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To My Mum, Who Never Loved Her Body

I am 33 years old and I am watching you pick apart yourself in the dressing room mirror. When we started today, you promised we would have positive self-talk, but we’ve only made it to the first store and you are already complaining and comparing. I stare at my body weight recovered but my mind still struggles with the dysmorphia that I know you will never accept. As a child, I looked to you for acceptance and found that I started to mimic your behaviors. “Mum, does this make me look fat?” “Mum, I just need to lose a bit of weight.” Instead of assurance that I was beautiful, you often gave me feedback on what to improve on. You never doubted that I was beautiful, but you always ended with how I could just be slightly better.

I’ve never blamed my eating disorder on one thing. Eating disorders are often complex in their nature. I know my eating disorder didn’t stem from just a mother who didn’t love her body or said the wrong things. But it could’ve helped to have a woman to look up to who loved all her curves; who told her husband to accept that her body changes as she grows older; who only accepted positive comments and threw out all the dumpster fire body-shaming comments to the curb.

I found a picture the other day of you as a child, kissing the mirror with such confidence as children often do. I wondered who took that from you. Was it my father, who belittled you and made you feel that every pound you gained meant that he would love you less? Was it the media that fed you lies with each magazine that told you who was fat and who was skinny? Or was it before that? Was it your mother, and her mother before her? A pattern that goes back generations. A cycle of self-loathing and body shaming. I refuse to be a part of the cycle anymore.

If I could go back in time, I would tell generations of women in my family that their appearance doesn’t determine their worth. It is the things they do, the energy they put out into the world that is their strength. I wish you understood that your weight, the size of your pants, your stretch marks — it all doesn’t determine your worth. Your body will always be beautiful because it houses your soul.

We are in the dressing room and you say, “It’s terrible, getting old. I’m so overweight. I have stretch marks and I just need to lose some pounds.” I take a deep breath and I remind myself that I no longer need to take on your insecurities as my own. I look into the mirror and I see the strong woman I have become. I do my best to tell you that you are beautiful and I hope that someday you will find that in yourself when you look in the mirror.

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Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash