I’m standing in front of the steam covered bathroom mirror, naked, dripping wet and quite honestly ashamed of what’s looking back at me, when my tween daughter barges in. “I need a hair tie!” She couldn’t care less that I’m naked. Hell, she’s naked and comfortable with being in the buff.
Me, not so much.
She bounces in front of me, grabs a hair tie, blows me a kiss and is off. I’m left feeling perturbed. Not because she barged in — I’m a mom; I haven’t been alone in a bathroom for 15 years — but because I detest my naked body, and I don’t want her to know. Each morning it’s the same thing: me standing in front of the same mirror, trying to get clothes on as fast as I can so I don’t have to look at my naked body. Crazy, right? To me this is the norm; this is how I’ve lived my entire life, and I don’t tell anyone — especially not my daughter.
I’ve done everything in my power to raise a smart, independent daughter who has a healthy body image. But it hasn’t been easy, especially with my self-image being genuinely distorted. As far back as I can remember, no matter how skinny I was, it never seemed adequate; I’ve never looked fit enough. I’ve often thought I was a disgusting pig.
The obsession turned into anorexia and bulimia in my early twenties. It consumed me. Every minute of every day I spent thinking about food, how not to eat food and how to purge the food I did eat. These weren’t just random thoughts here and there; it was all-encompassing. Every second of every day.
The obsession takes away from your psyche, it twists your perception and lies to you. It controls you and everything you do. I don’t want my daughter to go through this. So I’ve done everything in my power to show her that loving her body is important — even if it means lying to her about how I feel about mine.
Look, I know I shouldn’t lie to my girl, that I should genuinely believe I’m beautiful, practice what-I-preach and all that bullsh*t. The issue isn’t that I don’t want to believe it — I do — I just don’t see it. I would do almost anything to be able to walk into a room without wondering how fat I must look or if people are judging me based on how I look. It’s not vanity; it’s pure anxiety that runs deeper than having a bad hair day. I’ve chosen to not leave the house on occasion because I can’t get past it.
It’s debilitating at times. I could be a size 2 and not feel comfortable enough to put on a bathing suit. I have been a size 2, and even then, I had a hard time with my body. Never good enough.
I don’t have an eating disorder any more. OK, technically, I will always have a disorder. But I no longer throw up what I eat, and I don’t starve myself. Still, the longterm effects of my eating disorder linger. My perception is not a reality; I’m not fat and know this with the utmost confidence, but I just can’t see it. So I lie to my daughter.
I will continue to lie to my daughter about how I feel about my body until I can genuinely say I love mine. I won’t jeopardize her self-confidence and the respect she has for herself — the respect I’ve helped build by not letting her see her mother have anxiety and panic attacks while looking at herself naked in the mirror.
I know I have a long way to go when it comes to my self-image. I have confidence I will get there eventually. But she doesn’t need to be dragged into it. I can’t possibly let her know I detest my body when I tell her every day not to worry about hers, that beauty is only skin deep. It’s difficult to raise a strong, independent girl as it is. More difficult is convincing myself, I am good enough.
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