Chacos: How to move past 36-24-36 |

Chacos: How to move past 36-24-36

Breaking the cycle between image and self-worth triggers the painful, personal relationship I have with my body and would take a lifetime to unpack. My children are going through the uncomfortable parts of adolescence now, so I don’t have that kind of time.

They hear me repeat, “Love what’s on the inside, that’s all that really matters,” but they may not understand why I’ve been compelled to say it since I was a teen.

I walk into these conversations like Mel Gibson in “Braveheart,” but it’s hard to buy what I sell, especially when I think back to my own journey. I’m routinely haunted by my weight, my hair, and when Michelle in middle school said, “Your thighs are huge and your hair makes you look like a lion.” She got everyone to laugh, which I imagine was fairly easy because I had a Farrah Fawcett feathered perm and thighs that could crush a walnut. I cried in the girl’s bathroom and avoided her forever.

And if you’ve ever been to the town pool, you cringe at those early developing kids (me!) cloaked in oversized, cotton t-shirts over already modest bathing suits. Or if you’ve ever been to a school dance, you know why the Michelles of the world attack whenever they sniff an opportunity. If you don’t bleed empathy, then you must be a size 2, icy-veined human defying all gravity and humidity, and I hate you.

Now it’s my turn to teach my children that we should only care about what’s on the inside, but who are we kidding? We all remember being ashamed walking out of the house sporting a pimple with a heartbeat with a circumference the size of a small African country.

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We’re routinely taught that looks matter most. I easily blame Kardashian butts, the online community, insensitive teenagers, and a culture obsessed with Peloton.

Harder to blame is the double-standard within me. When I ask if my new yoga pants look flattering, I am telling my daughter to judge how I look. When I delete unapproved photos on Facebook, my sons learn that the image I project is overly important to me. When I focus on what everyone else sees, my kids will, too.

For the next generation to be truly confident in their own skin, they will have to put in a lot more effort than I ever did. They can’t simply recite a mantra and hide in the bathroom. They will have to share their genetic follies on Instagram and Tik Tok, learning to believe in themselves in a public forum. If that’s not hard enough, most of us parents don’t know the impact social media has on their well-being or how to help them get through it intact.

More than modeling better behavior, I’m learning to walk my talk. This means finding better reasons for exercising, eating, and learning; like being healthy, feeling strong, and being wittier than Michelle when we see each other at our next reunion.

I wish I developed the strength much earlier to laugh off the ridiculous size of my pinky toe and how to forgive my verbal bully, Michelle. If I can teach my kids the error in my ways, they’ll learn resilience, happily eat a brownie sundae, and look great from the inside out.

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