Why I Stopped Criticizing Myself in Front of My Kids

We are too quick to call ourselves “fat," "ugly," or “stupid.” 

woman holding fat on stomach

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

I'm no stranger to feeling crappy about myself and the way I look. I am a woman after all and perfect body image is shoved down the female throat of the world at such a young age it's a wonder we even feel okay about going out in public.

On the mornings I wake up after tossing and turning the night before, or I'm feeling low on energy, I look in the mirror and sometimes don't recognize the tired soul starting back at me. Those are the worst days.

I'm bloated.

Where did these lines come from?

The bags under my eyes have never been this bad.

I hate the way I look.

Nothing feels right on my body.

Then you get into this argument with yourself because you know it's shallow and vain and it shouldn't matter but it does. I don't care who you are, you've had this fight with yourself.

The other morning, I caught myself before blurted out in front of my three kids how ugly I felt—I was coming down with a cold and my head felt like it was going to explode. I had a runny nose and puffy eyes I didn't even care about covering up. It was humid, and my hair was frizzy. My favorite jeans hurt my skin so I put on sweatpants. But alas, we had stuff to do and places to be, and I had to show up despite feeling like I wanted to stay in swaddles on the sofa all day and hide my ugliness.

But as soon as the words hovered in my mouth, I stopped. A long time ago I had made a promise to myself and my children after making a huge mistake in front of my young daughter.

It was after my third son was born. I'd gained quite a bit of weight and was on the floor combing my daughter's hair in front of the mirror. I poked at my stomach, let out a deep sigh and said, “Mommy needs to get rid of this," I said as I grabbed handfuls of myself.

My two-year-old daughter looked down at her belly and grabbed at her precious baby fat and looked up at me. I hadn't realized the weight of my words until they'd left my narrow-minded lips.

What was I teaching her? And what had I been teaching my older son all the times I was vocal about how I felt "ugly" or "stupid" if I couldn't figure something out?

They might just be one-liners, but when we deem ourselves dumb or stupid for not being able to figure out how our new phone works, we are showing our kids if they don't know how to do everything they are dumb and stupid themselves.

If we've put on a few pounds and our favorite outfit doesn't fit it can turn our mood sour so quickly and it's a natural reaction to let how dissatisfied we are with ourselves flow out our mouths as casually as we ask our kids what they want for lunch.

When we use that kind of language about ourselves in front of our kids, it teaches them it's okay for them to think of, and talk to, themselves in the same way.

And it's not okay.

Would you ever tell your son he was fat because his pants stopped fitting?

 

If your daughter was struggling with math homework, would you all her stupid?

No, you wouldn't. Because it's mean and horrible and can damage their self-esteem. But we do it to ourselves all the time.

When our kids reach the teen years, it's easy to become a bit more relaxed and show our frustration around these situations because they are older and we feel we can be more open with them, which we can, but not in this self-destructive way.

It's never okay to belittle yourself in front of your children—they are listening. And just because our teens don't respond the same way they did when they were younger, and we have many moments when we're positive they don't listen to a thing we say, they do.

We teach them to treat others how they'd like to be treated very early on. But what we also need to be doing is showing them how to treat themselves. That means the negative self-talk in front of them, no matter how small or seemingly funny, needs to stop.

If we aren't practicing forgiving ourselves and taking the time to learn something new before saying what an idiot we are, and showing them how to practice a little grace by giving it to ourselves in front of them, we are leading by example and it's a bad one. Our kids deserve more and so do we.

So, even on my worst days I will never blurt out how ugly or fat I feel. And as soon as I think about doing it to blow off some steam, I think about my 10-year-old's face looking back at me that day in front of the mirror while she grabbed her precious belly.