I have struggled with body confidence issues for as long as I can remember. And I still struggle. I’m not sure exactly when or how it started; it seemed to have crept in slowly over time, and it has lingered until present day.
Growing up, I never really felt like I was “bigger” than anyone else (who cares, anyways), until people started saying things that made me think otherwise. Not that any of that even matters. It’s just that when you hear enough comments, you eventually start to believe that they are true.
Here is a small sample of the most ridiculous things that people have said to me over the years:
You look well-nutritioned. Like, well-fed? Ok…
You’re a big girl, eh Leigh? Um, I guess? Big compared to what?
You look like a figure skater from behind. Um, thanks?! Not sure what that means.
And my personal favourite: You look like you’d be good at rugby. Again, what does that even mean?!
I shit you not. Actual people said this to me. Right to my face! All joking aside, this is not ok for so many reasons and it needs to stop.
Since my daughter C was born, people have been telling me how “big” they think she is. What is wrong with people?! Now it starts the second a baby is born? “OMG she’s sooooo huge”, “She’s a good eater, isn’t she?”, “She’s really big for her age”, etc. Um, back off, my baby is perfect! People – complete strangers mostly –said rude and stupid shit to me so often, I started thinking that I was doing something wrong as a mother. Seriously. Of course I knew this wasn’t true at all, but again, when you hear these things on a daily basis, the doubt begins to creep in. I was on maternity leave for a year, and each time I left the house, it seemed that people would make silly comments. Being my sassy self, I started biting back at particularly hurtful and unfiltered words with sharp responses like “Know of any good baby diets?”, or “Ya, I think I’ll stop feeding her”. Oh, the glares I would get! I’m sure people weren’t trying to be hurtful; and they probably just meant that she was tall (which she is); some days I just couldn’t sit back silently. It definitely struck a chord with me, and I personalized each and every word. Commenting on appearance happens as often as talking about the weather. It’s just so unnecessary. The last thing my daughter, or anyone else, needs to repeatedly hear is how “big” she is, as if something is wrong with her.
I’ve been called “too sensitive” – and anyone that knows me well knows that I am very sensitive. And I’m unapologetic about it. Sorry, not sorry. I feel all the things, all the time. Perhaps the comments over the years have had more of impact on me than the average person. Perhaps I’m overreacting. Either way, I feel the way I feel.
Since having C, I’ve completely changed the way I think and speak about myself, and especially about my body. I’m not saying that I’m 100% comfortable in my own skin. I’m far from it, actually. It’s a major work in progress, especially with the changes that come after having a child. The difference now is that I don’t let it consume me as it once did.
Years ago, I remember reading an article and the author spoke about how she thought her mother was so beautiful and perfect, until her mother referred to herself as fat and ugly in front of her daughter. It was such a powerful message for me. Kids are like little sponges – they hear and absorb everything that we say. For this reason, I refuse to body shame or speak negatively about myself, especially in front of C. My issues are definitely not something that I want her to inherit from me. I don’t support body shaming or negative self-talk of any kind. Let’s stop with the comments about how you need to go on a diet, lose weight, tone up, target this, reduce that, “cheat” meals, cleanses, detoxes, guilty feelings from eating certain foods, that you are “too big”. JUST STOP. I’ve called people out for shaming themselves, and I’ll do it again. You are enough, just the way you are.
As a mother, I have a responsibility to teach my daughter some essential things: self-respect, self-love, and confidence, to name a few. It’s too heavy to think about sometimes. All I can do is set the best example for her that I can. And hope that she has a thicker skin than I did growing up. And teach her to ignore the many hurtful words that she will surely encounter throughout her life.