Brittney Johnson had an epiphany this week.
It happened in the dressing room at Target.
Johnson, who lives in Columbia, Mo., was trying on swimsuits. She had her young daughter, Payton, with her in the dressing room.
“I put on a suit, and then a second one, and a third one. I snapped pictures of them to send to my girlfriends and say ‘yes or no?!’ because girls are wired weird and that’s just what we do,” she wrote Monday in a Facebook post that has gone viral.
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“And then I snapped this one. See that sweet baby girl in the corner… I stopped for a second to see what she would say and when she turned to the mirror, she said ‘Wow I just love cheetah print! I think I look beautiful! Do you think I look beautiful too?!’… when it hit me that she only says what she hears. What she sees.”
Johnson felt the full weight of her mom power in that moment, that “split moment when I have the power to say ‘wow I have really gotten fat this year’ OR ‘wow I love this coral color on me!’ And those are the words burned into my daughter’s brain.”
Other people felt that, too. Her post has elicited nearly 280,000 responses and has been shared more than 150,000 times.
“You are beautiful, and thank you for reminding all of us that we are what are daughters see and follow every day,” one woman commented on the post.
“This is a lesson for all of us who struggle with body image. The messages we send ourselves, we send our daughters, too,” Maria Guido wrote about Johnson’s experience on the Scary Mommy blog. “And if you wouldn’t dare say something damaging to your daughter, why say that to yourself, anyway? If only we were as kind to ourselves as we are to our daughters, and took as much care not to diminish our worth.”
It was a moment a lot of people could relate to, Johnson told Parents magazine.
“How many moms go into a dressing room with a restless toddler only to catch them criticizing themselves?” she said.
“My daughter deserves to know that we’re all different but all still beautiful, and even on our bad days I think most moms want their kids to feel the same way. I’m an average girl, of average size, doing the best I can to be a good momma, and that is the same as just about any other momma I know.”
Johnson encouraged parents to lead by example and to be kind to themselves while doing it.
“I am not a size zero. I never will be. I have big thighs and a huge rump and for some reason the middle of my body gets more tan than the rest,” she wrote.
“But this body made a whole other body. I am strong. I am able. And I am happy.”