How a Marathoner Reacted to Her Daughter Saying She Hated Her 'Big Thighs'
High-profile runner, Dorothy Beal shares her concern about how hearing negative body-talk can impact other women's self-esteem.
Moms: One of their biggest hopes is to provide good examples for their daughters and help boost their confidence and self-esteem—especially as they grow up and move past these #awkwardyears. That's why, Dorthy Beal, a 32-time marathoner(!!), blogger, and running coach was shocked when her then 10-year-old daughter confessed that she didn't like her "big thighs" and was unhappy with her body.
It felt like some invisible force had punched me in the stomach," Beal wrote on Instagram alongside side-by-side pictures of herself and her daughter. "Big thighs!? Her thighs were beautiful to me, all of her was. I explained in no uncertain terms that her thighs were not big AT ALL and that EVERY girl is perfect just the way she is, including her."
But those words of encouragement simply weren't enough. "She said well....I guess we both have big thighs so it's OK.....OK? I was NOT OK. I cried to myself that night," Beal admitted, adding that she remembered being her daughter's age when she first started to pick out her own physical "flaws."
"I remember being 10," she says. "It's the age I started to hate things about myself. I hadn't yet finished growing yet I was already unhappy with the body I had been given. I cried that night; not because of my struggles but because I realized that's how I feel about myself, the words I say or don't say out loud, directly affects my daughter."
Beal has been open about struggling to love her body before, and admits to feeling guilty that maybe she was to blame for her daughter's judgmental way of thinking. "Did she not like her *big thighs* because I didn't like mine?" she wrote. "Had she heard me speak negatively about them before? Probably."
That was enough to spark some change, not just for her sake, but for her daughter's as well. "That night I decided I would free myself from self-hatred," she writes. "Not for me—but so that I would never unknowingly influence my daughter or ANY GIRL in a negative manner as it relates to their body ever again."
As a reminder to any mother who's ever struggled with body image or self-esteem, Beal says: "If you can't find it in yourself to love yourself for YOU then love yourself so we can change how the next generation of girls view themselves. They are the FUTURE. Self-loathing is a learned behavior—let's break the cycle."
This article originially appeared on Shape.com.