You'd Be So Pretty If...

How to teach your daughter to love her body—even when you don't love your own.

What the Dog Taught Me About Body Image

What 'cat' do you need to walk past?

Two weeks ago, my family adopted a new rescue dog. He's an absolutely adorable Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, and he's quickly become part of the family. At about 35 pounds, he's by no means a big dog, but he's not exactly tiny, either. Friendly and curious, he's interested in everyone and everything around him.

Especially our 12-year-old cat, who is not exactly known for his welcoming personality.

For days now, I've watched -- fascinated -- as this dog, easily four or five times the size of the cat, walks gingerly past him in the hallway. If the cat moves, the dog yelps and runs. If they're both approaching each other, the dog will take the long way around to avoid the cat.

Normally, I'm a peace-loving person who shuns violence. But I just want to tell the poor dog: "Hey, you're bigger than him. Give him one good growl and he won't menace you anymore."

But he won't.

And that's got me wondering -- how does my dog see himself? Does he see himself as small and weak? Or as someone who's got reason to be afraid? Given his rescue history, does he see himself as unloved and is he therefore unsure of his place in the family?

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When you write about a topic as often as I write about body image, certain truths emerge. I can say, without a doubt, that when it comes to body image, what the world sees doesn't really matter. It's what you see when you look in the mirror -- and what you think about who you are -- that shapes everything you do and say.

Everything.

What narrative plays in your head as you look in the mirror? Whose voice do you hear when you fall short of your health and fitness goals? What "cat" do you need to walk past in your life?

I suspect that someday soon, my dog will summon up his courage and walk past that cat. And when he does, maybe he'll realize that the one holding him back all along was him.

 

Dara Chadwick is the author of You'd Be So Pretty If… :Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don't Love Our Own.

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