And just like that, I stepped out of the fog.
Hands on the steering wheel, lingering at a red light. Gaze cast at my daughter Izzy in the passenger’s seat.
It was a typical day, really. We were driving to the movies. I’d just gotten re-married, felt on top of the world. But inside—in my relationship with me—I was tearing myself to shreds.
“Man, I feel so bloated today, Izzy. I hope I keep this weight off!”
I was obsessing, as was constant, about regaining the 20 pounds I’d just dropped for the wedding. This wasn’t the first time I found myself walking the diet tightrope. For decades, I’d wreaked havoc on my body yo-yo dieting, injecting appetite suppressors—the whole nine yards and then some.
Izzy looked at me, soft and clear. “Mom, when you put yourself down, it hurts my self-esteem.”
The wisdom in her words hit me like a jolt. Time practically froze. I saw myself, I saw her.
It was one of those rare, unplanned, sacred moments of total awareness, of witnessing the truth I was unintentionally nurturing in our lives.
How could I not have seen this before? How could I have let my own insecurities impact the person I love most and am divinely responsible for taking care of?
It was in that moment, shame coursing through my veins (“I’m the worst mom ever,”) that I stepped out of my constant body obsession.
This wasn’t just about me.
The essence of the shift was that I felt to my core that the pain and beauty could live together. I could make mistakes in my relationship with my daughter, and still be a nurturing, selfless, do-anything-for-you mother. I could be in love with life but not be living out my full potential.
I could witness and be with my own demons and know without a doubt that my heart is good.
With that permission to embrace light and dark in the same two arms, I got out a shovel and started digging.
The narrative in the mirror…I worked to rework it, moment to moment, word by word. Food? With some pain and that steadfastness, it became a source of nourishment instead of something to deprive myself around. Movement? Over time, a source of joy instead of a place to self-punish.
My relationships with myself, my daughter and life began to blossom.
And eventually, I fell into my passion: coaching other women to fall in love with their bodies and their lives, just like I did.
Was it easy? Not one bit. But it was beyond worth it.
I can now say with great gratitude that I’m a powerful role model for my daughter. She’s brave, grounded, and soulful, empowered in her own right.
With that, it’s my honor to share three key ways I’ve learned that we can help our daughters love themselves and their bodies:
1. Listen deeply instead of trying to fix the situation.
This one can feel counterintuitive. When our daughters voice their insecurities, it’s natural to jump into fixing mode: “What are you talking about? You’re beautiful!” or… “I wish I looked like you!” But as is true in any relationship, instead of projecting our own opinions onto the other person, it’s so healing to sit back, listen deep, and accept her where she is. Listening and accepting helps our kids understand that it’s okay to feel yucky, that it’ll pass. And accepting uncomfortable feelings is the root processing emotions healthfully.
2. Compliment yourself.
Imagine the impact it would have on your daughter to hear you say, “I’m so happy I did great in that interview,” or “I love how it feels to break into a dance moment, I feel so alive!” What a blessing to have a mom who sees the good in herself and humbly, generously and gracefully shows it.
3. Show your daughter that exercise can be fun and feel good instead of treating it like a chore.
When we remember that movement is a celebration of being alive, it becomes joyful instead of a chore to jump, sweat and run. We love to take family walking days—dogs and all—to exercise together and bond. You could…have a girls’ dance party in your living room. Play kickball together in the park. Take a mid-week hike. The goal is just to get the blood flowing and the sweat rolling, remaining present and childlike together.
I’d love to hear in the comments: what’s one way you empower and nurture your daughter? I can’t wait to read your thoughts.
Author: Alison Sherwood
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: mitzabot_goes_boom at Flickr