I was playing around on Facebook the other day and I saw something that unnerved me. There were two pictures, one of a teenager, one of a preschooler. In both photos these beautiful girls were posing. They were doing the “chicken wing.” For those who don’t know, chicken winging is placing your hand at your hip with a bent arm. It is to make you look thinner. Now I’m guessing the teenager knew this, but the 5 year old certainly didn’t. She probably saw her mom, or her mom’s friends, or a magazine image where women were doing this and decided to imitate it.
Now I need to make a confession. I am guilty of chicken winging. In fact, I am guilty of studying the poses that celebrities in magazines do and practicing them. I tell myself it’s because I want the best picture possible but that isn’t true. It’s so that I do, in fact, look thinner in photos.
But here’s the thing. I am thin. Always have been. I eat right and I get plenty of exercise. I’m a pretty confident person. I have a partner who adores me (and I him), I have two gorgeous children who fill me with joy. I work in a career that challenges mw. I have friends. I’m happy. And yet I still have doubts about my looks, my body, and how others perceive me. As a child I was taller then all the boys and my body was as straight as one. But my confidence was never shaken. My confidence has been shaken now, in the aughts, as an adult.
I don’t know why or when this happened. My body thus far has served me well. It has taken care of me, nurtured two babies to term and fed them each for a year. I lost my baby weight plus an extra few pounds. I’m 5′ 8″ and at my lowest weight since I graduated college 15 years ago. Yet I can stand naked in front of the mirror and rattle off a dozen things that bother me about my body without pausing to think. My hips are big. My boobs are weird. I’m afraid I have wrinkles. I have spider veins. The list could go on and on.
Why as an adult do I not believe in myself as much as I did as a child? Is it because we live in a world of airbrushing, photo shop, 24 hour pop culture and what seems to be unattainable beauty? I know all those pictures are faked. I know celebrities have chefs, make up artists, personal trainers and the greatest of all things, Spanx. But I still have my doubts when I look at myself in the mirror.
Going back to the beginning, and thinking about those two girls again. The 5 year old and the 15 year old. I get sad. They are only following the example that the women in their life have set for them. They are making themselves look as pretty as possible for the picture. But I want to grab them and shake them and say “Stop posing! You are beautiful and wonderful and amazing!” The problem of course, is that I am telling them how wonderful they are but not believing it about myself.
If we do not love ourselves along with our flaws, we will never teach our 5 year olds and our 15 year olds that they are beautiful. We will teach them that their beauty is conditional. I realize that in order to create change, I have to be the catalyst for change. So going forth I pledge the following. I’m going to try to love myself more. Compliment instead of criticize. Instead of pointing out each and every flaw when naked I will simply think, “Wow. What you have done with your body is awesome. Keep up the good work.” Then hopefully when my 5 year old daughter becomes a 15 year old, she will just smile for a photo, instead of emulating a chicken.
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About the Author: Courtney Abrams is a Health Coach and Founder of Roslyn Wellness. Trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she helps clients work within the realities of their day to day lives to find ways to make small and manageable changes to their health that can maintained over time. Her clients include people trying to lose weight, beat sugar, increase their energy, cook simple healthful food and reduce stress to name a few. She also shares a passion for food policy and educating people about the foods they are eating and the governmental role behind much of it. You can learn more about Courtney and Roslyn Wellness at http://RoslynWellness.com.