The Words We Use

By Kyla Palin

Growing up, I fell into the sort of middle ground between the popular group and the troubled kids. I was always stocky as a kid, then chubby as a teenager. My mother struggled with her weight her whole life, and when I started to develop, I did as well. Through high school I was heavy but active and pretty healthy. In university I struggled more, moving out on my own, gaining the freshman….ok it was a touch more than fifteen. Moved back home, lost the weight, married, babies, gained weight. Approaching my fortieth birthday now, and I seem to be hovering at my current weight and shape which I describe as doughboy yogi.
Why am I telling you all this, you ask?
I’m glad you asked.

I’m the super proud mom of two amazing girls. Girls who have to grow up in this world, and make peace with who and what they are. From what I can tell of teenagers these days, being able to do that is increasingly hard. I always thought that I was pretty thick skinned. Bullies never bothered me, I didn’t really notice any teasing about my appearance. I actually never really thought I had an image or confidence problem at all.
Until my four year old daughter sat down and began complaining about how wide her thighs were when she sat down. I can’t be sure if it was a self-image problem, or if she just was bothered by the fact that her legs looked different sitting than standing. BUT either way, I realized kids are little sponges, and sometimes…mirrors. And I began the hard task of hearing the things I was saying to and about myself.
I started to look hard at my supposed confidence. It was all a sham. A public face I put on, a hard shell to protect myself. I had convinced myself I was lacking, and shied away from hard, scary choices. I “settled” for many things in life, thinking it was about as good as I could ever expect to achieve.
I looked hard at my script. The words I used about and to myself. The excuses. “I can’t ride that ride, I’m too heavy.” The insults “God why did you eat that bag of chips, no wonder you’re so unattractive.” And the avoidance. Lots of avoidance. Pants don’t fit? Convinced myself I didn’t like them anyhow.
I talked about myself in ways I never EVER would talk about anyone. If someone would have pointed at a friend screaming “Why can’t she just take care of herself? Gross.” I would have taken them out with a purse to the side of the head! So why is it ok to talk to myself like that? Where did I learn it from?
Another side note (it’s relevant, I promise!) is that I now work at a certain Canadian plus size retailer. I’ve come to realize, what you see in the fitting room and what I see, are two very different things. I hear all the things you say about yourselves. “I can’t show my arms.” “These pants show too much of my stomach” “I can’t believe I gained so much weight.” And so on.
So what can be done to flip the script? What can I do? The first step is to start using loving language when talking to and about myself. I know my girls are listening, even when I think they’re not. So they should hear their mother talking about eating healthy to stay strong. Talking about exercising to feel better physically. Having fun with fashion. Trying new things. Not making excuses for avoiding something based on physical appearance. Wearing a bikini to the beach. (Yes, I really did that!) Seeing photographs of myself….and even though it’s very hard sometimes to look past all the flaws I see, instead commenting on how happy I look, how much fun that event was, and how great it was to see that person again.
I’ve also started speaking to the women that shop in my store using more loving language. Focusing on how they feel in clothes, how supportive, how comfortable, how fun the outfits are. Not letting them focus too much on size labels. When I hear “Oh but I’ve got a stomach” or “My hips are so big” I smile and reply “Well, we’re women…we have curves…it’s OK!” It’s a hard struggle, competing with society’s perception of women’s bodies, but every now and then, I hope one of my comments will make a difference. Maybe not today, but one day, she will be able to look in the mirror and celebrate her body, instead of hating it.
What are some of the things you tell yourself? Are you able to celebrate parts of your body? Can you use positive words about yourself? Please comment below and share your tricks for flipping the script.
And be kind. Especially to yourself.

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