Women are the most judgmental and critical beings on the planet. We are so mean to each other almost by default because we are constantly trying to be better than someone in some way or another. It is as if we can’t understand our own value unless we measure it against some ridiculous marker like what someone else has acquired, what size pants they wear, how delicious their cookies are or how Pinterest-y their home is.
I’m sure that this is something that I’ve known for awhile, but it is something that I have never really contemplated before my daughter was born. Now that this beautiful little girl is here I’ve begun to realize how much my actions, my words and my own self-worth will effect how she sees herself and who she becomes. This thought terrifies me.
I’m a sarcastic realist with not so great self-esteem. I see a grown adult in a romper with her butt cheeks hanging out and I react in a non-grown up way. Not nice words tumble out of my mouth sometimes and I admit that some of these things may be offensive to someone of a particular group. I’m not proud of this. I don’t want to raise a daughter that is critical of other people, who speaks without thinking of the consequences of her words or who measures her worth against others’. I want my daughter to be kind, to be thankful and to be generous. In order to do this, I know I need to change.
My husband is the sweetest, kindest and most generous person I know. He is not critical of others, he talks to everyone and he will help out anyone without need of reciprocation. I look up to him and admire all these wonderful qualities about him. I know that since I’ve met him, I have changed for the better, but I also know that I have a long road ahead of me. A long rocky road full of vengeful roots, murky swamps and a few wild dogs to be sure.
Some of the steps on this long road to becoming a better person is to be honest with myself, to love myself as I am and to be less critical.
1. I will not mom-shame.
I’m a new mom (baby is 3 1/2 months) and I am not anywhere close to being an expert on parenting. I accept this one hundred percent. I don’t understand why some women do what they do (children on leashes, etc), and I may pause and/or laugh, but I will never presume to put forth that I know more about parenting than another mother. I will do this to show my daughter that everyone is different and until we walk in someone else’s shoes we have no right to judge them.
2. I will not be ashamed of my body.
Like that internet meme I can say that I do have a bikini body because all I have to do is put on a bikini and voila, I have a bikini body. No, my stomach will never be flat again and I will bear these tiger marks forever (thanks for nothing Palmer’s Cocoa Butter). I will probably not wear a bikini but I will vow to wear whatever style bathing suit I want and to stand tall to show my daughter that confidence and love for yourself is beautiful no matter what you look like. And, I will lose the skirted bottom. Because my bootylicious derrière deserves to be admired.
3. I will live a healthier lifestyle.
Sometimes I just have to have a junior bacon cheeseburger from Wendy’s. And nuggets. Life is short and I refuse to spend my entire life cutting myself off from certain foods. But I do recognize that my choices will directly impact the health of my daughter so I vow to be more conscious of what I eat and drink, to try to do what is best for my health, to model good eating choices but also to acknowledge that every once in awhile junk food is okay.
4. I will think before I speak.
Words do hurt. I know this from experience. I have no right to be critical of others even if I do not agree with them. I vow to bite my tongue as often as I can when what pops into my head is unkind or hurtful, even if that person or that group is nowhere near me. I will respect the choices that other people make and teach my daughter, as best I can, that differences are what make life interesting and being critical or negative towards others is hurtful.
5. Lastly, I will not follow the pack.
I will defer back to Shakespeare here – all the world is a stage and its people merely players. Every year when I have my new middle schoolers write letters as one character to another I have this talk with them. I ask them to imagine writing a letter to each of the following people: their parent(s), their best friend, a person they admire and the school principal. Then we talk about how different each of those letters would sound even if they were all about same topic. There are not many of us that can say that we show the same face to everyone. I know that I do not. The person I am online is a person far more confident than the person at a gathering of a lot of unknown people. I am different around those I love and respect than I am around those I work with or socialize with. I have realized recently that around certain people I am not as nice of a person as I am around others. This was a difficult fact to swallow and I don’t like this about myself. So my last vow is this: I will accept that some people around me interact with the world in a different way but I will work hard to be the person I want my daughter to look up to no matter who I am with. And I will teach her that she can accept people and be with people without becoming like them.
Boy, do I have a long road ahead of me.