I turned 35 this month. I’m 35, with two amazing kids, a husband that is my best friend and a career that gives me incredible satisfaction. We are all healthy and our parents and siblings are healthy.
I literally could not ask for any more in my life.
Yet a few words and a pinch from my mom and, in a flash, all of my insecurities that go as far back as high school came flooding back.
My parents joined my husband and me and my two kids for dinner last night. We had already started eating.
My mom sat down and said, “Wah, don’t you think you’ve eaten enough, look at your stomach!” Then she reached over to pinch the flab that was protruding out of my stomach.
I angrily swatted her hand away which caused her to renew her efforts and grab an even bigger chunk of my fat.
I was livid and told her as much. She laughed it off and acted as if it wasn’t a big deal. And, in an effort to not make a scene and keep the peace, I let it go and we did end up having an enjoyable dinner.
It’s my mom and these are just the many things I’ve learned to accept and endure through the years.
But this morning, I woke up, and as I sat down to eat breakfast, the same toxic thoughts that consumed me when I was a teenager all came back.
I shouldn’t eat breakfast. I should lose weight. My stomach is too fat.
And then I snapped myself out of it. Because I could. Because I’m not an adolescent. Because I’m 35 and I gave birth to two beautiful children and I don’t give a f*ck what anyone else thinks about my body anymore.
But for a second I did.
And it struck me what an impact my mom’s words could have on me, even as an adult. How much WEIGHT we put in the words of those that we love, respect, and admire.
How those words can lift us up or tear us down.
Just as they tore me down when I was 16 years old.
I was still growing and developing and I had a tiny muffin top. I will never forget the day my mom first “playfully” told me that I was getting fat and had a buddha belly. She pinched my fat then too and laughed. I still remember the anger, shame and insecurity that swept over me.
What she should have said is: “Are you happy? Are you healthy? Yes? Good.” Conversation over. But I digress.
After that, I became self-conscious of my body when I hadn’t been before.
I started eating less. I started taking diet pills. I started seeing myself as fat even when reached a point where, at 5’3″, I only weighed 90lbs.
I told people who were concerned I was too thin – I have a high metabolism and my frame is naturally small. While this may actually be true, it was also a way for me to justify why I could or should lose more weight.
Reflecting back on my 19 year old self, when I was at my most skeletal, I didn’t realize I had a problem. I was able to acknowledge that my arms and legs looked thin but, to me, my stomach never looked good enough.
All from the careless words my mom said to me when I was 16 years old.
I am happy with the person I am now and I am comfortable with my body but my stomach will always be an insecurity. A burden that I will probably carry for the rest of my life.
Words matter and words have power. Especially when they are uttered by the people you love most. I know that my mom loves me and did not say those things to hurt me as much as she did.
But the point is, intent is not the only thing that matters when you speak with your children.
I have learned many, many valuable things from my mom. She has taught me to be a strong woman, independent thinker, and shown me what unconditional love and sacrifice truly means.
And while this is a lesson that has come through pain and hurt, it is a valuable lesson from my mom, nonetheless.
What I have learned is this: I should never say careless words, in jest or otherwise, that will tear my kids down. Everyone else in the world might do that but it should never, ever come from me.
P.S. I love my daughter’s little belly and I tell her so everyday.