It’s a long known phenomenon: parents shape us into the adults we are today, in many obvious, and not-so-obvious ways. From biology to upbringing, our parents are fundamental to our development and growth. As a woman, I dare to say that the mother-daughter relationship is the most potent, where it intersects with body image, and what I will delve into today.
I am a very lucky woman. Because I have my mom. Growing up, I often had friends tell me how lucky I was to have a mom like mine. She was laid back, trusted me, and treated me as a person, not a subordinate. That is not to say she was the “Cool-Mom” archetype a-la Amy Pohler in Mean Girls. No, she just thought that my sister and I were people who deserved to be treated as such. We were people under her jurisdiction, but people.
As an adult, I still have friend and acquaintances regularly tell me I am lucky to have my mom. I agree, and I am overjoyed to count her as one of my best friends, and biggest supporters.
As a child, I was fat. I have been fat my whole life. The first time I was made fun of for my size was Kindergarten. When I told my mom this, she did not gently tell me maybe I should put the cookie down. She didn’t tell me that I would “lose my baby-fat” as if that was the problem, and not the cruel child at school. No. She told me that I was beautiful. She said that some day, I would see that beauty, and so would other people.
As a teenager, I became very tall, and very fat. I wore a size 22 as a 16 year old. I was adult-woman-fat. I was smart, and had a great group of friends. My confidence was average considering how much shit I got about my size. My mom didn’t offer to sign me up for weigh watchers. She didn’t nudge me to the gym. We went on walks together. We cooked together. We swapped clothing. She told me of the tall, brawny handsome man I’d marry some day. And how tall and gorgeous my kids would be. She saw that I was fat. She loved me, and my fat.
Because of this, I don’t have a crazy bad relationship with food, or exercise, or her. I was able to bask in the new and wide world of body positivity and go HEY! There are people out there who ALSO think they are amazing, and ALSO love their fat bodies and ALSO want to wear bright and crazy clothing!
So maybe you’ve read this and thought, hey Toni, Lucky you… but my relationship with my mom isn’t like this at all. I am so sorry, and I know. I know there are too many women out there who learned to loath their bodies from the woman who made them. I want to give every single one of you a hug.
I tell my story to maybe give you hope. Hope that if someday, you have a daughter, you can unravel your own issues with food and bodies and clothing and self-image and see her for how beautiful she is. Tell her. Show her. Love your body, and teach her to love hers. There is hope for our daughters. Hope that we can pass on this love. That we can do better by them than was done by us.
A mom’s love can change the world. We can change the world.
Love yourself. And your Daughter will follow.