On the phone with Mom, I feel myself becoming frustrated, ashamed and angry as she says, “It’s because I love you!” We’re having one of our frequent conversations about my body. As I take a deep breath, I realize it’s time to get off this merry-go-round and educate my mother about how I feel about MY body, and to share with her the boundaries I’m setting for the sake of our continued relationship.
Here’s a fail-safe formula for having boundary-setting conversations that stick:
1. Acknowledge the person
Mom, I love you, and I know you deeply love me.
2. Share their impact
When you talk to me about my body and my weight, it makes me feel shame and that triggers my binge eating. You’ve said that your concern comes from a place of love, but to me it feels like it’s coming from a place of fear. And the impact your fear has on me is that I shut down, feel ashamed of my body and I don’t want to spend any time with you.
3. Re-design the relationship
So, instead of us rarely talking or spending time together, we aren’t going to talk about my body any more. This may feel hard for you, but it is essential to us having a loving relationship. And, if you forget and make comments about food I’m eating or ask about my weight, I will remind you compassionately and firmly that my body is not a topic up for discussion. What questions do you have?
Get yourself feeling grounded before having this conversation. You’re likely to still feel strong emotions come up, and that’s ok. Allow the emotions to be there and take a moment to center yourself. Breathe deeply and then come back to the conversation. You’ll likely have the conversation several times as the person learns where your boundaries are, but it gets easier every time (yay!)
Setting boundaries with integrity and compassion is key to breaking free of negative body image because you’re stopping the body-shame spiral these conversations create. Who will you have a boundary-setting conversation with this week?