by Grace Akinsola
When you look in the mirror what do you see? I asked my eight year old daughter. "Um, someone funny, who likes chocolate milk, art and Anime," she replied, with a smile. My apprehension, now a little soothed, as she hadn't pointed out her physical appearance.
I wondered, at what stage in life had I begun to loathe and question my appearance and body? Did the voice of a boyfriend who came before, still linger in my mind? Did my overconsumption of certain magazines in my teens - with articles that ridiculed women about their weight - influence my thought pattern?
I remember how frail I was as a young girl and all the trouble my mother would go through, taking me to the doctors to find out why I was not eating and why I was not the recommended weight for my age. Did my insecurities stem from early childhood?
In my early teens, I would often wear several pairs of tights, under my school uniform skirt, as my legs were stick thin - just like Olive - from Popeye - one friend would imply.
In my early twenties I thought I was relatively happy with my body. The filling out stage was upon me, but the filling - per se, was not. My breasts certainly weren't large enough, in my opinion. My friends would fill out the top half of their dresses - impressively - and I would resort to enhancing my chest area with tissue, socks or push up pads.
Where was I getting the continued messaging that I was not enough? That I was less than - because I did not resemble the shapes of women emblazoned on the front covers of magazines. The women chosen didn't depict real womanhood or the women I knew in real life.
In my thirties, after having my daughter, things began to shift in my mind. I didn't want to raise a young girl who would enter womanhood with pressing doubts about her weight and appearance - or have her struggle with thoughts that she wasn't enough. I needed to change my own mindset as well as begin to shape hers, positively.
The media continue to distort our self-image and self-value by displaying unrealistic body and beauty images in magazines, catwalks and on the television. They continuously make us hate and question our body types, breast size, attractiveness and more - which are all measured by impossible beauty standards.
Standards that are in place to ensure we feel negativity towards ourselves and continue to buy what ever product they're pushing.
We definitely owe the next generation a future that is not based on body shape, weight, height and outward appearance. A depiction of real womanhood - encapsulated by an array of races, body shapes, heights, skin textures and so on.
After almost forty years, I now know that the opinions of others - that I used to desperately seek, should never have overshadowed my opinion of myself.
We are all uniquely and beautifully created to stand out and be different. Individualism is an absolutely beautiful gift. If we embrace that more - we can surely head towards a future of better self-image and self-love.