Body Dysmorphia is a complicated thing. It is a mental disorder that causes a person to see flaws that may not be there or emphasize something that doesn’t look perfect by the ridiculous beauty standards of society towards one’s body. I was taught to hate my body since I was thirteen years old, which means over 31 years of hatred in my life. This year I decided to change that because this pandemic brought out all the feelings!
I have a 13-year-old daughter. She is growing and maturing. Sadly, she compares her body and looks to Tik Tok influencers, her classmates, and even me. I constantly reassure her she is growing and this is not something to waste her thoughts on.
A few days ago, I went shopping with my 13-year-old daughter. We went into a popular athleisure clothing store. This was the first time, she was buying clothing from this store. I told her beforehand, she will need to try on many different styles because women’s pants are cut differently. I grabbed 3 different styles of pants for her and we walked toward the dressing room.
As a parent, we sometimes believe our kids have no say in the decisions they make because we feel we know better or want to be in control. But there are times, where we have to empower our children to understand consent. I asked her if she wanted me in the dressing room with her and she said yes. I turned my head when she undressed to give her privacy. I heard her gasp as she couldn’t pull up the pants. She told me she knew they were too tight. I said in a calm voice, “let me go out and get a different size.” We found a pair of pants she liked, bought them and we left. There were no tears or sadness. As we stood in line, she reached up to kiss and hug me and said, “Thank you.”
If this were me as a thirteen-year-old, this would have been my experience. I would have had no choice whether I could be alone in the dressing room or not. I would be watched as I undressed and comments would be made on how heavy my legs and butt looked or observations of how much weight I gained. If I had pants that were too tight, I would have received more criticism that I shouldn’t be that size and how I must be eating too much junk food. And it was possible, the shopping trip would end and I couldn’t get the pants in my size because I was told I didn’t deserve them since I was too fat.
Which experience sounds more pleasant? And I still have those dressing room experiences as an adult with that mental tape that plays in my head.
I decided a long time ago, that dressing room experiences would be different for my daughter, then what I experienced growing up. The same could be said for other experiences growing up.
As parents, we have a choice to parent the way we want to, not because it was the way our parents or caregivers parented. If you don’t want to spank your child because you got spanked and it traumatized you, they don’t. Discipline is important and necessary, but you can discipline a child in many more ways that don’t use violence or screaming. If you don’t want your child to grow up with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, create an environment of body neutrality and intuitive eating. If you are not a parent or your children have grown, this can apply to managing your own life. If your habits or thought process isn’t bring joy in your life, find the resources and help to figure it out because it can be different!