Go Look In the Mirror, After You Tell Me How You Feel You Look

This morning while getting dressed for school, the almost-seven year old Amelia rejected the t-shirt I had grabbed for her to go with her leggings and fleece jacket. It surprised me because it was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium tee with two dolphins on it, her favorite animal.

“Mom, I don’t feel comfortable in this t-shirt.”

It was the first time she had ever said anything like that to me, and I could tell this wasn’t because of an itchy tag or the shirt not fitting right.

“What about it makes it feel not comfortable to you?”

“Well, it feels like a paint shirt. Can I have one that fits closer?” Amelia is a tall and thin kid, and the shirt was boxy on her. She usually wears contoured tees so she isn’t swimming in them.

“I grabbed this one because it was a little longer, so it looked more like a tunic over your leggings. Your leggings are tight, so I would like your bum covered. But I would also like you to feel comfortable in your t-shirt. What should we do?”

“Wellll, when my fleece is on my bum is covered. I would just like a shirt that isn’t so bunchy.”

So I hunt down two different tees while she brushes her teeth, she picks one that is more contoured (a blue one with baleen whales on it) and covers her bum, puts on her jacket, smooths her hand over her tummy, does a full body wiggle and declares, “Now that’s more like it, Alice.”  (My name is not Alice.)

I wrapped her up in a big hug and said she looked ready to be a learning girl today and that we needed to brush her hair. Then I asked how she felt in her new t-shirt and how she thought she looked. She replied, “Full of awesome, Baby!”

It was only then that I told her to go take a once over in the mirror. I want her to practice feeling confidence in the image she projects, instead of the mirror telling her that answer. The mirror is just to make sure she doesn’t have pumpkin bread crumbs on her chin. The mirror provides a reflection. Her heart will provide confidence.

I glance at Amelia looking at herself in the mirror. She was standing with her feet apart, bouncing on her toes, giving herself two thumbs up and wiggling her eyebrows at herself. Her hair looked like a squirrel was living it, but I could tell she felt very full of awesome.

And then I realized I had been holding my breath. When she had said she wasn’t comfortable in her shirt, I immediately made a mental note of the words she chose and was internally grateful she had not said that she looked “fat” or “ugly”. I would be crushed if she said that about herself. She doesn’t hear her parents use those words nor do we use media that reinforces the Beauty Myth and Thin Ideal. She brought home a book from her school library yesterday that had Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid on it. Ariel’s waist is thinner than her arm on the cover.

“Motherbumping Disney princesses” I muttered in my head when she took it out of her backpack. I wondered if her school library also had children’s books on eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder? But when Amelia was showing the books to her little brother Benny, she informed him that Ariel’s “tummy was way too small” and the artist had drawn her wrong. Later that evening following Girl Scouts, Amelia had been sitting at the table drawing pictures of mermaids for me and all of their waists were in proportion to their heads. Phew!

But then she made the comment this morning about not feeling uncomfortable in her shirt! Egads! Was is starting? Was she beginning to doubt herself and her body image? She’s not even seven! I was telling myself to stop overreacting as I could feel myself overreacting. I made her body from scratch, it took forever to get pregnant with her and then I puked for nine months. It took so much of my body to create her body, I wanted her to know every day how glorious her body and life are. I want her to love and cherish herself as much as her dad and I do. I want that kind of self love for all girls.

So on the walk to school, I checked in with her to see how the t-shirt was feeling.

“How we doing, Smalls? How’s the t-shirt feel under all those layers?”

“Oh, good. I was worried that other one might lead to a flea infestation.”

Yep, we’re all good here. Just normal, super quirky Amelia whose positive body image is well intact.


  1. BRILL-I-ANT. I was inspired AND laughed out loud (“My name is not Alice.”). The two of you make a tremendous crime-fighting team with big red A’s on your chest. Yeah, that’s right. AWESOME.

  2. I love this. I need to practice this myself.

  3. this whole thing is awesome thank you.
    The mirror provides a reflection. Her heart will provide confidence.
    teaching your kids something you do not have is very tough. eek

  4. Melissa, I am so grateful for all the work you continue to do in advancing the conversation on what it means to be girly (and what it means to be boyish, for that matter).

    I just posted on my mommy blog about my fears about my next child (we’re 17 weeks along!) being a boy, and in the comments I had the occasion to credit you with expanding my gender imagination for children. Here it is if you’d like to have a look: http://corndogmama.blogspot.com/2013/01/aema-and-decimal.html

    If I end up having a boy, I will be clinging to the PPBB community and my few other gender-expanding friends for dear life. I anticipate that it will be really, really hard. And I’m grateful in advance that you’re helping make it easier and safer.

    PS Yay Amelia! She is such a rockstar! 🙂

  5. I hope I will be able to give my kids the same confidence in their body. They start out with a good example, my self-image is better than how other people think I look 🙂 But in this world that is not always easy, and sometimes it is hard work to keep feeling great and awesome. Thanks for making me even more conscious about it!

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