I’ll never forget it. I was sixteen, getting ready to go to prom with my high school senior boyfriend Pete. My BFF had curled my hair and put it up just so. I was wearing blue eye shadow from the Clinique bonus I had just gotten as a side effect of buying moisturizing cream I never used for fear of acne breakouts. And I was all dolled up in pink taffeta with puffy Cinderella sleeves someone should have warned me would embarrass me years later.
My beloved mother was standing behind me, with both of us looking at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I was preening, admiring how glamorous I looked, when Mom said, “You’d be so beautiful…” there was a dramatic pause… ”If only you didn’t have that nose.”
[Enter the sound of a helium balloon deflating.]
Mom didn’t mean anything by it. She’s a great mom and raised all three of her children to believe in themselves, know that their true value lies within, and foster healthy self-esteem. When I tell this story now, she backpedals and says, “I just mean that you’d be a total knock out, if only your nose wasn’t so… big.” Which I keep telling her really doesn’t help me feel any better, even now. (But thanks for the valiant effort, Mom.)
Prior to this simple comment Mom doesn’t even remember saying, I never thought about my nose. It’s not that I thought I had a beautiful one. It’s just that it never occurred to me not to like my nose, though now, when I compare it to other people’s noses, I see that many people have prettier, thinner, more shapely noses than I do.
Mom didn’t mean to instill insecurity about my body into my impressionable psyche, but that one comment gave me a nose complex that tagged right onto the insecurities instilled in me by my father, who liked to joke that the boob fairy skipped me when she flew around with a bicycle pump, blowing breasts into the chests of teen girls. When I was a third year medical student on my plastic surgery rotation and got offered both a free nose job and free breast implants by the department that was trying to woo me and my straight A self into the field of plastic surgery, I considered saying yes. After all, who wouldn’t want a perfect ski lift nose and perfect, perky size C breasts?
But I wound up politely declining. I decided I’d have to find my own beauty in my imperfections and learn to love my body the way it is, a goal I’m only now, at 43, just when everything’s starting to sag, beginning to actually realize.
As the mother of a 7 year old daughter, I now realize how critical it is that we start teaching our daughters very early to love their bodies just as they are. Our children are so impressionable, and there’s so much societal pressure threatening to disrupt their self esteem at a very young age.
Neuroscience research shows that, without their permission, we wind up programming the subconscious minds of our children by the time they turn six. Thoughts like “My body is ugly” or “I’m not perfect the way I am” or “I’ll never be beautiful” or “It sucks to be a girl” can permeate the minds of our children far into adulthood unless we program them with healthy thoughts that affirm both their inner and outer beauty.
To be female is a gift, but girls are barraged with messages that tell them how inferior they are to boys, how weird and gross their bodies are, and the lengths they’ll have to go to in order to one day be appealing to men. It’s hard enough to be a kid without adding body loathing to the list of challenges our children face. So anything we can do to boost them up before they’re hit by all the pressures of societal influences we can’t control, the better they’ll be equipped to resist those pressures - and grow up loving their beautiful bodies.
When I was fielding anonymous questions from women and girls for my book What’s Up Down There?, I was shocked to discover that 80% of the questions were variations of “Am I normal?”
Am I normal if my inner labia are longer than my outer labia?
Am I normal if one boob is bigger than the other?
Am I normal if my vagina has a smell?
And so on…
When I was touring colleges to promote that book, speaking to audiences of hundreds of college women and answering their anonymous questions, I heard the same thing. I found it sad that the ticker tape in the subconscious minds of so many of us constantly repeats evil nothings that suggest we’re anything but perfect, just the way we are…
While it saddens me to realize that few women survive childhood without hating at least some part of their body, I’m thrilled to announce that Hay House just published a children's book Beautiful Girl: Celebrating The Wonders Of Your Body, written by my friend and mentor Dr. Christiane Northrup, and I firmly believe this book will help us program the impressionable minds of our children with loving, supportive, esteem-building thoughts about their bodies.
With beautiful, inspiring, age-appropriate illustrations and affirming words of inspiration meant to teach your young daughters to love all their body parts, Beautiful Girl opens the door for parents to start a pro-active conversation with their girls about their female bodies while those young minds are still formative.
The overarching message of the book is simple - that to be born female is a very special thing that carries with it magical gifts and powers that must be recognized and nurtured. Hallelujah! It’s about time…
So buy your copy of Beautiful Girl here - and buy three more copies to give away to the beautiful girls you love. One small gift could change their whole lives…
In awe of your beauty,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary.
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