I don't have children but, at age forty, I realized that being a kid was hard enough without being reminded of my imperfections. If a child grows up in an abusive home, they learn to create negative voices in their own head, becoming their own worst critics, the low self-esteem bringing on depression. They want to withdraw from the world, finding a soothing place with drugs or some other substance. In my case, food.
I learned to overeat from my mother. I learned to hate myself and my body from her as well, because this is how she felt about herself. When I look at photos of her as a teenager, she looks happy. Her adult photos are another story. Extra weight, the sadness and anxiety in her eyes. A wife and mother by nineteen, married to a young man she didn't know as well as she thought she did. But Mom is tough; she could make the best of any situation, still can, and she chose to tough it out with my dad. She did a lot of the giving; she couldn't drink with Dad, the liquor made her sick, so she used food as a cushion for a lonely marriage, along with the boredom and frustration of being a wife and mother. She cooked and baked. For herself, my brothers, Dad, and me.
I have journaled about my struggles with food and weight since I was a teenager, and the circle keeps going around and around, because-possibly-I'm afraid that's there is no one of real value behind the issue. If I blame it all on fast food and my own lack of willpower, then I don't have to deal with the really unpleasant stuff, because that stuff might make me want to confront people and situations I fear, for whatever reasons. Losing my family's approval or hurting anyone's feelings is just the tip of the iceberg. Guilt is poison, but without it, some people think we would all become psychopaths, and when you don't like yourself, you can sometimes imagine the worst about yourself. Having faith in yourself is tough when you feel you have been shaped in failure. Lose thirty pounds, gain it back. Lose forty, gain it back. Lose seventy, gain it back and more. All before the age of twenty. I tried hard, but I was wired for failure. I lose about seventy pounds again ten years ago, and have yo-yo'd since. I'm getting older, and I don't want to be in the war anymore. As my body ages and metabolism slows, I will need to do twice as much exercise to keep the weight off. My issues with food and weight have influenced so many of my other decisions, such as pursuing an acting career or a long-term relationship, that I wonder what my life would have been like if I had not been shackled by self-loathing. But I can't go back. I learn as I go and I still struggle with forgiveness, including forgiving myself. This doesn't make me unique; it's hard to make that leap of faith, because there is no net or trampoline to land on. I have to forgive myself for the anger, selfishness, guilt, arrogance, laziness, and stubborness. I have to forgive myself for being human. That would lead to forgiving other people who I am certain don't deserve it. Or do they? There are some people who have really pissed me off, including relatives, but if I want to deserve forgiveness, then I guess it's only logical that I apply this belief to others. Oprah once said that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Oprah makes me feel like a vengeful, rage-filled stalker lunatic because I think she's wiser than I am. Certainly wealthier. But to get back to self-acceptance, I can always find something wrong; with myself and others, even objects, but love, and that includes self-love, can only exist inside change, not outside, because that area is a barren place where nothing can grow. Before I start getting maudlin and hugging my inner child, I understand that I now have the expectations of a forty year old adult, because so many things are becoming painfully obvious, but it's never too late to try to understand yourself and others. You might learn something important. :)