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The Mother Magazine, Editorial

Issue 23, Jul/Aug 2007

"Why am I so ugly?", by Veronika Sophia Robinson

I learnt not to eat breakfast when I was in secondary school. Who has time for breakfast when you've a date with the mirror each morning? My mother would squeeze me a fresh orange juice so I had something in my tummy, but I certainly didn't have time to sit down and eat. This habit has stayed with me throughout adulthood. Eating breakfast isn't something that comes naturally to me.

Now my girls are in school I can't believe how much time they spend in front of the mirror in the mornings. We never had this before, when they were home-educated. Mirrors were for parading in front of with full dressing-up attire, not for examining facial features and brushing hair one hundred times.

Eliza's been asking me a lot, lately, "why am I so ugly?" I don't know if there are many other words that could break a mother's heart so easily. Throughout my pregnancies, and from the day both girls were born, I told them how beautiful they were. Both Paul and I have always affirmed their beauty, physical and spiritual, and honoured them for who they are, not what they do.

All these years of affirmations are being eroded by other voices. Both girls love school, and yet the insidious elements are creeping into our lives on a daily basis. I find myself breathing deeply, counting to ten and then throwing my hands up to the gods in exasperation, saying "now what?" I often feel like I'm in uncharted waters, completely at a loss as to how to affirm my daughters when the 'world' is giving them contrary messages. As parents, we're like a lone voice in the wilderness.

The messages the world gives me, as a mother, are along the lines of "it'll toughen 'em up for the 'real' world when they're adults". I always wonder what pain people are hiding when they regurgitate that myth. Who are they trying to convince?

In my garden I find that if seedlings and saplings are nurtured, nourished and accommodated according to their biological needs, they will flourish and grow ~ their blueprint is to thrive. If I was to provide hostile conditions in their growing environment, they might still grow, but they certainly wouldn't thrive as is their true nature. Common sense dictates that this is no way to raise seedlings.

What makes people think our children, as living creatures, are any different in design? How can crushing their souls toughen them up? My soul and being was knocked into shape through childhood bullying and insensitive teachers, and, I can say without doubt, that it hasn't prepared me for the real world, hasn't made me a better person. It never has a positive influence on our personal evolution, and to suggest otherwise is ignorance of our true nature ~ what it means to be divine beings.

Every adult I know who was bullied at school is emphatic that the wounds are still there within them and they are not the person they could have been as a result. Achieving our potential and being inspired to reach for the optimum comes through nurturing, not torture and tyranny.

It's nothing more than a collective duping, a dumbing down, that has us believing that toughening kids up is a good thing. Of course, no-one likes to be challenged on such core beliefs, as it threatens their whole way of being and living. It's far easier to live like sheep than to step aside and question cultural norms.

So, while my daughter questions her physical appearance and her emerging personality, based on jibes from school children, I wonder when she'll start doubting her inner beauty and strength, too.

When I questioned her as to why she hadn't shared with me, or a teacher, about one persistent bully, she replied that "the children lie, and say they didn't do anything, so there's no point in telling a teacher, because it makes me look like a liar."

Is this where we learn to hide our own truths? Does authenticity die when we don't see it mirrored in the lives of those who inhabit our environment? Do we retreat into our deepest, innermost self and then shrivel away?

I know that as Eliza looks into the mirror each morning, she's trying to see her self whole again ~ trying to recapture what I've always told her, rather than the broken mirror held up to her each day by peers.

Both my girls are of an age where they desire to grow away from me. This is natural ~ another milestone in our family's journey.

On my wedding day, in my late twenties, my mother revealed that she 'could finally stop worrying about me.' I was shocked. I'd left home twelve years earlier, as an independent sixteen year old. What had she been worrying about? And, now I'm a mother, with a different perspective, I'll bet she still worries about me when my life isn't going smoothly. We may stop carrying our children on hips, but we always carry them in our hearts.

As for my daughters, I want them to grow up and fully embrace the world, just as I have. My goal is not to protect them from life, as many people seem to fear. Rather, it is to have them emerge from childhood as strong, secure and well-loved as possible. The greater our self-love, the richer our experiences of love and life.

As parents, we need to remind our children to come back to themselves; to close their eyes and feel their beauty, strength and spirit. That coming back into themselves and listening to their own song is the best validation they'll ever have of their own beauty.

I know women, gorgeous women, who were given such negative messages about themselves as children. Either their hair was too red and curly or they got A instead of A+ in their school report. Some women had too many freckles, or skinny arms; others were more artistically orientated than mathematical, which led to parental disappointment. Personally, I can't imagine how a parent could imprint such prejudice on their child, and yet it happens the world over. "You talk too much." "You should have been a boy." "I hate your hair colour." "I don't know how you ended up in our family, you're not like us!" "I wish you were more like your sister." Recently, a lunch time supervisor at my daughters' school was reported to have said to one young student, "no wonder your mother hates you!" How on earth does a child become more of who they are with such invalidation?

Parenting is always about leading by example. All of us can be a living vision of what self-love in action looks like. It begins with self-appreciation and loving everything about yourself. The Breathmaker created all of us beautiful. Sadly, this isn't on the National Curriculum.

Every time we look outside ourselves for validation, or sense of self, through clothes, make-up, material possessions, companions, etc., we're not able to see who we really are.

Those who don't see our beauty, haven't seen it within themselves.

Walk in beauty today, knowing that it is impossible, by nature of your divine heritage, for you to be anything else.

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