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Rebecca Gallagher Headshot

I Wasn't Supposed to Call Myself Fat

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As a mother to a teen daughter, one of my jobs is to build her self worth and body image up to a positive standard.

I need to be selective on how I describe myself. I shouldn't say I'm fat or chubby or I don't like my thighs. I'm supposed to be all positive and empowering so she feels that way about her body, too. At least that's what I'm reading.

Oops. I failed.

I didn't get this memo a few years ago and I seem to have already used these words with great frequency to describe myself. Now, I'm worried what lasting effect this will have on her.

But what was I to do as we stood side by side in a mirror? Her with her age 14, perfectly shaped size 0 body and me with my dimpled, rumply size 8 frame? I joke about my pizza dough belly, I make fun of my Bingo flappy arms. We crack up that my booty is 'twerk' worthy and has enough jelly to make Beyonce jealous.

Should I panic? Did I completely mess up?

I'm in a crossroads of self-loathing and trying to love myself to show beauty in her eyes.

It's really hard. I know that there are others struggling with this too. That maybe your size 14 body isn't what you bargained for after 3 kids and why do you feel so ugly in all of your clothes? Am I right?

But you catch yourself in front of your daughter, and you don't want to focus on the looks. You want to focus on the strength and the value of what your body has to offer.

When they're six it's a lot easier to gloss it over than when they're 14!

My daughter is well beyond her years. She is an old soul with sophistication some 20-year-olds don't have. She isn't naive to the world and the way the media displays women, the way girls hate on themselves in her class enough to self-harm. She is no dummy to the trials of 2014 and what it means to be a woman.

So my internal dialogue is a constant argument of trying to keep it real for her and trying to protect her. I try on last year's shorts that I pull out of the summer clothes in storage. They don't fit. Hmmm. It must be the hormones, the thyroid, the love of baked things. I keep from crying. I hate when things don't fit.

She tries on last year's shorts, and they don't fit because she is still a growing girl. She sprouted two inches this year and probably went up a pant size. She starts to worry when things don't fit her that it's the same as why things don't fit me. I assure her that she will grow several more sizes until she's probably 18 and to not be surprised if every 6 months she can't zip her jeans. It's called GROWING!

We went to the store together the other day and I found a sun dress that was this beautiful emerald green color. I bought it without trying it on since we were short on time. I was excited to see how it would fit and knew the color would bring out my eyes.

I put it on that night and wasn't as thrilled with what I saw in my reflection as I had hoped. I immediately went to my chubby thick arms and how I felt they ruined how I looked in the dress. My daughter stopped by my bathroom and saw me in the dress. She exclaimed, "Oh that is so pretty on you!"

"Really?" I replied. "It doesn't accentuate my thick arms?"

"No mom. It's really pretty, and it's a beautiful color for you."

Bless her heart! I felt that the teenage girl stamp of approval was just what I needed. She would have told me if it didn't look right. And hearing her honest appraisal helped me give myself a virtual smack of reason to my head.

Here, I'm supposed to fill my dialogue with positive body talk, and she's doing it for me. See? I have failed her. But clearly, she has not failed me.

And, thankfully, I don't think she sees it as a failure on my part. She just knows I'm human. I'm just a woman trying my best. One day she will be that, too. I hope she remembers our conversations and when, one day, her daughter looks at her post child-bearing body, she can also laugh, praise and know exactly where it comes from.

This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Moments Not Milestones, entitled 'The Moment I Stopped Being Perfect.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here.