TARYN BRUMFITT: Poor self-image a 'scourge' on daughters' lives, says new ... trends now
In this story written for Daily Mail Australia, the 2023 Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt explains how she lives her body positive message - and it begins at home.
As she said in the speech marking her award on Wednesday night, negativity about our bodies begins in childhood, particularly for girls.
In the March 2018 article, Ms Brumfitt explains the early onset of body image problems is the reason she is happy for her children to see her naked at home:
'Just this morning my eight-year-old daughter watched me walk naked from the bathroom to my bedroom. Pointing at my tummy she asked: 'Mummy, why does that wobble so much?'
Taking my little girl's hand I rested it on my stomach and told her: 'That's where I grew you and your brothers.'
I explained that my stomach had to stretch to make room for each baby before shrinking back again after I gave birth. 'Going in and out like that makes your tummy wobble,' I added.
All my children — my husband Mathew and I have two sons, Oliver, 11, and Cruz, nine, as well as Mikaela — are used to seeing me walking around happy and comfortable in my own bare skin. But it's something I do mainly for my daughter's benefit. I know that, as a girl, it's especially important she sees me unclothed — it facilitates an ongoing dialogue between us about the female body, and the way it changes throughout the course of a woman's life.
In fact, I believe that every little girl should grow up seeing her mother naked on a regular basis.
Taryn Brumfitt accepts the 2023 Australian of the Year award at a ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra
Body image campaigner Taryn Brumfitt, 44, says all her children are used to seeing her naked
After all, what better starting point can there be for the kind of conversations that challenge the toxic stereotype of what a woman's supposed to look like?
Life can take its toll on our bodies — which is why I applaud BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire for revealing that nudity in her home is 'no big deal' even after her mastectomy. She says her two sons 'don't bat an eyelid' and that's as it should be.
It's not healthy for our children to grow up believing what they see on social media and in glossy magazines. In real life, women don't all have tiny waists and gravity-defying breasts.
A survey by childcare professionals found that girls experience body dissatisfaction from the age of eight and less than half of girls aged between ten and 17 like the way they look.
Poor self-image is a scourge on our daughters' lives. So as mothers we need to show them irrefutable evidence of body positivity from a very early age. The best way to do that is by letting them see our own bodies in their varied and naturally beautiful forms.
That's not to say we should turn every shower into a contrived life lesson by calling kids into the bathroom to have a good look.
2023 Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt with her then nine-year-old daughter Mikaela (pictured together)
Rather, that we shouldn't hide our bodies when we're wandering around the bedroom or stepping out of the bath. Nor should we be hyper-critical of our flaws in their company.
After all, children are like sponges — if a little girl grows up seeing her mum nonchalant about being seen nude in the home, it imprints upon her the important message that her mother is comfortable in her body, whatever its shape and size. So she can be, too.
'A mother represents a little girl's version of normal,' explains child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer. 'She learns more from observing and modelling her behaviour, and is more likely to copy that, than anything else.
'The very best thing a mother can do to promote good self-image in her daughter is to provide a happy, healthy and confident role model she can mimic. If she sees you confident in your skin, she'll naturally expect to grow up feeling the same way, too.'
'We weren't born into the world hating our bodies.
'This is something the world has taught us.
'Body shaming is a universal problem and we have been bullied and shamed into thinking our bodies are the problem.
'And it's working, because 70 per cent of Australian school children consider body image to be their number one concern.
'We're facing a paediatric health emergency with rates of suicide, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and steroid use related to body dissatisfaction soaring.
'We now know that young people with poor body image are 24 times more likely to be depressed and suffer from anxiety.
'There is so much despair in this nation for children and adults when it comes to what we think and how we feel about our bodies.
'Australia, it is not our life's purpose to be at war with our body.
Taryn Brumfitt is presented with the Australian of the Year award by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Canberra on Wednesday
'It's not our bodies that need to change; it's our perspective.
'Every adult is a role model to a child and I'm not here to shame you or make you feel bad. I'm here to ask you to shift the way you think.
'This is not about encouraging obesity; this is not what I do. And this issue is not simply about weight or size, it's about the way that we feel about all of ourselves — our skin colour, our height, our age, our gender, our unique selves — and it's learning to move, nourish, respect and enjoy our bodies because you can't look after something you don't love.
'Australia, we have 28,000 days on the planet if we're really lucky and we're not meant to spend them at war with our bodies.
'When you take your final breath on this earth, what thoughts will be going through your mind? What will you be thinking about?
'And no-one has ever said to me 'the size of their bum'.
'If we can embrace that perspective now while we are capable, breathing and able, and have the gratitude for our bodies we can all access a more joyous, rich and abundant life.
'There is a lot of work to do and it starts early and it starts with us being role models