Editor's note: The following post by Sarah Bessey originally appeared on her blog. It has been shared here with the author's permission.
Dear Anne and Evelynn:
Here are the lies, my dears:
You are only as good as you look.
You are only lovable if you have a rock-hard body.
You can conquer your feelings of inadequacy by being skinny.
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
Everyone judges you by how you look and talks about you behind your back.
Beautiful is defined by your culture (and so it is beautiful to be frightfully skinny with bolted-on boobs and an identi-kit face).
You are not worthy of love if you are not beautiful.
I'm raising you in a world that thinks you're only as good as you look. And you're being raised by a woman who is still overcoming these lies herself.
The other day, I did an exercise video at home. You were with me, Annie, while the two littles slept and we leaped and kicked our way through jumping-jacks together. "Oh, Mum!" you glowed, "Even your tummy is having fun! Look at it jumping around!" and for a moment, oh, it stung. I just gave birth to Evelynn two months ago and so, yes, my tummy is "jumping around" when I jump around and part of me wanted to sit down and cry for the sudden cacophony of worthlessness and shame that rose up but then you were there. You were there, looking up at me, having fun exercising and I thought, no. No, I will not cry about how I look in front of you. Instead I told you that this was fantastic and, yes, my tummy was having a marvelous time. When you asked me why we were exercising, I had to lock my lips tight against the "to lose weight because I'm fat because I just had a baby" that threatened to spill out and instead spoke of having fun exercising for energy and playing together to be healthy and strong and hey, later, did you want to go bike riding?
I am looking for the small ways to spare you just a few battles of body image that seem to strangle and entangle so many of us in the war against women. Like the girls that post their supper every night on Facebook for "accountability" and the ones that over-exercise to punish their own bodies. The ones that starve themselves and so carve their own flesh with the word "Forgotten" and "Invisible." Like the ones that are apologetic to their husbands because they have a body marked by childbirth. The ones that are terrified of aging. The ones that feel like they are never, no, never not keenly aware of how they look or what they ate or what they will be eating, the ones chained to a scale or a number or a glossy Photoshopped-ideal.
Sure, I will talk and teach and train but I am learning this: You will sing my songs.
And so I will sing a song of wonder and beauty about womanhood for you to learn from my lips.
I will lead the resistance of these lies in our home by living out a better truth.
I will not criticise my sisters for how they look or live, casting uncharitable words like stones, because my words of criticism or judgement have a strange way of being more boomerang than missile, swinging around to lodge in your own hearts.
I'll wear a bathing suit, and I won't tug on it self-consciously. I will get my hair wet.
I will easily change my clothes in front of your Dad, proud of my stretch marks that gave us a family, of breasts that nourished his babies.
I will prove to you that you can be a size 12 and still be sexy.
I will prove to you that you don't have to be all angles and corners, that there is room for some softness because you all love to hug on my soft bits, burrowing into my arms and my breasts to rest for a while.
I will eat dessert and raise my glass and laugh my way to deeper smile lines.
I will celebrate your own beauty, my tall girls, but I will do my best to praise your mind, your heart, your motives as much as I praise your beauty.
I will not let the words "I'm fat" cross my lips â€” especially in front of you, my beautiful girls.
I will celebrate beauty where I find it, in a million faces uniquely handcrafted by a generous God with a big tent of glorious womanhood.
I will tell stories of women and surround you with a community of women who are smart and strong, crazy and hot-headed, gentle and kind, women who love and you will see that this is what is beautiful, that a generous love is the most gorgeous thing you could ever put on.
I love you.
Sarah Bessey is a writer and an award-winning blogger. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, with her husband, Brian, and their three tines, Anne, Joseph and Evelynn. Her first book "Jesus Feminist" (Howard Books) will be released on Nov. 5, 2013. Sarah is an editor for A Deeper Story and a contributor to SheLoves Magazine.