Raising a Daughter to Love Herself

Fitmark Ambassador Jennifer Strubhar addresses taking caution about things you do and say in front of your children and teach them to love themselves

June 6th was an emotional day for me! I’ve managed to keep another human being alive and well adjusted for 10 years running! Happy 10th birthday to my amazing daughter, Mackenzie. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflection lately on the fact that she’s growing up so fast. She’s hitting quite a few milestones, and there are many more to come. Can you say “The Tween Years” *shuddering in fear*. And puberty is right around the bend. She’s already a walking hormone at times!

I don’t want this to turn in to a complaint about my childhood, because there are many others that have it/had it much much worse, but I will say that when puberty arrived and my body changed I was completely unprepared for the reflection in the mirror. I hated it. I was raised by my father from the time I was 4 years old, and he did the best he could with what he had.

Fitmark Ambassador Jennifer Strubhar's Daughter

Fitmark Ambassador Jennifer Strubhar’s Daughter

Imagine a single father raising a daughter back in the 80’s before it was trendy to be Mr. Mom. As you can imagine, there was no discussion of, or preparation for the changes that would take place as I became an adolescent girl. However, I truly feel that no matter what your upbringing was, you always want better for your own children. I’m no different.

Up to this point, Mackenzie has been quite EASY to care for! She’s a straight A student. In the gifted program at school. Loves art. Is in band and chorus. Plays soccer. Attends Girl Scouts. Is kind to everyone. Doesn’t talk back. Is a complete bookworm. (Is this really MY kid?! lol) Polite. Respects her elders, etc. Needless to say, she’s an absolute dream. And as far as confidence and self assurance – she has more than I could have dreamed of having at her age!

Hell, there are times when I wish I had the confidence at 34 that she’s showing at 10. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure it continues.

I’m not sure if she’ll take after me or her father as she hits puberty. But if she happens to take after me—she’s going to end up going from no hips to child bearing ones in about .001 seconds. She’ll end up with thighs galore and the boobs to match. And just looking at a dumbbell will make her develop some serious guns. I’m going to try like hell to raise her to embrace the changes that take place and know that SHE IS BEAUTIFUL – inside and out.

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about the comparison traps, subjecting yourself to fat talk, etc. And I must say………… I am Guilty. As. Charged.

I recently took part in a panel for BlogHer Visionaries that discussed the concept of fat talk. They surveyed 800 women and the results of that survey are staggering! Nearly 75% of the women surveyed take part in “fat talk”.

“Do you engage in “fat talk” with other women?”

If you’re interested in reading more of the results of the survey, you can find them here:

“What’s All the Buzz About Fat Talk?”

As much as I make an effort to not do so in front of Kenzer, I know that you can only fool some people some of the time.  Something that hit home for me last week which made me realize I wasn’t always doing such a good job of hiding it.

We were getting ready for work and school. Getting dressed is always a point of contention for me. I never think I look nice in anything. I normally always put on 4 different outfits and hate every one of them until I just pick the lesser of the 4 evils and call it a day. However, last week I realized Kenzer was across the hall watching me (waiting for me to help her with her hairstyle). She looked at me dumb founded and said –  matter of factly – “Mama. Really? What was wrong with the first three outfits you had on? You looked beautiful.”  Wise beyond her years.

Up until that point, I had always made the conscious effort to:

  • Never weigh myself in front of her
  • Never do the whole “I feel so fat today” or “Ugh, I hate my thighs” talk in front of her
  • Never talk about dieting/diet foods, etc. in front of her.

Now some of this comes easy. I don’t “diet” per say – my family just eats clean. And we make it a family affair. Here’s Kenzer when we went strawberry picking Monday afternoon. I also don’t weigh myself very often anyway, so that’s not a problem either.

What I do worry about? The negative body image. It’s been a constant struggle for me. Did I really need to put on 4 different outfits? Or should I have been confident enough to know they all looked fine? I’ve had to learn (and sometimes re-learn) to love my body as it is. I am muscular. And hip-y. Clothes don’t always fit perfectly. It’s not because I’m fat. They’re just not made for me.

The way I’ve learned (and continue to learn) to accept it is finding other like-minded, inspirational people. Just last week I was feeling self conscious about my legs. Shorts DO NOT fit me. To my relief and surprise, I discovered I’m not alone. Theresa Jenn and Charlie Brooke—both athletes and fitness models -  shared my same sentiment last week on Instagram (talk about perfect timing). They are super fit and at a fitness level that I am reaching for. Both have said they have trouble with shorts—it’s because of strong legs!

The way that I hope to combat this for Kenzer—should it even become an issue for her—is to not only continue with the three points above, but for years now I have always found opportunities to preach to her softly educate her on the fact that we all come in all shapes and sizes and that each person  is beautiful and unique in their own way and we are all deserving of love and respect.

We as women need to be kinder and gentler to each other. We are our own worst critic. Would you believe that last year (at the ripe old age of 9!) Kenzer had a sleep over with her cousin and neighborhood friend and the two girls were discussing body issues?! Already! All three are shaped quite differently. Kenzer is tall and thin. Her cousin is shorter and not as thin, and the neighbor girl is tall and overweight. I took the opportunity to use it as a learning tool not only for Kenzer but for all three girls. To tell them they are each beautiful in their own way and we all have things we’d like to improve and that’s okay.

I’m also trying to teach Kenzer to take the high road. Not judging others harshly will hopefully mean that she won’t judge herself so harshly either. When you point fingers you automatically set yourself up to be held to a higher standard than those you criticize.

All in all, I think we’re on the right track. It is an HONOR to be Mackenzie’s mama. She’s nothing short of amazing.

Stay fit,
Jennifer Strubhar
Fitmark Ambassador 2013

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