Self-Esteem & Sexuality?


Self-Esteem & Sexuality?

by Amelia

My lesbian daughter has struggled with self-esteem issues surrounding her body since adolescence. I’m worried her body image struggles and low self-esteem affected her choice to date women instead of men, since she’s never considered herself attractive. Help?
— Anonymous

Amelia Says:

Ugh. Body issues are tough. I know. I've struggled with body issues my entire life. I am a plus-sized woman and have been since I was a teen. To be honest, it is something I still struggle with. And I'm a 38-year-old woman who has been happily married to a man for 16 years.

If you want your daughter to feel better about her body, make sure your daughter knows that you think she is beautiful. Compliment her and tell her the body she currently has is wonderful. And be prepared for it to not make a bit of difference. Unfortunately, society speaks to girls and women a lot louder than any mom. Your daughter may only respond by rolling her eyes and never take your words to heart, but at least your words will be out there.

There might not be a lot of things you can do, but here are a few things you should never do:

Negatively comment on the weight of other people or yourself.  This reinforces people are judging her for her body. If you comment that you are fat and you are smaller than your daughter, think about the message that sends to her.

Suggest exercise plans, weight loss/gain plans, gym memberships, etc. This tells her that you think she looks bad, too.  Even if this is true, and that is how you feel, just don't. If you are worried about your daughter’s health, still don't. If she is an adult woman in this country and has body issues, she already knows.

Tell her she has a pretty face. This tells her that the rest of her body is so bad, her face is the only thing you could think to talk about.

Now let’s address your question about the relationship between your daughter’s body image and her sexuality. It is true that in some parts of the lesbian community there may be less of a stigma against women with less than svelte bodies. Women know what women's bodies look like. Most women know that those airbrushed images on magazine covers are just that: images. How does this relate to your daughter? Does this relate to your daughter? The truth is I don't know. Only your daughter has those answers.

But the real question is: does it even matter? I am a big believer in parenting the child you have today. Today your daughter identifies as a lesbian. Today she is a lesbian. As her mom, your job is support your lesbian daughter. There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian. Whether you realize it or not, your question implies that there is. When you ask if her body image has effectively driven her to date women, you're implying that dating men is better, as if dating men is the first and better option. It's not better. It's just different.

No matter what body issues she may be having, your daughter can be counted on for one thing: to be exactly who she is. And as her mom, what she wants and needs from you is your love and support. So love your daughter. Love everything about her. That includes her body, her insecurities and her orientation. All the parts of her are beautiful, even the parts she has trouble with, because she's your daughter.

As your daughter grows and changes, as we all do with age and time, support who she is every day.  Don't be waiting for a particular change or wanting one, but accept her for who she is.  Respect her enough to accept and celebrate who she tells you she is. Because who she is—that's her question to answer, not yours.

So parent the kid you have today.  Love her, celebrate her and make sure that she always knows you don't want her to be anyone other than who she is.  And that you, her mom, will be there.  Always.

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Amelia is a mother and breadwinner. When not working she's spending as much time as possible with her three young sons, friends, and family. In her copious free time she knits, obsesses about science fiction and cult television, and reads way too many books. She considers her most superhero worthy act finding a couple free hours now and then to read trashy novels.