Yesterday I posted a very personal post, in Hebrew, sharing something special that happened to me. Although I had debated whether to put it out there, the post actually sparked the most amazing, loving reactions. I was asked to translate it, and decided to do so.
If it helps even one woman, mother, daughter…then it was definitely worth the effort.
The incident took place over the past weekend. Yet when I think back, to connect the dots, I realized it actually started some decades ago, back in my own pre-adolescent years.
(Pre-adolescence. Good times.)
This past Friday, one of our older daughters came home in a bad mood. This itself is not out of the ordinary; she's been showing signs of pre-adolescence herself for some time. We usually just give her space and she eventually snaps out of it.
That day though, our other daughter hinted to us that apparently something had happened at school.
It was a typical Friday. In between the whirlwind of meals-cooking-cleaning-laundry-showering-packing-driving to where we would be spending the Sabbath, we tried to coax the issue out of sulky daughter. But she refused to open up. After a while, it seemed to have blown over and we forgot about the issue.
Saturday night. I attended a women's lecture in Herzliya by the stunning Marina Gurovich, entitled "Whole but not Perfect.”
She spoke about the connection between your self-image, self-confidence and your looks, trying to release us from the imaginary beauty ideal sold to us by the media. She presented 100 years of "perfect women," each representing the "ideal woman"- the definition of which changed just about every decade.
And of course the message we get from the media is that every woman should dream and aspire to look like this imaginary "ideal woman." (By the way, we all know that today this ideal is far from any semblance of reality - it's one big Photoshop fantasy).
Marina spoke of a simple idea that resonated with me deeply.
She said: there is NO SUCH THING as "ideal beauty."
There is no such thing as "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
There is only: "I AM BEAUTIFUL."
That's it, the secret of beauty. That's all, folks. A woman who feels she is beautiful - is really beautiful. True beauty emanates from the inside out.
On Sunday our little moper came back from school and immediately went to lay down on the couch. This time, her sister told us what had happened: it turns out that there were girls in the class calling our daughter fat.
When I heard that, the world went black. My heart fell to the floor.
Racing before my eyes were 20 years of mostly self-inflicted trauma. Years that to this day I have not totally recovered from. Years of dieting - calorie counting - weight loss - weight gain - dieticians - portion control - hunger - eating disorders - an endless cycle of shame - depression - self hatred - and more.
God, I said to myself.
What do I DO? How do I save my sweet, beautiful, innocent daughter from this soul-sucking vortex? Is she, too, doomed to endless years of suffering?? I wanted to cry.
I have sensed for many years that weight gain at its core is not related to food consumption. It has nothing to do with counting calories or portion control. Weight gain is a direct result of an INTERNAL struggle. I somehow knew that to start a discussion about "fat," "diet," "calories," etc. would be very, very wrong and destructive.
Some instinct inside me knew this. But on the surface, I felt I did not have the tools to handle the problem, and I had no idea how to address this situation. To save my daughters. My beautiful, perfect daughters.
I was so scared.
And suddenly - out of the darkness - I saw the answer.
All at once. Clear as day. Sparked by this situation, through my daughter, through HER struggle.
Suddenly, I remembered Marina's message.
Like a bolt of lightning, I realized a deep truth:
Mothers who talk to their children about diets, even with the best intentions, trying to help their them be "normal," be popular, stop the teasing etc. - what message are they conveying? What does the CHILD hear?? She hears ONE message, loud and clear. She hears one of the most destructive messages a young girl could hear. "Only when you're thin will you be beautiful, will you be loved, will you be accepted, will you be worth anything."
From there it's a short hop, skip and a jump into the vast world of eating disorders. Girls will do anything, ANYTHING to be loved, accepted, valued.
I suddenly realized that I was holding a great treasure. I was holding the answer that I had been looking for most of my life.
I realized I now HAD the tools. I could right the wrongs. I could start something new and end this destructive cycle of diet obsession.
I called my two girls over for a talk and told them about Marina's lecture. Then I gave them two messages. One to give them inner, deep, everlasting, unshakable self-love. And one to give them tools of confidence for life. I repeated these messages with them 10 times, explaining them in different ways. And, please God, I will continue to drill them into their heads, until they become second nature.
All women, without exception, ALL women are beautiful. Every woman in the world. Every. Single. Woman. In the world.
Deeper still: You are only really beautiful if YOU think you're beautiful. If deep down you think you're ugly, then even if you're a supermodel, you'll still project that you're ugly.
A person who mocks others is inherently flawed. There is some hurt inside of them. There is something wrong with them. You have to feel sorry for them, you have to feel compassion and try to help them if possible.
My dear daughters, you are PRINCESSES. You are the daughters of the King of the universe, of the Creator and Ruler of the world. You have inherent perfection, you are inherently loved.
If someone were to laugh at you saying your nose is green - would you be hurt? Would you be offended and sad? Of course not. You would think there's something a bit cuckoo about that person. You'd feel sorry for them. And that's how you should react if you're called any form of ugly.
Rinse and repeat, repeat again and again, and with the help of God, I wish for my children that I am able to help them reach a point where their immediate association is this: if someone is cruel to them, instead of being hurt, they will see that there before them stands a flawed and vulnerable human being. And my children will reach out to help. THEM.
This is what I said. Teaching them, loving them, lifting them up.
Suddenly, she smiled. My sweet, sweet daughter.
And I saw, clear as day.
I saw it on her face. I saw that she GOT it.
I saw that she felt, from within herself.
She felt. Beautiful.