Trigger warning: discussion of disordered eating
I have horrible body image issues. It started in gym class when I was 12 — I was more developed than almost everyone in my class and became the butt of cruel jokes. One in particular put me into a downward spiral that I have never recovered from. My turn at kickball and a boy yelled, “Don’t make her run or she’ll get two black eyes.” Everyone laughed and my spirit died that day.
I have had every form of eating disorder you can imagine. Vomiting? Check. Restrictive eating? Yep. Excessive exercise? Uh-huh. Every diet pill or miracle drug? Absolutely. They have all given results, albeit temporary, but nothing has made it better. Nothing has taken away the pain that I have endured for nearly 30 years.
My eating and body issues have caused strain on every relationship I’ve ever had. No one could ever understand it or they didn’t want to deal with it. It’s not normal. Everyone has their own baggage, they don’t need to carry mine. My husband can’t fix me. Neither can my mother. Even counseling hasn’t given me a breakthrough. My body issues are still there every single day.
Things became extremely complicated when I gave birth to my daughter five years ago. She is my only girl, after three boys. I suddenly had a huge responsibility. I was taxed with raising a strong, independent, self-loving woman. Please don’t misunderstand, I was raised to be strong and independent and hard working. I am all of those things. I just have never mastered that confidence part. I’m wired to believe something else. That’s no one’s fault.
Still, I can’t let my daughter turn out like me. But how do I hide it? It consumes me. Every day I look in the mirror and hate what I see. My hair, my face, my body, the whole thing. But when I look at her, all I see is beauty.
She has the darkest, roundest, biggest brown eyes you’ve ever seen. Her cheeks are plump like apples and her lips are a perfect rosey pink. I keep her hair in a short bob with giant bows and people often remark at how darling she is. My heart could burst. And she is darling. She is perfect. She is confident. And with all that is in me, I want to make sure she stays that way.
So what do I do? How do I turn it off? That’s my biggest challenge. I have no idea. But I have to. I have to learn to keep it quiet. Particularly in front of her.
She’s my biggest challenge. I want her to respect her body and the changes that will happen one day. I want her to disregard the teasing and the mean kids in class. I want her to walk away with her head held high and know that she is unique and she is designed exactly as was intended. And hopefully, one day, through her confidence, she’ll teach me to do the same.