A couple days ago I realized something that broke my brain; I realized that my truth was a lie and the origin of my self-doubt originates from the most unlikely source, my mom.Let that settle on you for a minute. I believe I am collateral damage from her own childhood.
When I was little, I thought my mom was the most beautiful person in the world. She was thin and pretty with big blue eyes and dark brown hair. She’s petite and had just the right amount of curves and perfect alabaster skin.
I’ve always genuinely blamed my dad for that remark when I was 12 about needing to run more as being the catalyst for my body image issues. But I think his innocuous comment fell so hard on my tiny ears because of years of hearing my mom not love herself; judging herself. To me, she was perfection. She was my standard and when my dad said that I needed to run, I felt that I didn’t meet that standard.
I developed body dysmorphia and eating disorders. It was nothing they intentionally did. It was a case of what I saw not what I heard. I only realized that this morning.
While visiting my mom in Chicago I was telling her about my most recent post about not letting what other people think of me matter. I was proud not only of my breakthrough and shift in thinking but because it seems to be resonating positively with so many other women. I was happy. I felt like part of the change. I was the glass ¾ full girl.
I was feeling amazing and proud of myself and as I was telling her how liberating it felt to realize not only does it not matter what other people think about how I look, what I wear or how silly I behave with my children, right in the middle of all of that joy, it came.
“Yes, but there’s still always that one person, Debi, who.is.judging.YOU!”
Like a kick to the gut it knocked me unstable because it hurt. For a minute, I wavered because if my mom is telling me someone is judging me… is someone judging me? Is it her? If it’s her, why? Isn’t she supposed to think I’m perfect like I’ve always thought she was?
Now, before you go off half-cocked and judge my mom, you should know, she is a very sweet woman. Any of my friends who have met her in person, adore her. She would never intentionally be as blunt or offensive as I am. But apparently, my filter is different for the people that I love versus the general public. Maybe she feels freer to say whatever pops into her mind to those she loves the most.
If I’m being completely honest with you, it pissed me off too. Why would you tell someone who has been so dysfunctional for so long and has finally shifted her way of thinking that someone is always judging? Why not keep it to yourself, if that’s what you believe, and let your child be happy. Just be happy that she believes they are not. But knowing my mom, she never thought about how I would hear it. She never considered my dysfunction into part of the equation.
Then I realized that it’s not me, it’s her. She’s insecure because of how she was raised and no matter how beautiful she’s always been to me or how beautiful she’s been in the world, she’s been judging herself harshly and maybe others, even if she doesn’t realize it. Then, I got scared because what if I’m doing that to my daughters and don’t even realize it? I don’t think I am but I’m pretty sure that she didn’t either.
My mom doesn’t leave the house without perfect hair and makeup and everything covered that she deems imperfect but I never realized what was at the root of it. I was like that a long time ago, when I was deep in the throes of anorexia. Since having daughters, I’ve learned to let that go… mostly. Hey, I never claimed to be perfect but I am definitely actively working on the letting things go part.
Yes, I’ve tugged at my clothes and critiqued every picture I’ve ever been in but I do go out in public without make-up and lots of days my hair is in a hair clip and I’ve been shamelessly rocking my bathing suit this summer. My pedicure is often chipped and I’m cool with that, especially now but my mom never leaves the house without everything perfect. What I do know is that our mothers’ words bear weight on our souls and that morning, hers was like a boot on my throat and it hurt but then I just had to remind myself that it’s not me… it’s her. Her beliefs are not my reality. Her dysfunction is not my destiny.
All I know is that our mothers’ words bear weight on our souls and that morning, hers was like a boot on my throat and it hurt but then I just had to remind myself that it’s not me… it’s her. Her beliefs are not my reality. Her dysfunction is not my destiny as mine is not hers. We are two separate beings, my mother and I. We do not have to carry one another’s burdens. All we have to do is love one another unconditionally.
Then, I put my hurt feelings aside because I know she wouldn’t ever try to hurt me on purpose and I felt bad for her because who hurt her so badly that she thinks that way? Did her parents judge her? Did they make her feel insecure and that their love was conditional? Who wounded her? I want to break kneecaps. I don’t know much about her childhood but I know someone hurt her terribly to make her believe everyone is judging her. Then it made me really sad that this is her reality.
I’m trying to teach my girls that people aren’t judging us because, honestly, I think people are too busy to give a shit about what we are doing. I know I’m too busy to really care about how other’s dress at the pool or whether or not they put on make-up before they go grocery shopping. And if anyone does have a passing judgmental thought, who cares? A stranger’s opinion of me doesn’t matter to me. What counts is our opinion of ourselves because if we can’t love ourselves how can we expect anyone else to?
I am not my mother and she is not me and I can’t keep living in her perception of the truth. I can only live mine.
And my truth is I’m happy. Comparing ourselves to our mothers will never be good because, in the end, we will fall short of the woman we’ve built her to be in our mind.