After firmly situating herself as a body positivity advocate and vocal proponent of self acceptance, Tess Holliday recently spoke about parenting as a child of abuse, thus adding to her reputation as a mom who keeps it real and opens up about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of parenting. Holliday has been open about her upbringing, but her recent comments on parenting after abuse show that she has both learned and grown from her experience. Taking control of your narrative as an abuse victim — as Holliday has clearly done — is the first step in breaking the cycle of violence.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Holliday opened up about her upbringing and the seemingly endless turmoil that came with it. According to Daily Mail, following her parents' split up, Holliday's mother began dating a man who she would go on to marry. This relationship turned abusive and the man shot her mother one summer while Holliday and her brother were away and left her there for six hours before he called for help. Holliday told Cosmo that while her mother was recovering from her injuries, she herself endured painful bullying that led her to leave school.
After that, she went to live with her father on a full-time bases in an attempt to escape her abusive father-in-law. Unfortunately, Holliday said that she quickly learned that her own father was also abusive:
He had quite an explosive temper. My dad told me that I would never amount to anything.
All of that negative feedback made it difficult for Holliday to learn to be comfortable with herself. She said that she wasn't always the self-assured woman that her fans see today; her self-confidence took time to build. Now that she has gone on to have children of her own, Holliday said that she is working to parent her own children in a healthier way and to show them what a positive body image looks like:
I am one hundred percent conscious when I’m talking to my children to not put my own feelings onto them. I'm definitely not a perfect mom or a model mom, but I can say that I always try to put a healthy body image forward towards them and treat them with love and respect that I would hope to get in return.
While this is the first time that Holliday herself has opened up about the abuse, her grandmother, Carolyn Tadlock, spoke with Daily Mail in 2015 on the struggles that Holliday overcame:
[Tess has] done so well for herself and it’s taken her a lot of struggle to get there. She had a hard time as a kid. She’s been through a lot.
Tadlock also provided details on Holliday's mother's assault and the time in between the attack and Holliday's move-in with her father:
The kids weren’t there when it happened. They were with their Daddy. He came into the bathroom and he shot her once in the back of the neck. She didn’t fall down and so he shot her again and she fell down then, into the bath. Ryann was just nine when it happened. We moved [Tess’ mom] and the children into a trailer in our back yard here and they stayed there for six or seven years.
Anyone can see that Holliday has come a long way since then, including her grandmother. She said as much in her interview:
To us it’s unreal what she’s made of herself. It’s phenomenal. We’re proud of her.
Fortunately, Holliday also had a positive role model for parenting in her mother. In an interview with People, she explained how her mom taught her about accepting and supporting her children for who they are:
My mom taught me to always support your child. She didn't always agree with me. She took me to get my first tattoo and then I kept getting them and she hated it. And she thought I was going to grow out of this phase — and that's why I put in the book, "Sorry mom, it wasn't a phase," but she supported me even if she didn't always agree with me. And I think it's really important.
The way in which Holliday has reclaimed her story as a victim is the first step towards breaking the cycle of abuse as explained by Psychology Today's Dr. Lisa Firestone. Dr. Firestone first suggests that victims "make a coherent narrative out of [their] story" and learn to resolve trauma so that it doesn't come out in their relationship with their own children. Next, she recommends that victims learn techniques to calm themselves in tense moments to prevent the triggering of past emotions. From there, parents should "lead by example" and show their children what it looks like to react in a healthy way.
Dr. Firestone encourages parents to "build a secure attachment" with children that lets them know their caregivers are a safe place. The final step is to repair. No one is perfect and there will likely be slip-ups, but parents should take the extra step to reestablish trust.
Holliday has opened up many times about her struggles and successes as a parent, showing that she is dedicated to providing a healthy upbringing to her children. Good for you, mama.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.