The Mighty Logo

Why I Lie to My Daughter About My Body Image

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

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.

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Originally published: April 14, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home