How to Improve Your Bad Body Image if Your Mother Hated Herself When You Were a Kid

If you grew up with a parent who struggled with self-esteem and body image issues, it can leave a lasting impact on how you perceive yourself. Here are four steps to help you boost your body image and break free from the shadow of your mother’s self-doubt.

1. Stop Taking Everyone’s Two Cents

I know that this step is much easier said than done. If you, like me, grew up in your mother’s shadow of body hatred and self-doubt, then as a result, you can often end up absorbing those comments and taking them to heart much more than anyone ever meant us to. And if that’s what we learned as kids, then it only makes sense that as we grew up, what others said about us and their opinions of us have defined our self-worth.

I want to be clear that I doubt that, in some cases, your parents may not have even said anything about your body being bad or not thin enough. But there is the fact that if your Mother didn’t like her own body, then her personal feelings about fatness most likely trickled down to you, and even if you didn’t want to buy into it or even if you didn’t fully understand what was happening at the time, those subtle and secretive messages dug their claws in deep.

So the first step to stopping bad body image in its tracks is to stop consenting to and accepting advice from other people that doesn’t serve you – regardless of whether it’s silence or loud advice. Make the decision to stop taking it in.

2. Start Enjoying the Food You Feed Yourself

There’s a really good chance that if you were a kid of a Mother who hated themselves and their body, they also had an unhealthy relationship with food. And those unhealthy rules that they followed about food most likely trickled down to you and grew into more rigid ideas and thoughts and patterns around food and when to eat it, how to eat it, where to eat it, how much to eat, etc.

For me, as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have Lunchables or Kool-Aid a majority of the time, and so when I was finally allowed to have them, I was a little rabid. It was like being set upon a feast after being starved for days. At least mentally. That’s called a scarcity mindset. And for me, the foods I wanted to eat became the most high value to me because I was so rarely allowed to eat them. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong at all with Lunchables or Kool-Aid. The problem here was that I wasn’t learning what foods I truly liked and appreciated because I was so focused on the foods being withheld from me.

I might have actually liked brussel sprouts (newsflash, I do) if they weren’t some of the only foods I was readily allowed to have as opposed to salivating for french fries, which were seen as only a “treat.”

This step focuses on allowing yourself the ability and the chance to actually try and maybe even enjoy the foods that you’re able to give yourself now as an adult. Fostering a relationship with the foods you eat that serve you fully will also begin to form a solid relationship with your body and break through the negative barriers that exist currently.

3. Say Goodbye to Guilt Around Food and Bad Body Image

This piggybacks onto Step Two above but also goes more deeply into the mindset associated with that relationship to food and your body. For Step Three, let’s make a conscious effort to stop food and body guilt in its tracks. What does that mean exactly?

This means that if you want to eat something that is greasy, salty, fatty, and delicious, then do it! But don’t give in to the mindset of sitting around in a pool of guilt afterward for doing so. That just leaves a sour taste in your mouth that won’t go away. Actively get used to putting aside your guilt about food and the consumption of it and instead let in more of the power of enjoying food and letting yourself have amazing, fun experiences right there at home in your body.

Furthermore, while you’re practicing putting food guilt aside, also put aside the feelings of guilt for existing and enjoying life in the body you’ve been given. You are one hundred percent allowed to exist in and be proud of your body and to enjoy life in your body.

Having the experience of distrust and a lack of excitement around your body being passed down from your Mother to you does not mean that you’re not allowed to break that cycle and, instead, learn to enjoy your body. Take that power back starting right now.

4. Start Showing Up for Your Feelings

Growing up in an environment where body image issues and body dissatisfaction were prevalent quite likely forced you to suppress any strong emotions about your body and physical existence. In this step, I’m calling on you to start truly showing up for those feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment, overlook, unfairness, and so many other big big big feelings that you had to shove into your little kid body. Now is the exact best moment to take a chance and show up for those feelings and take them out one at a time and look at them. Give your feelings the space that they deserve, and also give yourself the space to show up for yourself in the way that your Mother couldn’t/wouldn’t/wasn’t able to when you were younger.

Now it is your turn to give yourself the reparenting and the love that you readily deserved back then.

So, to wrap it up, If your mother’s negative self-image, self-talk, body hatred, or relationship with food has ever affected your own body image, now is the time to break through this cycle and start a new one. Put a stop to listening to external judgments, start embracing your own enjoyment of food, let go of the guilt you hold around food and your body, and show up for your emotions. These four steps will start you on a journey toward a more fulfilling and satisfying body image and self-trust.

Remember, you have every right to feel good about yourself and enjoy all of life’s moments in your body.

Thank YOU for being amazing!

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Thank you, friend!

– Nia