How My Mother Affected My Body Image

Like Mother, Like Daughter: How My Mom Unintentionally Affected My Body Image

"It's impossible to drown out the voice of someone you love."

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Paris Mercurio

Something that I have struggled with for a long time and recently become more aware of is my troubled relationship with food and with my body. I have dealt with issues relating to body image for at least the past 5 years. Ever since I first became aware of my body in comparison to others, I have struggled to accept myself the way I am. I very rarely share these thoughts with other people and the few people that I have told only know small bits of the whole reality. I keep these feelings to myself for many reasons. Primarily, I feel as though I am not allowed to dislike my body because I am generally thin. I know that if I told my friends how I felt, they wouldn't take me seriously about it. But the reality is, anyone at any weight can dislike their body, and everyone is allowed to feel how they feel about themselves regardless of their appearance.

Part of my problem has to do with my mother. When she was my age, she was a fitness fanatic, and she grew up to become a personal trainer. I have always felt at odds with her when it comes to health, fitness, and especially body image. She makes sure I remember that when she graduated high school, she weighed only 106 pounds. I remember the day I was weighed at the nurse's office during my sophomore year of high school and I found out that I had reached 107 pounds. I felt like I could never be as good as her, and I would always just let her down by not living up to her standards. I felt so awful about myself, and that was only the beginning. I've gained a lot of weight since then. Just a few months ago, she came with me to my doctor's checkup appointment. The nurse weighed me and I was mortified to find out that I was 118 pounds. When the nurse left the room, my mother very obviously craned her neck to check the number on the scale. "118 pounds," she said, and it sounded like she'd given up on me right then and there. "Well, weight fluctuates," I said, a desperate attempt to make an excuse for myself. Last time I had a checkup appointment, I was 111. "By 7 pounds, though," she replied. I wanted to sink into the floor. Then, to make matters worse, she got up on the scale and weighed herself. "110 pounds," she said loud enough to make sure I would hear. I wished that I could just disappear. My mom and I have different body types and I'm a little bit taller than her, but that never mattered in her book. As far as she's concerned, we'll always be in direct competition.

I struggle a lot with food. I find it very difficult to cook and eat food around my mom. When she's not around, I take the chance to bake treats and eat whatever junk I can, but it only ends up making me feel terrible about myself later on. I know that I need to work on my eating habits. Even though I've never binged, purged, or starved myself, I now know that the absence of extreme eating disorders does not mean I have a perfect relationship with food. I eat a lot of sugar because it brings me comfort in the moment, but I always feel the worst afterward. My family has a genetic history of diabetes and I know that I should be careful even now, developing healthy habits early on. I don't know why I do it. Sometimes, I feel like I just do it to get back at my mom in some weird way. As much as I want to impress her, it also feels sort of freeing to defy her, even in secret. But I hate feeling her watching eyes on me no matter what I'm wearing, seeing her judging face as she searches every inch of my body, calculating how much weight I must've gained recently. I hate walking out of the kitchen with a plate of food and hearing her say, "you're going to eat all of that?" I absolutely hate knowing that the times she's expressed being the proudest of me directly correlate with the times I've been the skinniest. But it all hurts so much that I usually don't have the courage to admit it to myself.

She has said so many times that she only wants the best for me, that she just wants me to feel happy with myself. But she doesn't realize that everything she does to supposedly make me feel better just makes me feel much, much worse. My mom claims that she gained a lot of weight during her freshman year of college and really struggled during that time. She says that she doesn't want me to ever have to feel the way she did. I want to tell her that in the process of trying to prevent that from happening to me in the future, she's made me feel that exact way for years. I sometimes worry that I'm exaggerating my mom's actions and projecting off of her. Her voice just feels like the outward expression of the voice inside my head that tells me I'm not good enough. It's so much harder to ignore that voice when it's not just inside, but also outside and attached to the person you love most in the world. I am quite literally an extension of my mother, and she is an extension of my deepest insecurities. I never wanted her to be, but she is. And it's impossible to drown out the voice of someone you love. I can't disconnect from that part of her, so I simply have to learn to coexist with it. I don't know how to get past it, but I want to try.

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