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I read an article written by a woman who inherited an eating disorder from her mother.
Perhaps genetics was in play—there is a lot of research to prove a biological cause for eating disorders. Absolutely, without a doubt, observation was in play.
She learned not to love herself from her mom. She learned self-hatred from her mom. She learned to turn toward disordered eating behaviors when life got hard—from her mom.
The author’s mother had no intention of passing on her eating disorder. In fact, she seemed like a caring, loving mom who only wanted the best for her daughter.
I hear the same story from clients all the time.
It breaks my heart every time.
As a mother, I am absolute resolved to teach my son about having a positive body image and loving sense of himself. To do so I must lead by example. 110 percent. All of the time. Every day.
Does that mean I am super happy with my body every day?
What it does mean—I know that my body does not determine my self-worth or my sense of self.
Days that start with my pre-baby pants not fitting are not worse than days in which my clothes slide on easily. They are simply a little slower to start because I have to chose a new outfit. No biggie.
If anything, I give myself a little extra love on those days. I will spend a few minutes looking down at my stomach and feeling love and gratitude for the amazing little boy my body grew, housed and brought into my life. I give thanks for my unique body for giving me the opportunity to be physically present in my unique life.
So in truth—I do love my body everyday.
The trick here is being honest about my feelings. Just as much as I want to teach my son to love his body, I want to teach him that it’s okay to have hard moments.
We will all have moments when we don’t feel comfortable in our body. Our dislike and discomfort are individual experiences but they are not special. Everyone has his or her own version of icky painful feelings.
The first noble truth of Buddhism teaches us that pain and suffering are realities in our lives.
The teachings go on to say that this pain is made worse by our craving towards pleasure and our aversion to pain. When we let go of our craving paired with an aversion to pain and get present in the here and now, our suffering lessens.
With practice we begin to be more mindful, more present and in less pain.
For a moment think back on a time when you were obsessing over the number on the scale or the reflection in the mirror. Remember how if felt to be have aversion to what you saw and deeply craved something else.
Did you feel good? Did the negative-self-talk and judgmental thoughts change the number on the dial or the image in the glass in that moment? Of course not. It couldn’t possibly.
All we do when we obsess over such things is increase our suffering and flip ourselves far away from the present moment. We put ourselves in more pain. Needlessly.
In such moments it can be very easy to miss noticing who is watching. Even if our children don’t see us in those moments they can feel it later. Children are amazingly perceptive.
The thing is—our children love us. They think we are amazing. If we teach them, even unintentionally, that we think we are awful it is confusing.
It teaches them that what they feel, think and believe is wrong.
If we want our children to love themselves, to be happy and healthy and at peace in their bodies we have to lead by example in a real way.
We must go deep.
We must let go of all of the beliefs that keep us from loving ourselves. We must heal. We must truly love ourselves and develop accepting, loving relationships with our bodies.
Because, the old adage of do as I say not as I do simply does not fly when it comes to instilling positive body image and self worth beliefs in our children.
Author: Katie Ashley
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock