Learned from Mother to Be Self-Critical

By October 3, 2012

I am 29-years old and have always been seen as “in control,” “attractive,” “fun to be with,” etc. Inside I feel all of these things, but it is constantly shrouded with my obsession with food and my body. I grew up always hearing my (beautiful) mother say she was “too fat”, “getting old” or simply “gross”. When we went out together people always told me we looked exactly alike! I wonder, is my obsessing simply learned behavior and if so, what can I do to not think about literally everything I put in my mouth? I should add that I do not restrict myself from most foods, I exercise regularly and I am a healthy weight (143-148) for my height (5’7″). I feel like if I did not always think so much I could just feel free and not so angry with my body- but it is not coming so easily. I am a person that has accomplished a lot, why is this so difficult to tackle? – kl

Dear kl,

In your question, I hear very familiar characteristics that many of us who have struggled with weight and image issues share. It sounds like you expect a lot from yourself and you may be harder on yourself than anyone else is. Many of us can be very self-critical and we can learn this from our parents who may have been very hard on themselves, too. Many studies prove that moms are very influential in how daughter’s feel about themselves. Unknowingly they can model dangerous habits that they learned from others. And there is new research that shows many of our personality styles, like being perfectionist, can have a genetic link. The good news is we can learn new ways of thinking. You can begin to catch each negative message and replace it with a positive, more compassionate comment to yourself. You’re right, there are so many more valuable things to think about than what we eat. You deserve freedom from those “consuming” thoughts. I suggest you begin to read more books on this topic, and connect with others who are making these changes. And begin now to substitute critical thoughts with gentle and encouraging messages to yourself. It works!!