Q: I have always felt fat. I don’t want my daughter to have the same body image issues yet I hear her saying she is fat. What should I do?
A: Young girls do not worry about their body shape until they get the message that their body, their beauty and their worth are all interrelated. Mothers, who focus on dieting and self-deprecating talk, teach their daughters to be the same. If a mother describes herself as disgusting, shameful, fat and ugly or any of the other words that are so commonly used by women to describe themselves, how will her daughter view herself? She will learn that a woman’s body risks becoming her greatest enemy.
When the role model to becoming a woman, is self-loathing, constantly dieting, beating herself up for not exercising, setting impossible goals and then disparaging her failing to meet those goals and generally setting the course of her entire life on a path doomed to failure, how will her female children view women? And how will her male children view women?
The worth of a woman is not in her body shape, size, or facial features. While body shape and facial qualities fade with time, the intelligence, compassion, integrity, caring and nurturing of a woman will remain. Fat is not a feeling. Happy, content, calm are. Anger, at injustice and evil, is a feeling. Sadness, because of loss or trauma, is a feeling. Grief is a feeling. When you become self-accepting, the role model you want to be will emerge. Treat yourself and your body with respect and do not allow anyone else to define who you should be or what you need to do to become acceptable.
As we age we become more vulnerable to experiencing loss, sometimes tragic and sometimes expected, but rarely welcomed. If you had the opportunity to have your loved ones back happy and alive, would the size of their thighs or the number on a scale matter? They would be perfect just as they were.
Teach your children that you are perfect as you are and that you love them just as they are. This means that you will model self-respect and loving behaviour so that they will develop confidence. If you do not know how to do this, self-esteem counselling may be warranted. Act like you are worth it because you are!