How we view our own bodies is affected by everything around us.
We blame the news, gossip magazines, celebrity culture and the media as a whole, but less often we acknowledge the ideas we pick up earlier in life. As soon as we understand that we’re a girl and how that means something in the world, we know there are issues dictating how we should feel about our body.
Future daughter, you have a miraculous and perfect body and I can tell you that without even meeting you
Whole industries make their living from feeding these issues, from clothes we buy, to the creams we put on our face and the articles we read. If something for women is aspirational and marketable, it's almost always laced with the a few drops of self loathing to make sure we'll keep coming back.
This kind of culture is, slowly but surely, changing as new generations of women grow up to be more aware, more resilient and more independent than the ones that came before them, but we're still a long way from where we need to be. We need to focus on what we can change for the next generation of girls, be they our daughter, nieces, sisters or friends, and how we'll teach them to see their world.
With that in mind, if I ever have a daughter of my own, I want to be able to help her navigate this weird world of body image and make it a bit easier for her, and I plan on doing it by keeping these 16 important promises...
Future/ possible/ hypothetical daughter - I promise you these 16 things...
1. I will teach you that your body is not there to be judged by others. At no time during your life will you be put in front of a panel of judges and given a mark out of ten. Don't live your life as though that might at some point happen.
2. While you’re healthy, I promise to teach you to never feel like your body is a failure. I’ll teach you to frequently take it out to play, so it knows you appreciate the work it’s putting in.
3. There’s parts of me I don’t like, but I promise I will never show anything but total love for them in front of you. One day those body parts will probably belong to you too.
4. I will never stop you being proud of your body. I promise that when the day comes that you look in the mirror and realise you recognise the body looking back (and you will, there are some strong female genes going on in our family) you will feel happy to have inherited that part of me.
5. I promise to never say I hate myself in front of you. I will aim to always treat myself the way I’ve taught you to treat others. You will never hear me talk to myself with dirty, hateful words and you will never hear me claim that I am fat.
6. You will never see me pull a face at myself in the mirror that you wouldn’t pull at your worst enemy.
7. If you have brothers, I will never make you think that you can’t run as fast, throw as straight, climb as high or fight as hard as them.
8. I promise to show you how to love sport because it’s fun and makes you a happier person. I will show you how it makes you shine with confidence and let go of stress. Sport is yours to enjoy and not to make you look a certain way for anyone else.
9. Equally, I’ll never make you do a sport you don’t love.
10. I promise you will never hear me say I’m going on a diet. I will buy healthy food and we will cook healthy food together. You will never learn from me to connect food with shame, guilt or failure.
11. I promise that when we bake a cake together, we will eat it with ice cream and you won’t worry about whether we should.
12. I will never look at another women’s skinniness with envy, nor will you ever hear me claim that ‘real women have curves.’
13. I promise to never comment on another woman’s body as either an achievement or a failure. Neither will I comment on women’s actual achievements with anything but admiration and support.
14. I promise to never comment on your body for a looking a certain way.
15. I promise to always comment on how strong, fast and agile you are. I will teach you that we can move our own furniture.
16. Finally, I promise not to teach you about how your body looks. I will instead teach you how it works and what it can achieve.
Remember that whatever you choose to do, you’re taking that body along for the ride and it's much nicer to travel with a friend.
You will have hatred against your body to contend with in the world. We all wish that wasn’t the case, but unfortunately it is.
People will try and make you ashamed of your body. They will make you judge your own worth on what you see in the mirror. If I could stop you from picking up on any of that I would, but that’s impossible.
I can promise however, that you will never learn any of it from your mother.