Remember the other day when I said it was my niece’s birthday? Well, I got to see her this weekend. Here she is:
AHHHHHH! How cute is she? On Saturday my two sisters, my niece, and I went out to do some bride’s maid dress shopping for my younger sister’s upcoming wedding. I think the jury is still out on whether or not my niece is getting a new dress for the occasion, but she wanted to try on a pretty dress of her own, since her mother and aunt looked like they were having so much fun.
As I’ve mentioned, my niece is 5. She’s really energetic, funny, cute as a button, and really sweet. She’s a beautiful child, inside and out, and as one of her aunts, I see it as a major responsibility to always help her see and feel how beautiful she is, no matter what. Of course I feel strongly that no child or any age or gender should every feel unworthy, unloved or unliked, or unattractive. But there’s something about having a child as one of your blood relations that amplifies that sentiment about one thousandfold.
Shopping trips, and the dressing room in particular, can be a dangerous place when it comes to body positivity and body confidence. Lighting, mirrors, and the wrong undergarments can conspire to transform our bodies into something they’re not. The stress of having to find the perfect item can sometimes push people to tears. I know I’ve ended more than a few shopping trips with a big old cry. And so to be honest, I was a little bit nervous about having my niece come along on our shopping trip. After all, young ears are impressionable, and the longer I can keep her from hearing women talk negatively about their bodies, the better. I grew up hearing women talk about diets, being “too fat”, and looking “awful” in pictures all the time. In fact, I’m not sure I had any role models for body confidence as I was growing up, and I know that had a profound effect on me. As a result, it’s really important to me that my niece’s experience of beauty, her body, and confidence are different.
All in all, we had a good trip. My sisters and I have always been supportive of each other and we were very positive about all the dresses we tried on. No one said anything about being too big for a certain size, or not liking a certain cut because of how it accentuated an “unattractive” body part. Instead, we complimented each other in all the dresses we tried on.
In the end, my older sister and I both chose dresses that we felt comfortable in–she got the one with the halter-style neck above (the dark purple one in the picture), and I got the strapless one with the ruffly bottom. The best part of everything, though, was that of the four of us, the person who was most complimentary and supportive was my niece. She loved every dress, and was effusive in her compliments. At this age, she sees inner and outer beauty in the people she loves, and not their flaws, and it makes her feel good to share what she sees with those people. I hope that as she grows up, she continues to see and share that beauty, and that she sees it in herself most of all.