I remember it clearly. The day will always be etched in my mind. We were in the car together, as a family, headed to dinner. My husband was driving, holding my hand, while we talked and out of the blue my daughter says:
"I'm so fat"
It's fortunate I wasn't driving because I probably would have caused us to crash by my reaction. I whipped my head around to look at her. She was looking down at her belly, hunching forward slightly, and grabbing skin between her fingers.
"You are NOT fat," I told her.
"Yes I am, look! I can pinch my fat tummy."
"That's just skin from the way you are sitting. Everybody has that. Mommy has to cinch your pants to keep them from falling off. You are NOT fat. You are beautiful and we love you just the way you are."
How did she even know what fat meant? Why did she think she was fat?
Then it dawned on me.
How many times had she watched me get dressed, squeeze my belly, turn side to side in the mirror with a look of disgust on my face? How many times had I called myself fat in her presence? How many times had she innocently asked me if I had a baby in my tummy and I replied, "no, Mommy's just fat."
I was her role model and I had failed her.
I have struggled with my self-image since middle school. I suppose most girls going through puberty do too. I felt so different from my friends. I felt so much bigger compared to them because of the number on the tag of my pants.
I remember thinking I was too big when I was wearing a size 0 dress at our spring dance my freshman year of high school. My husband saw a picture from this dance and asked me if I had an eating disorder because he thought I looked so skinny.
I don't think I had an eating disorder. I feel like I've always enjoyed eating delicious foods. I do remember looking at a pro-anorexia website one day and deciding to give it a try, but quickly abandoned that idea come dinnertime.
During my freshman year, my friends and I would get a bowl of croutons and a bowl of ranch dressing to dip them in for lunch. Sometimes I would have a slice of pizza. I tell myself that I ate those things because I liked them but I wonder if, subconsciously, I was afraid to eat in front of my peers for fear of judgment.
Looking at pictures of myself from high school, I feel crazy for thinking I was fat. I looked amazing! I had let others influence my self-image.
I let the jerks that wrote "FATTY" on my car in mayonnaise dictate how I felt about myself.
I let the boys who said I looked like a whale in my cheerleading uniform dictate how I saw myself.
I'll be damned if I let my daughter's self-image be a reflection of my own self-consciousness. I will love myself. I will love my body. Every freckle. Every stretch mark. Every curve. I will teach her how to love herself too.
She is beautiful and nobody is going to dull her sparkle.