I don't think it's possible to grow up without having body issues. I don't care what you look like, none of us are completely comfortable in our own skin. Between thinking we are too fat, too scrawny, not cute enough, too gangly, too whatever, it's hard to be like the way we look when we look in the mirror. It's why so many of us have eating disorders, or get obsessed with working out, building our bodies into muscle bound temples. It's the reason why plastic surgeons rake in the money.
There aren't a lot of characters who make it okay to like the way you look, regardless of what others think. The Ugly Duckling is one that comes to mind, but for me, that story was about how our bodies will change as we get older, how we grown into our looks. It's Sooki, the Saggy Baggy Elephant who is a better example of a character who comes to realize he is fine just the way he is.
Sooki doesn't know that he is supposed to look a different way, that is until a parrot makes fun of the way he looks. At first, the poor guy is heart broken. Nobody likes to be made fun of, and Sooki is no different in that regard. But as the book progresses, as he starts to see all the different body types that animals come in, he starts to realize that maybe his body is the way it's supposed to be. It's when he sees himself, reflected in others that look just like him, that he truly realizes he is beautiful the way he is.
I would like to say that I took Sooki's lesson to heart as a kid, but I was that typical scrawny guy who was always wanting to have more muscle, to look like what I thought a man was supposed to look like. As I got older, as my metabolism finally started to slow down, I had the opposite problem, I didn't like the way I looked as I started to gain a little weight. It's really within the last few years that I've started to understand that my body is my body. Yeah I can obsess about changing it, and I do think I can lose 10-15 pounds, but I'm pretty okay with the way I look. I'll never be model material, but I'm okay with that. Like Sooki, I think I'm perfect the way I am.
I loved The Little Golden Books, and its really only been since I've become an adult that I really appreciate the messages they reveal.
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