too. Also a lifeguard and water safety instructor.

My body image took a turn for the worse when I had a really hurtful relationship my junior year in high school.

My best friend and I always tell each other that our hope for one another is that some day we will see ourselves the way see each other.

I think she is beautiful, witty, warm, intelligent and wise. She thinks the same of me.

And you know what? The more she says it, the more I start to believe it.

But I have often thought I gave birth to two boys because I don't have what it takes to raise a strong confident female child.

Blogger Jonathon Morgan said...

thanks for writing this. these are exactly the kinds of issues i'm worried about raising a girl...

Blogger Jenn said...

"In the meantime, I'll concentrate on raising my boys to know not just their own worth, but the worth of women."

Would be such a start, right along with teaching women how to feel secure loving other women instead of feeling they need to pick them apart.

Wonderful post. As Servant to two Queens, I struggle everyday with this.

It is so hard to instill a feeling of self-worth in girls....there is just some much outside pressure to look perfect....not to mention the cruel lengths girls will go to belittle another, if only to make themselves feel better!

I cling to the statement a friend once told me..." They break 'em down and we build 'em up!" I suppose that is all we can do!

Anonymous Nancy said...

As the mom of two girls, I'm scared to death about raising them to be secure with their bodies and themselves. I still have my own self-image issues that I struggle with daily. It's very tough.

And as an aside, I can't believe we never caught up with each other at BlogHer. I'm still bummed about all the people I missed.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Flutter - I agree. The thought of potential damage is what keeps many people I know from having children.

SM - Exactly! Although I'm sure we'd both do a fantastic job with a little girl, it's a scary thought.

Scout - I agree that swimming is great for self-esteem, especially in those tween to teen years. Growing up, Tracy Caulkins was my hero. I met her at the Olympic trials in 1984 & was over the moon for months.

Slackermommy - I know. I'm so sorry to hear about your childhood though. You struck me as an incredibly confident and warm woman, but we all still have our issues, don't we? I guess we just do the best we can with our kids, right?

MotR - Your hubby sounds wonderful! And I'm sure the fact that my husband adores me helps as well.

Kristen - I'm so sorry to hear that about your mother. There's never any excuse for belittling a child. At least your conscious of it and won't repeat history. ((HUGS))

Treadmill - I'm so glad that running has helped you with your body image. And being so aware of your own issues will help keep you from instilling them in your daughter, right? It's good that we naval gaze about these things. And you're such a sweetie. I know I'm confident in myself and I'm sure I could do all the right things for a little girl. But even then you never know. If only we could control everything that happens to our little ones when they walk out the door...

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Julie - It's funny, someone at BlogHer was trying to pin down who I look like too. I'd never had anyone say that before & now 2 of you! I'm so not surprised that our personalities are so similar. I keep telling you that I have justified reasons for stalking you!

Bon - I think that you've found ways to heal says volumes by itself. We all have our issues, don't we? In one way or another. The impressive thing is raising healthy well-rounded children despite that. Or in surviving the most horrible things in life that can happen with your heart still intact and open to the love of others. I admire you immensely, Bon.

ITFL - My second was an accident, but I'm not sure I can count on a 3rd!

Amie - I think you are beautiful. And I cannot TELL you how many people commented on how much they liked you, your support, and your thoughtful and intelligent comments after BlogHer. Frankly, my dear, we all have a bit of a crush on you.

M - Thank you for delurking! And I hope you can get out of that trap too.

Karianna - I'm so sorry about your cliquey swim team. I'm 5'2" & have a DD chest, so I hear you! I guess you can find mean people anywhere.

Momish - Oh dear. I almost think being insecure about your intellectual abilities is worse than physical insecurity. I never would have guessed it - you're such a wonderful, insightful writer.

Jenny - But you aren't your parents, right? And that will make all the difference. Hell, you take your daughter to cemeteries. She'll be a fabulous young woman!

Emily - It is odd that you're relatively issue free considering. But I'm glad that the witch and your dad weren't able to hurt the you inside.

Anonymous coffeequeen said...

What a great post. I wish I had the answer to your question. I thought that giving my daughter a healthy body image and concept of beauty would be easy...before I had her. Now, I'm not so sure, and I worry that I am as much to blame as many of the things she sees around her. I do the best that I can, though, and remember all of the things that made my life so difficult growing up. I try not to put an emphasis on beauty or conflate beauty and identity, and I think that she has already memorized my mantra that true beauty comes from the inside.

I have a boy, too, and I worry about him, as well. In many ways, girls can resist categorization. It's okay for them to be athletes, musicians, actors, etc. Oftentimes, boys are put down as being "less than" if they aren't athletic. Being artistic or smart isn't as much of an option.

Blogger Jen M. said...

I struggle with this every single day. I say things in my blog and to my friends that I would never say in the presence of my two daughters. With them, it is all about what I am capable of, or how strong I feel, etc. I read two books that really changed me and how I parent my future women: See Jane Win and Reviving Ophelia. Fabulous studies on esteem and young women. We can do so much as parents, and strengthen them to a point until they reach the age where their peers exert a more powerful influence on their esteem than we do. Hopefully, by that point, I will have healthy girls.
I have so much more to add to this, and no time. GREAT post topic.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

QT - I agree that it's so different meeting another blogger. We already share intimate secrets. It's a bit awkward at first, but easier, over all.

Ally - Thanks. I'm glad you agree.

Ewe - Ah, the ongoing 3rd child debate! It's good to know I'm not the only one.

Christine - If I knew, sister, I'd tell you.

Mayberry - At 5??? How frustrating.

Moondance - It sounds like fewer of the athletes here really do have serious body image issues. But they're still there.

Heather - Ah, it's wonderful to have a friend like that....

Jonathan - Thanks for commenting! It's good to know that men are worrying about this too. That's got to be part of the solution.

Jenn - Yes, why do we pick women apart so?

Queen - You're so right!

Nancy - Yeah, I still don't know how on earth we missed each other!

Coffeequeen - Ah, yes. Raising a boy raises an entirely different set of concerns.

Jen - I love Reviving Ophelia. It's definitely one of the best books I've read about young women and self-esteem. I haven't read See Jane Win, but I'll be sure to check it out.

Blogger Mary Tsao said...

I think about this all of the time... how to raise my girl to be self confident and have good self esteem. I do have those things. And like you, I'm now going back into my past to try and determine why I do, when so many women don't.

I grew up in a family of all women (mother, grandma, and two aunts) and I don't know if that had something to do with it, but I remember my aunties as being vibrant and self-confident people. My mom and grandma, too.

I believe that girls need to have positive role models in order to grow up with their own positive self image. And positive role models are other women (mom, aunties, whomever) who love themselves and who don't belittle themselves or cut themselves down.

My two cents!

Blogger Mad Hatter said...

Argh, great post and no time to read all the comments which (from the ones I have read) look amazing as well.

I have a girl and I worry a lot about these things. I worry about a whole host of other things as well that break down according to gender. Like many of your commenters I struggled with eating disorders when I was younger and wrestled with issues of size and self-esteem. My family was not great at helping me get beyond weight issues. What my family rocked at, though, was making sure I learned about choice and self-determination. I woke up one day in my early twenties and said, "F--- this, crap, I can decide what I will let get to me." Now I don't care. I still wrestle with my weight but I never let that interfere with who I perceive myself to be as a thinking, feeling, fully realized person.

Blogger Lisa said...

The body image thing is SO hard. I didn't know others struggled with it until I hit the blogosphere.

I had parents who would (in high school) make pig noises at me if I helped myself to a second helping of greenbeans. (I didn't have enough body fat for regular periods! They also told me my sister could easily steal my boyfriend because she was SO MUCH prettier than I am. Nice, huh?)

I think the parents have a HUGE role in how children see themselves. And its not just about girls. Its with boys as well.

Trust me, when you are told often by your parents how ugly, stupid, lazy and useless you are, you start to believe them. When they treat you like you have no worth, you pick up on that at a young age. WHen they don't let you have friends, you don't have a support system to tell you otherwise. (Incidentally, its hard to shed that feeling even as an adult. I lost two pounds at blogHer - partially to a slight case of food poisoning but mainly because I was so nervous and self conscious I couldn't eat or sleep!)

Sorry to drone on and on. But its very cool that you had parents who cheered you on. Being a child on the other side of that, I see how important that is and try to parent accordingly.

Blogger Kyla said...

It is such a widespread issue, I just hope that with this awareness we are able to raise this next generation of girls in a way that helps them overcome it.

I'm so glad I stumbled upon this post. The first part just made me laugh about not being sure if you want a third, especially if it's a girl. I'm still waiting for my daughter to grow a penis and she's almost two!

Recently I did a post about how I only want a third child when my first two are sleeping :).

Blogger CPA Mom said...

Thank you for this and thank you for the offer of anonomity. I think anyone who knows me well, including my family you refer to, know this to be true about me already. Indeed, she (the family member who blogs) relishes in my insecurity and doubt, and had a big part in its formation as we were growing up.

I'm still struggling to "talk" (on my blog) about BlogHer and all the negative aspects of it - trying to be true to my voice without diminishing all the truly wonderful parts of that weekend.

That said, I wish I knew the answer to how to raise my own daughter without passing on my doubts and insecurities. I want her to ALWAYS know how beautiful she is, inside and out. ALWAYS.

Blogger moosh in indy. said...

I know that if I'm going to change the world (or at least the moosh's future) I need to work on being okay with myself first. I need to shut my damn mouth about the negative and open up all the positive. Media kills me, which is why I've stopped.
Have a third, I'll have a second, we'll go crazy together. Deal?

Blogger Rachel said...

First, let me say, that I love your roomate! I think she is a wonderful and gorgeous woman both inside and out.

Second, I have 3 girls and it scares me to think about how to teach them to accept themselves for who they are and not conform to what society says is beautiful. I don't say things like "I need to lose weight" or "I look fat in this" in front of my girls. I just don't know if what I'm doing is right as far as teaching them self-confidence. I guess that's not something I will know until they are older. I suppose we as moms just have to hope for the best.

Blogger Heather said...

I have two boys so I don't know that I should even comment on how to avoid it while raising daughters. (though I do know that barbie, apparently, was a total slut doll)

I find it very interesting about what you said about being social overwhelmed you. That's very interesting...will have to spin the mental wheels on that one. Maybe it's a new perspective on my own child's social problems.

Blogger KC said...

I think the parenting component is huge. Giving them belief in their self-worth early on, that they are a valued, loved presence can help them withstand the battering that comes later on. Being a good role model.I hope I can do that with my girl.

Blogger Julie said...

Jill (above) said, "I think it's the boys we have to worry about. Boys today are more at risk for all of the following: school failure, mental illness, being a crime victim, being a criminal, etc...."

But even in relation to the question of body image and how women feel about themselves, I think that those of us who parent boys also shoulder a lot of responsibility to raise boys who respect women's bodies, who like girls because they're cool, etc.

I dated a guy in high school whose dad would comment on women's bodies (the classic, "Oh, God! No. She should NOT be wearing shorts.") while we all sat and watched TV. All that rubbed off on the boyfriend and, in turn, rubbed off on me. I don't think I ever wore shorts around either of them again. And I still seldom do.

Blogger PunditMom said...

I hear you, LM. I know my body image is definitely messed up and I work hard each day to do what I can to instill the kind of confidence you have into PunditGirl. But even as careful as I am, she is still exposed to other things that make her doubt herself already. And what do you do when a tiny little seven-year-olf girl -- whose body is perfect and strong and energetic -- says, "Mommy, am I fat or skinny?" -- our society sends no message other than the two extremes.

And, for the record, your "roomie" is a lovely woman.

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