For the last couple of days, I’ve noticed my Facebook newsfeed flood with more “selfies” than usual (and I have quite a number of friends who enjoy selfies on any given day…). These selfies have been posted with various statements and reasonings. One of the most common I’ve seen is for breast cancer awareness. Now, I have my own opinions and thoughts about how social media is (and isn’t) effective for addressing social justice issues, health issues, etc…. I’m not convinced that posting a selfie is doing all that much in “fighting breast cancer.”
Other posts have not mentioned breast cancer and instead encouraged other females on Facebook to simply post a make-up free picture. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure what I would do if I was nominated because it is very uncommon for me to wear make-up in the first place (the majority of my pictures feature me make-up free! I celebrate it everyday, not just during this online campaign). But alas, I was nominated! And I have to thank one of my best friends, Constance, for the nomination so I could sit down and really think about the issue of body image in light of my daughter. Here is a letter to A.J. on why I took this picture with her:
Darling daughter… Do you know how beautiful you are? Being a parent gives me a new, unique glimpse of what it’s like for God to look at us. Despite our flaws, we are so loved and beautiful.
It pains me to think that one day (sooner than later, most likely…) you’ll feel the need to wear make-up. Maybe at first you’ll want to wear make-up because other girls are, because it seems like fun. But maybe one day you’ll start to feel like you have to wear make-up to keep up with everyone else, to cover “flaws” and to be “beautiful.”
I pray that you realize (sooner than I came to realize) that beauty is more than just looks. It’s character and personality. It’s how you speak, think and act.
When you get a little older, I hope that you don’t worry about being “fat” (like 81% of other 10 year olds) and that thoughts of dieting don’t consume your mind (like 42% of other 1st-3rd graders). I don’t want worries of how you look to consume your thoughts. I don’t ever want you to think that starvation and purging is something that you have to do. It boggles my mind that children as young as 6 are being hospitalized for bulemia and anorexia; what are they hearing and facing everyday that makes them think that food is the enemy???*** In our house, food is nourishment. Food is yummy. Food is something that is a large part of family get-togethers and celebrations.
If you are unhappy with your health and body, I want us to be able to have honest, open discussions about it. I want us to be able to go for walks together, cook together, and wear summer clothes together without either one of us being ashamed of who we are; I want us to be proud of our bodies, our strength. But I also want you to realize that life is more important than how our bodies look. Characteristics that are important to our family include compassion, humility, integrity, hard work.
To think that by age 5, my thoughts and actions about beauty and body image will have such a powerful influence on you is a huge task I do not take lightly. I take my responsibility seriously. I know I’m up against a lot. You will have friends, peer pressure, media. But you also have me (and your daddy) in your life, and we are powerful forces to be reckoned with.
Always remember that you are beautiful: make-up, or no make-up.
3 Don’t depend on things like fancy hairdos or gold jewelry or expensive clothes to make you look beautiful. 4 Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special.
1 Peter 3:3-4 (Contemporary English Version)
***I am well aware the eating disorders are complex and often have to deal with issues of power/powerlessness. However, at such a young age, I really do think family attitudes towards food, influence of friends, and the media have a larger role in a 6 year old’s decision to purge or starve themselves. I am no expert! Just a thought…