Self-Loathing Sin Bank

Vacation Rerun

by Tracee Sioux

I am going to put a self-loathing sin piggy-bank (pardon the pun) on my kitchen table.

Naomi Wolf has a great quote which is taped on my bathroom mirror, “The mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem.”

I accept this as a self-evident truth. In psychology circles I think they call it “mirroring” when our children look at us as a sort of reflection of themselves. A practical example would be, “my mother thinks she’s fat, therefore I too am fat.” A mother who is not actually fat, but repeatedly calls herself fat must then bear the responsibility when her daughter adopts an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia or overeating.
More posts on Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty
Beauty & Reality
Self-Loathing Sin Bank
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Pink Hair Fiasco
Pink Hair Fiasco Take 2
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The child’s perception of herself is obviously flawed using this mirroring if she looks at her thin body in the mirror and sees fat. And it breaks any mother’s heart when she sees her child look at her own beautiful self with disdain, criticism or self-loathing. I think God put in us an inherent ability to see goodness and beauty in our children, whether or not they are actually beautiful.

However, I believe the function of mirroring can be done reversely with what is sometimes painful accuracy. I think when my daughter looks at her legs and says, “my legs are fat” she’s telling me in a very loud voice that this is a true reflection of how she thinks I feel about my own body image.

When I had my first baby I never lost the weight because I figured I would just have to lose it after the second one. On the second one I was in my 30s and my metabolism had slowed down and I was nearing the dreaded 200 pound mark. When I realized I was going to hit 200 in a couple of months and the doctor had me on a heart monitor because of dizzy spells I decided I had to make a complete and total lifestyle change. (My heart, it turns out is just fine.) The whole family was getting chubby and I decided we had to eat healthier and get more active rather than living the lifestyle of a Kobe calf (Tajima-ushi cattle reportedly receive regular massages with Japanese rice wine and are fed hops for a well-marbled texture and tenderness).

The weight is coming off at a slow and steady rate and the muscle is bulking up and I’ve never felt better. This is obviously a great example to my daughter, who is now 5 and, according to her pediatrician, in the “red zone” for her BMI (body mass index).

Except for one thing. The thinner I get, the more she seems to be focusing on her own perceived flaws. The other day she said she hated her legs because they were fat.

OUCH!! Like a knife in the gut I realized that I talk about my body in a negative way to motivate myself to get to the gym. Not only that, but I use self-deprecating humor to make people laugh and to illustrate that I have the ability to laugh at myself.

When speaking directly to her I use all the healthy phrases like suggesting she eat a healthy snack. Or explain that we’re eating vegetables and fish for dinner because it’s a healthier choice. Directly to her I am proactive about explaining that we’re off to the gym so that I can be stronger and have a healthier heart.

But to others. . . .

She has heard me call myself Kobe Beef. (Yes, I’m a fan of the esoteric references to amuse myself.) She has also heard me complain about buying the “largest girdle underwear they make, only to find out it was too small.” I have bragged about going down in pants sizes, “it’s taken me 8 freaking months to make it down to a size 12.” I have touted the fact that I have lost “20 pounds of pure fat.” I have complained about how I simply can’t find shirts long enough to cover my stomach, “which wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t so fat and no one needs to see blubber hanging out of my clothes.” I have touted my measurements, “losing 15 inches of ugly fat, back fat, flabby boob fat, thigh fat, belly fat.” She’s has heard me complain about my clothes that make me “look like a total cow.” I have complained that it’s going to take me “40 more weeks to get rid of my fat at the rate of a pound a week.” She’s heard me say how surprised I am that “my neck even lost an inch of fat allowing me to wear my pearl choker again.”

The thing is, I don’t loath my self or my body. I wasn’t even aware of how fat I was until I started seeing positive changes in my body. I still dream of myself as thin. I still think of myself as “the thin cute blond” one when I’m with my girlfriends. I have been blind to my own fat. Heck, I’m fairly sure my daughter was blind to my fat. I don’t look in the mirror and hate what I see, because I don’t even see what’s really there – I literally look in the mirror and see myself as I was in college.

Yet, I realize that my daughter can’t determine the difference between how I feel about my body and what I say about my body. To her, she will only internalize that I say I feel fat and that I say I hate my body. She only hears me criticize my looks, my self. And that is what is inevitably effecting how she will see herself for the rest of her life.

It’s tragic really. It breaks my heart. It feels like damage that can’t be reversed. It makes me loath myself.

My vow is to change this negative behavior. It is not worth a few laughs for the self-deprecating humor. I feel I have to hold myself accountable to her for this behavior so that she is explicitly aware that it is not okay for me to be unkind to myself, and therefore I can expect her to show her own self the kindness I want for her.

So, I’m going to put a self-loathing sin beauty bank on the kitchen table and deposit say, a quarter (hey, we’re on a strict budget around here) for every self-deprecating, self-loathing remark I make about my body or my self. I will ask her to catch me calling myself unkind names. I will require her to deposit the same when she makes negative comments about herself.

To avoid making it another exercise in self-loathing (I suck so bad, I can’t believe I said I’m fat again, I’m such an idiot!) it will be a requirement to write a positive attribute about our bodies to put in the bank along with the quarters. Then after a month we’ll take the jar of good thoughts and our quarters and we’ll go out for Chinese food and talk about our progress and how much we love our own bodies.

Alarming statistics from Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty Study

* 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner. (Collins, 1991)
* 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat. (Mellin et al., 1991)
* The average American woman is 5’4″ tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11″ tall and weighs 117 pounds. Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women. (Smolak, 1996)

*51% of 9 and 10 year old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet. (Mellin et al.,1991)
* 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 91% dieted “often” or “always.” (Kurth et al., 1995)
* 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years. (Grodstein, 1996)
* 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. (Shisslak & Crago, 1995)
* 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day. (Smolak, 1996)
* Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year. (Smolak, 1996)

I’ve entered this article in Babylune’s writing contest about parenting mistakes and lessons learned. Follow the link to enter one of your own.

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#1 Gauri on 06.04.07 at 12:27 pm

This was an awesome post, thanks so much for writing it. I don’t have a child but it’s definitely interesting to see how people pick up on the things we say and get sucked into our drama.

#2 So Sioux Me on 06.04.07 at 12:33 pm

Thank you Guari,

You don’t need children to follow through with this. When YOU stop being mean to yourself YOU will feel better about your own body. I believe YOU deserve a self esteem no matter your size or shape. Also, the women around you may stop their complaining as well. Don’t you loath a thin, healthy woman who complains about her body? I do.

#3 Icy on 06.05.07 at 7:08 am

Hey Tracee, wonderful post. My mum was not happy with herself as a person (rather than a weight thing) and for many, many years this also rubbed off on me and how I thought about myself. I’m finally happy with who I am, but I’d never though before about how her attitude to herself affected me. What a moving post. Thanks

#4 kgrichman on 06.05.07 at 12:40 pm

Thank you so much for this. I really needed the reminder today, as I struggle to remember that my goal is to be healthy and strong, not just thin.

On another note, I just read your post about growing healthy girls – I must go get that book today. My daughter too started down the “princess obsession” path, but instead of fighting it, I decided to redefine the concept of a princess. I really, really, really recommend The Practical Princess by Jay Williams and Petronella by Jay Williams. Both of the princesses in these stories rock!!!

#5 So Sioux Me on 06.05.07 at 1:01 pm

kgrichman – I got that book for my daughter and she liked it. But, it didn’t have the mass appeal of the marketing behind Disney. I loved the message though. She fixed herself. If you get Growing a Girl from my link, I get a tiny little kickback from Amazon. It’s appreciated.

Thin is not important if you still feel bad about yourself. I know lots of thin women who hate themselves. What’s the point of that?


#6 So Sioux Me on 06.05.07 at 1:04 pm


I can relate. When my mormal sized mother finally gave up on her “ideal” 98 lbs I was 12. She came to my room and gave me her “fat pants” from after pregnancy with my brother. And a girdle.

I was already too fat. Though perfectly normal at like 112 lbs.

Perhaps I was a little promiscious because I wanted to prove boys would still like me though my family enjoyed nicknames like Buffalo Butt, Hippo Hips and Thunder Thighs. I’m telling you I was a size 5!

Let’s do better for ourselves and the next generation.


#7 So Sioux Me on 06.12.07 at 2:20 pm

#8 jamboree on 07.24.08 at 8:12 pm

Maybe I read this wrong, but your child’s doctor is categorizing her weight as being in a ‘red zone’? She looks like a perfectly average, normal sized child to me, so I’m really confused.

As you know, I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with being fat. I’m a size 18/20, and at my thinnest in adulthood I was a size 14/16, so never small to begin with. That’s just the way I’m made, and I’ve worked very hard to be okay with that. You are absolutely right about your self-depreciating comments being reflected in your daughter’s language, and I commend you for making real steps to change it. If only more mothers would do the same, maybe we wouldn’t see statistics about 8 year olds on diets and such.

It’s very heart breaking.

#9 Tracee on 07.25.08 at 3:22 pm

Yes, Red Zone, I wrote a column about that too. I went home and looked it up and red zone is catagorized as “normal, but at risk of becoming fat.” Basically the Dr. told me my goal should be no weight gain over the next year. We didn’t make the goal. But we switched Drs due to a move and he didn’t feel it was an issue at all.

I do get concerned about weight issues in children when I hear drs prescribing Lipitor and when I hear about the diabetes rate. There are health risks to being inactive in children.

More about that in this story about her BMI Red Zone:

#10 candelady - bonfing Moms & Tweens on 07.26.08 at 10:18 am

Love the post – made me think about a lot of my past and how it has affected me and my girl. I will definitly change my supposed funny comments about my weight.

Friendly note: The date on the post isn’t right

#11 Yaya on 07.27.08 at 12:32 am

You look great to me! Remember to stay ‘in the present’ and if you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, flip your mind and think of the positive. You are beautiful! You are wonderful! Your blog is helping so many readers! You are a positive member of society! Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect, no one is perfect, but those who want to continuously grow as an individual must try to remain in the present as much as possible and learn from mistakes.

#12 Yaya on 07.28.08 at 10:39 am

On a nanny blog that I visit ( someone posted recently how their new babysitter was teaching her tween daughters how to binge and purge………that’s some permanent damage. My comment to her was to get those girls in therapy asap.

#13 Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom on 07.28.08 at 7:32 pm

Great post, and so important for us as moms with daugthers to think about! I am much more conscious of what I say now that I have a daughter and I agree, we are our children’s role models…if anyone is going to be able to counteract the way society and the media portray women, we are in the best position to do so.

#14 Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom on 07.28.08 at 7:32 pm

Great post, and so important for us as moms with daugthers to think about! I am much more conscious of what I say now that I have a daughter and I agree, we are our children’s role models…if anyone is going to be able to counteract the way society and the media portray women, we are in the best position to do so.

#15 Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom on 07.28.08 at 7:32 pm

Great post, and so important for us as moms with daugthers to think about! I am much more conscious of what I say now that I have a daughter and I agree, we are our children’s role models…if anyone is going to be able to counteract the way society and the media portray women, we are in the best position to do so.

#16 Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom on 07.28.08 at 7:32 pm

Great post, and so important for us as moms with daugthers to think about! I am much more conscious of what I say now that I have a daughter and I agree, we are our children’s role models…if anyone is going to be able to counteract the way society and the media portray women, we are in the best position to do so.

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#26 JB Young on 12.11.12 at 2:58 pm

Self-deprecating humor is a difficult habit to break and I think its defeat is one of the last bastions of self-acceptance.

I have been complimented by others recently for my self-bragging remarks. “That’s neat, what you just said,” someone recently said to me. “Not everyone can compliment themselves like that.”

I am a child of God. How could I be anything BUT awesome!

#27 Tracee on 12.11.12 at 3:01 pm


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