There are two sides to every story. This is mine.
My parents never let me feel good about myself. They did so through a number of means, but one of the main tools that they used to keep me down was my weight; having a daughter who was overweight was embarrassing for them. And if I cried over any hurtful comment that they made, I was told that I was being “too thin-skinned”.
When I was five and getting ready for my first dance recital (tap), my parents made comments about how I had a “tummy” in my leotard. They were also happy to chime in later with other family members who made similar comments when they saw pictures of me from the recital. It made me cry.
When I was 11, at one of my father’s company picnics, one of his coworkers told me that I resembled an actress. I was so excited and told my mother, who immediately said, “Yeah, but [the actress] is a lot thinner than you are.” It made me cry.
One time, when I was 13 and ready to catch the bus for school, my mother grabbed my face and said, “You would be so pretty, if only you lost some weight” (I was a size 8). It made me cry.
I was 14 when I began to starve myself. After a few short months, I had lost weight and received much praise from my parents and other family members. Then I got sick—very sick. And my hair began to fall out. And my blood pressure was so low that I would pass out almost every time I stood up. My GP spent two hours with my mom and me discussing eating disorders, as he was deeply concerned over my rapid weight loss and accompanying health problems. When I later brought up this time period as an adult, my parents denied that it ever happened and told me that I was making it up all those years later for attention. I learned to never bring it up around them again. It made me cry.
In high school/college, I would be dressed up to go out with my friends, hair and makeup done, feeling confident, and one or both parents would regularly tell me that I looked fat in my clothes and needed to lose weight as I walked out the door. It made me cry.
Another time, when I was 19, I was wearing thongs that became slightly visible above my jeans. My father told me that I looked like a sumo wrestler (I was a size 10). He thought it was funny. It made me cry.
Throughout my adulthood, my parents always reminded me that because of my weight, I would never be respected by men, friends, or potential employers. I would never find a loving partner, I would never be healthy, I would never be successful. And they always claimed that they were “only trying to help me”. It made me cry.
I hated myself, because I believed everything that they told me. It made me cry.
But they were wrong. I DID find a loving partner. I DO have friends who respect me. I AM healthy. I AM successful. And after years of internalizing all of the horrible things that they said to me, I have finally broken free. Through long-term therapy and self-reflection, I have learned to love myself and have the confidence to only keep those in my life who value me for who I am rather than how I look.
I realize that in many ways, my parents were simply projecting their own, deep insecurities onto me. Their parents also placed too much value on physical appearance over the substance of one’s life. And through empathy, I have been able to forgive them. I also realize that there are times (as an adult) when I could have handled our disagreements with greater tact and avoided an escalation in conflict. I am a work-in-progress, and I am constantly trying to grow and become a better person. But they refuse to grow as people, and they have continued to demonstrate a total disregard for my feelings, experiences, and accomplishments, both past and present. As I have gotten older, their comments about my weight have become more infrequent, but their lack of respect for me as a person remains. Sadly, I know that if they were to read this, rather than reflecting on their own role in our damaged relationship, they will likely be fuming and claim that I am “playing the victim” and concocting stories to garner sympathy. Case in point.
The decision to distance yourself from immediate family members is a difficult one, and one that I did not take lightly. It saddens me to think that my parents will not be in my life for future milestones, holidays, birthdays, etc. But I finally had to let them go.
And I am no longer crying.