I love watching my boys playing football. When they’re really in the zone, doing what they love most, it looks like nothing can touch them. They’re not just comfortable in their skin, they’re limitless. Both Ezra and Jed are naturally sporty and when I talk to them about body confidence, and what they like best about themselves, their immediate answers are to do with athleticism, power and skill.
Ezra says, ‘I like my legs because they run really fast.’
Jed says, ‘I like my body because it’s strong and I’m good at football!’
When we were invited** to take part in Families Online #LoveYourselfProject, I shot a brief (45 seconds) video of the boys talking about their favourite features. With a tiny bit of prodding, the boys were soon able to talk at length about what they appreciated about themselves and each other. It turns out 45 seconds wasn’t enough, they could have banged on for hours!
I enjoy seeing how relaxed and at ease they seem about their looks.
Ezra and Jed have always attracted a lot of attention for their cute faces and ‘cool’ twisty locks. But it never goes to their heads. Sometimes they need a body confidence boost (typically related to if they’re growing tall enough, strong enough, or sleek enough to fulfil their sportsman dreams). But for the most part, my boys aren’t too fussed about their appearance.
I often wonder what it would be like if they were girls and had the same amount of people telling them constantly how ‘beautiful’ they are. How this might shape their personalities, in a world where girls are under so much pressure to look a certain way.
When Jed had a nasty injury in 2015 that resulted in 12 stitches in his thigh and some impressive scars, I remarked to my sister that I was glad he wasn’t a girl. For while Jed is happy to show off his battle stripes to anyone who will look, I know from personal experience that many girls would feel self-conscious about similar scarring. Especially as they reached their teenage years.
As a little girl, I had a scar on my right leg (quite faded now) that made me avoid wearing skirts. Just one of many issues that made me feel awkward growing up. Going to majority white schools, I remember being teased and feeling ‘different’ because of my skin colour, the fullness of my nose and lips, my ‘standy up’ hair, my ‘sticky out’ bottom.
Luckily my sense of self was also rooted in a very large, dynamic and over-confident Nigerian family and heritage. My cultural background, along with music videos pushing strong, bootylicious ladies (shout out to Sir Mix-a-Lot) helped me develop a more positive body image as I blossomed into my teens.
Learning to love myself, quirks and all, wasn’t a one-time thing but remains a lifelong journey, especially after the shape-shifting of motherhood. It’s something I remind myself when I think about instilling a positive body image in my children. There’s only so much you can say to your child to make them feel confident. Most of that work happens within, often over the course of a lifetime. However there are small steps you can take to give your kids a body confidence boost.
4 Ways to Give Kids a Body Confidence Boost #LoveYourselfProject
1. Find Alternative Body Role Models
Don’t rely on fashion magazines and Hollywood. Go through a variety of sports media (anything from Paralympics to golfing to darts) to show how diverse successful athletes can look. Check out portraits by famous artists, to see how different types and standards of beauty have been appreciated over the years. Let your kids create their own body confidence heroes, real or imaginary.
2. Appreciate the Little Legacies
Celebrate the little details that connect you from offspring to ancestors. On my dad’s side of the family we’re known for our big ‘Asika’ eyes, and also our flat feet! When I look at my kids, particularly Jed who has inherited most of my body shape, it’s those features I was teased about that I find most beautiful. Come through, ‘sticky out’ bottom!
3. Tell A Story
Every part of the body has its own story to tell, and you can grow to love anything if you reframe it. Jed had a head injury that’s left him with what we call his Harry Potter scar. He loves it and he also loves telling the story of how it came about.
4. Focus on the Inside
Most body image problems go beyond skin deep. So the best thing you can do for little bodies is to free their minds and focus on what’s inside. Do more of the stuff that makes their hearts pump stronger, their bellies crease with laughter and their imaginations fly. After all, your body can only take you so far, but your imagination is limitless.
Visit Families Online to learn more about the fantastic #LoveYourselfProject
**In association with Families Online**