The Handcrafted Wardrobe: On Mothering Daughters and Self-Worth

‘As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia, because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.’ ~Kate Winslet

I take this quote very differently from how I did the first time I read it.  I can’t say that I’m at a place where I’m comfortable walking around declaring myself a ravishing beauty, and I’m not sure that I would ever want to be.  But this much I know; I am now a mother of daughters.  They watch me and from watching me they are learning how to move through this world as women.  If I tell them they are beautiful while being harsh with myself, they will instinctively see beauty in their own children, but never in themselves.  If I say that I don’t like my smile or my waist or my hair or my thighs, that there are parts of me I am ashamed of, what will they think when someone innocently tells them how much they look like me?  I am proud of my body.  Against many obstacles, It has grown and nourished five unique and amazing people.  I don’t think I can ask better of it than that.

Long time readers of my blog may remember that in years past, I was virtually unseen.  I am 5′ 0″, maybe 20? 30 lbs? over weight at the moment.  I have thinning hair and more stretch marks than smooth spots.  I have crooked teeth and chronic dark circles under my eyes.  When I’m unwell all of my veins show through the skin on my arms and torso like some kind of freaky 3D diagram of the circulatory system.  I can be ghostly pale and often appear just plain haggard.  Growing up the message that I was given by society is that women like me do not deserve to be seen.  That we have to be altered before we are worthy.  Worthy of what exactly I don’t know.  Everything it seems.

I want to say that there is nothing wrong with me, but that would be an outright lie.  But the things that are “wrong’ with me are the makings of my own private struggles and manifestations of my humanity.  There is nothing about me that makes my image unfit for public consumption.

I knew that with this project I would be opening myself up to judgement.  And I have.  But I feel very blessed to be able to say that in over 10 years of blogging in this space I’ve only received one nasty comment.

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life trying to find a comfortable and healthy relationship with the shape of my body.  And it has been a challenge because over the last 17 years of motherhood, that shape has altered time and again.  I have my set backs, but mostly I accept and embrace what is.  In recent years I’ve been caught off guard in finding that I have a hard time seeing myself look sick.  I find it upsetting.  It makes me feel fragile and I find myself avoiding mirrors and cameras.  In part this project is a way of forcing myself to face myself.  I’ve found that I have to desensitize myself to my own image.  And a couple of years ago I started consciously doing just that. To try to be comfortable with sharing a picture even if my hair is a mess or I don’t like the look on my face or the way an outfit fits.  To get used to being me in the world, with all of my flaws and imperfections.  For me to accept who I am without fear or concern about what others will think of me.  Because that is what I want to teach my daughters, in all of their flawed, imperfect, deep, and eternal beauty.  That is the gift I want to give to them.  And I am not fit for this work of going against the world and myself and all I’ve been taught, but I plan to keep on trying all the same.






10 thoughts on “The Handcrafted Wardrobe: On Mothering Daughters and Self-Worth

  1. Rahel

    I liked your post. I am mother to two daughters that I also want to “teach” a healthy self esteem and body image. And as you said- I think a huge amount depends on us mothers. I was fortunate enough to have a mother that did not place much importance on “look” (which does not mean she does not like to make herself look pretty). I had my teenager-years crisis, but at some point told myself, that there’s not too much you can change about a body and that I should look at the good things I got instead at all the things I like less. Not always easy, I admit- but somehow I am satisfied- and after all what counts most are the way we are and not so much the way we look. I don’t know you personally but I follow your blog and I think you have a lovely face and nice hair (I always wanted curly hair) and I think you look great in the dresses you wear. Keep showing yourself :-)

  2. Megan

    I have always thought that you looked lovely in your photos! You may consider yourself pale, but that probably means you take care of your skin in the sun and will look better than those of us who have a great tan, in those “golden” years! Your post is a great message. I try to remind my daughters about what their bodies can DO as opposed to how they look. The 19 year old totally gets it and the 16 year old has a long way to go.

  3. Zena

    I had no idea you were that sick. I’ve seen photos of you recently and I thought you were so stunning and captivating like a beautiful actress. I feel for you because I know what you mean about avoiding mirrors. Since I fell terrible ill last year I have not touched my hair and it has grown out in to a complete grey. I have witchy frizzy uncut hair for eight months. I have been hiding it under hats and beanies. And it is falling out too. I find strands of hair everywhere! No one knows how bad it looks or makes me look except for my hubby and one other friend. I stopped dyeing my hair because I was afraid that contributed to my illness and now I am in no-man-land wondering if I’ll every get better or look better. Do I cut my coloured locks off and unveil my very ugly grey hair. Nup, it’s not a natural shining silver colour like the receptionist at my doctors. I commend you for resisting the bad habit many mothers have of saying negative things about their body and looks. There are always eyes watching, learning and mimicking. I am concious in front of my sons because I do not want them to think negatively about women’s every changing bodies either.

  4. mamaashgrove

    Dear friend, you spoke straight to my heart (as usual!). As you know, I also have two daughters, and I want them to grow up loving their bodies without shame… and for my sons to not only feel that way about themselves but to view beauty in women in a truly healthy, realistic way.
    My mother was and is hard on me and my 4 sisters, though she thinks she is not. I have two sisters with eating disorders, and all of us suffer (some more than others) with body shame.
    At nearly 40, I am 20-30 pounds heavier than I was 10 years ago and possibly I could lose weight. But I am working on loving my strong body, and feeling grateful for the things it can do, and that it carries me through this life.

  5. Melody Post author

    Yes, yes, yes to giving boys a healthy view, both of their own bodies and others.

    I’m not always terribly ill. But there are periods of time. There have been several times in my life when I’ve had to chop off all of my hair because I was too weak and exhausted to comb it. I don’t know if it helps you any to say so, but there was a sense of relief in not having to deal with it anymore. It made me sad too, because I don’t like my hair short, but it still felt like a form of self care to make my life a little bit more manageable.

  6. Tonya

    I’m so glad you’ve been posting pictures of yourself! You’re beautiful! I remember when my youngest daughter was about 6, she was looking in the mirror and said, “I’m so pretty!” I just wanted to trap that feeling for her so she could always have it. I see all of my flaws including the excessive weight (which I’m diligently working on -harder at age 50!), but I try to compliment myself in front of them (look how much thicker my hair looks! I like the shape of my lips! I think my skin looks smooth!), you get the idea! It’s been hard to get in the habit but it helps them….and me.

    Keep posting – we all have something beautiful about us!

  7. Beth

    Like so many of your posts during this series, this one really affected me. I grew up in a family where your value was measured by your body. Where your weight and looks were (and still are) regularly commented on. My mother had an eating disorder and as a child I observed her continuously getting praised for her beauty and body while she starved. She was very hard on me growing up which led me to be very self conscious and critical of myself .
    Needless to say, as an adult I began to suffer a great deal with body image issues, especially after becoming a mother and now being 30-40lbs heavier. I am now 38 yrs old and a mother to 3 young daughters. My youngest daughter has a physical disability, which requires her to use crutches to walk along with some additional body function issues. Obviously she stands out in the crowd and doesn’t have a body that is considered conventionally beautiful. For the past 7 yrs since she was born, it has become essential for me to raise all my girls to love and respect their bodies for all that its capable of doing. To ignore what the world tells us is beauty, strength & success and see what is true and beautiful in all people. Especially for my little Zoe, who I want so desperately to see herself as lovely, worthwhile and capable. This is all very difficult as it forces me to come face to face with my own struggles and issues.

  8. Stephanie

    This is a lovely very honest post and I admire your courage in writing it. Its funny how we somehow magnify our own faults. When I look at your photographs on this blog, I see a pretty young woman, with a beautiful face who is really photogenic. I also see someone who is prepared to be very honest if she thinks it will help others, which is a lovely quality. I am 44 now and I have reached a sense of peace with my body(….most of the time!). I also realize as we get older, and our bodies are not as they were, that real beauty comes from within. The spark of a beautiful soul can light up any face and make it truly gorgeous.
    Stephanie :)

  9. Emily

    Thanks for sharing these important words! I have only sons and not daughters, but I want to point out that it’s critically important for boys to witness women loving and owning their imperfect bodies as well. Men play into the vicious cycle of learning to love what our demented culture tells them is beautiful. Fortunately, I have a husband who is on top of this issue. When I was pregnant with my most recent baby, my 5-year old son had wanted to photograph my belly, but we never made it happen because the baby came earlier than we expected. At 2 days postpartum, he saw me slumped on the couch and decided now was the time to photograph my belly – still huge, but saggy. Between the fatigue and the hormones, when I saw the picture I wanted to vomit. I believe my son said something like “Wow, look at your beautiful belly!” Fortunately my husband swooped in and encouraged him before I could disagree :)

  10. victoria

    Hi there. I am one of those that often reads but doesn’t comment – sorry! You write so beautifully and honestly – thank you. I also have what I would now call ‘unconventional beauty’. And I can honestly say that I am genuinely happy and confident in my face and body after many years of questing with this. My son is 7 and he often tells me how beautiful he thinks I am, which is rather lovely! That doesn’t mean that I can’t honestly evaluate my ‘flaws’ – like at the moment I should lose some weight after my last pregnancy – but there’s no great anxiety about it. I started checking in with your blog about 2 months ago and have always seen your photos and thought ‘what a beautiful looking woman!’ You have a gorgeous face, and your petite frame is also just lovely. It’s funny how we see ourselves compared to those around us. Stand proud dear sister! Victoria, in Australia :)

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