Why My Mother's Personal Body-Shaming Ruined My Perception of Myself
I don't think I have lived a day without consciously thinking about my self image since I have been capable enough to do so. Be it that I'm too fat, have an ugly nose, my hair is too messy or I have too much acne, my thoughts regarding my own appearance have never been positive. Yet however much this issue contributes to my personality, I am positive that I was not born with the instinct to be self-conscious and self-hateful.
There is no way to tell from exactly where my absolute self-loathing was derived, but I imagine it was a lovely cocktail of misfortune that allowed me to make myself my own worst nightmare.
Today, it's easy to blame society for creating an ideal by consistently posting ads for diets and Photoshopping women to be impossibly thin. There was a part of me as a young girl that knew this played a very small part in my warped self-image alongside elementary school bullying. Being the "people pleaser" that I am, I feared being disliked and so went on a journey of yo-yo dieting in an attempt to look perfect in the eyes of everyone I crossed paths with.
I kept a mental note of every girl I saw regularly, if they were losing weight and if I could "out-skinny" them.
My most difficult challenger? My mother.
My hero and role model, my mom is an incredibly resilient woman, though she has (apparently) never seen this in herself. As a small child, I never thought of my mom as anything related to her physical appearance. She was just my mom, and that was all. As I grew older though, I observed little remarks that slipped out of her mouth and it was made clear that she hated her appearance. The most common distasteful comments were always about her weight, which led me to believe that I was supposed to hate my weight too. As a pre-teen, I watched my mom try every fad diet and herbal weight loss plan in the book, accompanied by several measuring tapes and a scale that glared at me every time I walked past her bedroom.
As I watched the weight fall off of my mother's body, I felt both confused and jealous. On one hand, she was losing weight rapidly and I wished I was able to do the same. On the other hand, her appearance was changing so drastically that I barely recognized her. Who was this woman that I called my mother? Her extreme weight loss made her seem happier in general, but it didn't stop her from continuing to body-shame herself daily.
Her personal hatred of her body as "fat" made me question her love for me. I was a fat girl, so did that mean she hated me too? I was convinced that I needed to change my body because I was afraid of my mother resenting me the way she did herself.
I wanted so badly to be perfect that I was okay with risking my personal health to look good. Initially, no changes were obvious and I weighed myself multiple times a day to ensure that I wasn't gaining. In the past, family members had made comments about my chubby features, but never my mother. It wasn't until I was severely underweight that my mom began telling me that my face looked gaunt and that I was "too skinny", in hopes that I would eat more and give up on my trek to perfection. But she never increased her portion sizes, so why should I?
After my hospitalization at 14, I forcibly regained the weight I had tried so desperately to lose, and my mom continued in her weight loss endeavours. My frustration was through the roof and I felt betrayed.
She was still allowed to lose weight, but I had to gain it? It was completely unfair.
However, even after I reached a healthy weight, the way in which I viewed my body never changed. I learned the hard way at 15 years old that whether I was 80lbs or 180lbs, I was going to hate my body.
Several years of therapy have allowed me to accept my body in knowing that it will constantly change, whether I am in control or not. My mother still makes remarks about herself that occasionally trigger my mind, and can cause all hell to break loose, but they also allow me to exercise my growing sense of self-love and body positivity.
We are told as women in a society that feeds on the newest fad diets and "quick tips to get thin" that the pretty boys with muscles will only love a thin girl, or that a low weight and success basically go hand in hand. The unrealistic ideals plastered across advertisements and countless magazine pages have caused many people to expect women to look perfect.
Well the joke's on them because as women, we are so incredibly imperfect, and THAT IS OKAY.