Tallulah Willis: ‘I punished myself for not looking like my mom’

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It is Mental Health Awareness Month and many high profile people are coming out to share their struggles. Earlier this week Glenn Close spoke at length about her battle with low-grade depression. Prince Harry talked about his mental health struggles on Dax Shepard’s podcast The Armchair Expert. Now Tallulah Willis is speaking about her body dysmorphia. Tallulah, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’s daughter, discussed how she was constantly comparing how her looks to her very famous mother. In an Instagram post, Tallulah explained how she copes when she finds herself spiraling such as taking a social media break and covering the mirrors in her home. Below are a few highlights via People:

Sharing a photograph of herself alongside a series of shots of Moore, 58, from various decades, Willis began her message with a trigger warning around body dysmorphic disorder.

“Took me way too long to realize that: A. Aging happens without your control, time passes and your face can change 🤷🏻‍♂️,” she said. “B. I punished myself for not looking like my mom, after being told I was [Bruce Willis’] twin since birth – I resented the resemblance as I believed wholly my ‘masculine’ face was the sole reason for my unlovability – FALSE!
I was/am inherently valuable and worthy, at any life stage, at any size, with anyhair do! (As are you).”

“C. You need to soothe the wound within your soul before trying to ‘fix’ the outsides,” Willis added.

Continuing her candid caption, Willis told her followers to “Be mindful of the special and impressionable minds around you and their access to social media and potential triggering imagery or the indicators that hyper-focusing on ones appearance goes deeper then just wanting to feel good in their own skin.”

“we all want to feel good, and confident but when it creeps into a deeper, spookier place where it begins to devour your essence bit by bit, ask for help,” she added. “Do not feel ashamed, this is not a ‘stupid, vain issue’ this is a genuine psychological pain and I see you so clearly and witness the validity in your struggle.”

Willis then shared a list of things she will do for herself when she’s in a “BDD spiral,” including going for a walk and listening to music, taking mirrors down, reading fantasy fiction books and taking a bath.

Similarly, Willis — who became engaged to Dillon Buss earlier this month — added that allowing herself a break from social media is also important, as well as writing her thoughts down before tearing them up and burning them.

[From People]

Reading this story made me a bit sad. Tallulah is lovely and I feel bad for her that she went through that. I am sure lots of daughters of famous mothers known to be beautiful suffer from a sort of “pretty inadequacy.” I am sure Demi and Bruce did everything they could to make sure their daughters felt beautiful but people are cruel. I remember how people were saying and writing mean things about the Willis girls. However, I am happy to see that Demi is supporting Tallulah in the comments by reaffirming her beauty. I also love how self-aware Tallulah is about her struggle. The fact that she has taken multiple steps to help her cope with her self-image is a beautiful thing. I hope that many others will begin to open up and seek the help that they need. Mental health should not still be a taboo topic. I wish Tallulah well and hope she knows how loved she is. It is a good thing that she is doing the work to take care of her mental health. It is definitely setting a good example for those who are paying attention.

Also, congratulations to Tallulah on her engagement!

Tallulah Willis; Demi Moore; Scout Willis at the Salvatore Ferragamo 100 Years In Hollywood celebration at the newly unveiled Rodeo Drive flagship Salvatore Ferragamo boutique in Beverly Hills

Photos credit: Avalon.red, Getty and via Instagram

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34 Responses to “Tallulah Willis: ‘I punished myself for not looking like my mom’”

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  1. Tulipworthy says:

    That pixie haircut looks great on her.

    • tealily says:

      Yes, gorgeous! Side note: it’s been my theory that the pixie would make a big comeback after COVID. I know my hair is the longest it’s been in many years and it’s driving me crazy! I feel like everyone is going to go with short, high-maintenance cuts after this.

      • Anners says:

        In September, when we were allowed to get haircuts for a brief window in time, I chopped my mid-back length hair into a pixie. It looked cute for about 30 seconds, but was such a pain to style each morning. And needed to be washed daily as I couldn’t throw it in a bun or ponytail. Now it’s the excruciating grow out phase with no trims. I’d say don’t do it, unless you know you’re ready to maintain and grow it out lol!

        But Tallulah looks great, I’m glad she’s found peace. It’s hard enough to be the plain daughter of a pretty woman, I can’t imagine the extra pressure fame would lend

  2. Midge says:

    I’ll never understand why people comment on your face or body. This post made me think of all of the inappropriate comments friends have made to me since grade school really. My belly button is big, my torso is long, my shoulders are broad, my strong legs and on and on. Funny thing is I never thought about any of these things until friends commented. I have never done this to anyone. I just don’t get it. Why? Luckily I never internalized it and I don’t pick myself apart like this but I can see how it could be extremely harmful.

    • Anna says:

      One I remember is my house mother (guardian in boarding school, basically mother away from home) telling all of the BIPOC teens that we would never have space between our thighs like her niece (who was of course very thin, blonde and blue-eyed). Always stuck with me. How beautiful we were, fit, up every day at 6 a.m. to jog, playing sports, studying hard to get into Ivy League schools out of really dire circumstances, but our “mother” told us that we would never be quit attractive enough because our thighs rubbed together.

  3. Zantasia says:

    This kills me. My mother always told me that I looked just like my dad, and she also openly hated him. It made me feel worthless (as all she seemed to care about was appearance). If I ever talk about what my daughter looks like, when she asks, I talk to her about how she looks like me and her dad, her grandmother, my sister—all people who love her and are proud of her. Little comments about appearance build up over time, and it’s best to just not comment on appearance if possible.

    • Cate says:

      Yeah, my mom (and her whole family) allllllll said I looked just like my dad and my mom would also constantly tell me how alike we were in terms of personality. It always felt really unloving, because a) my mom’s side was definitely better looking b) my brother was more like her side of the family and they definitely made a big fuss over how he looked just like our grandfather, etc. and c) I always had a very difficult relationship with my dad, he was a bully and also physically abusive.

      I’m honestly really glad that so far my kid clearly looks like both me and my husband and had his own very distinctive personality. No way is he going to be “just like” one parent or the other.

  4. Watson says:

    I remember when people said she had the face of a potato. I am glad she has been able to find some self love when social media was/is so cruel to her.

  5. Meg3 says:

    Makes me remember Bobbi Kristina Brown, who I think was cute, but her own mother stressed sometimes (I think in that reality show) that Bobbi Kristina took so much after her dad.

  6. Ann says:

    People have been saying mean things about the Willis girls their whole lives, since they were small children. I feel for them. I can’t imagine how taxing that would be on one’s self-esteem. I’m glad to read Tallulah has found some healthy coping mechanisms and space for self-love.

  7. IMARA219 says:

    Tallulah is a beautiful girl. The daughters have Demi’s eyes, build, and coloring with Bruce’s face. Back in the day, the term for women who look that way would be handsome and it was not a put-down. To exhibit those features is just another form of beauty. It saddens me that she didn’t see the beauty in herself because of this. My mom is a pretty lady and I’ve been told since birth that I am her twin. When I am incredibly thin all of my features are more pronounced and I do look a lot like my mom. When I gain considerable weight I personally struggle with identifying as pretty or attractive. I’m working on that mindset but I can get what Tallulah is speaking on and I’m glad she has processed her pain and is trying to move forward.

    • chimes@midnight says:

      Yes, handsome implied strong, imposing beauty like that of a Greek warrior goddess who could smite you with a volley of arrows (as opposed to more ‘traditionally feminine’ beauty which is implied more delicate in appearance).

      • Imara219 says:

        I love the phrase handsome as a beauty descriptor for women because it has such a cool vivid diverse connotation. Yes, definitely strong womanly features, which was the opposite of the dainty femme.

  8. Robyn says:

    My MIL wrings her hands over my niece looking like my BIL and being tall (or “not tiny”). It’s really sad, but I’m glad my SIL has no time for that shit.

  9. EliseM says:

    I can only imagine the pain and struggle with self esteem kids of celebrities go through because of comparisons to their parent. Look at what Alexa, daughter of Christy Brinkley, put herself through after the comparison to her mom. She doesn’t even look the same. I have gone to see a plastic surgeon in the past who required me to see a counselor prior to any changes I might make. I am hoping that with kids this young, surgeons are making them seek counsel prior to going under the knife. I sure sounds like she has, and I am so glad she has the tools to help her manage life.

    • aggie says:

      Likewise Rumer. I can’t help but read Tallulah’s words without considering the criticism her sister experienced and her subsequent massive plastic surgery.

  10. Margot says:

    It must have been awful to go through. I remember comparing the width of my thighs to my mother’s as a teenager. I can’t imagine being mocked so publicly by blogs in the early 2000s. I know things aren’t perfect, but I think we’ve come a long way.

    On another note, her dogs are adorable!

  11. Becks1 says:

    I can’t imagine growing up with a mother who looked like Demi. I’m glad she’s worked to overcome her issues and hopefully this helps other people.

  12. Jeanette says:

    I wondered this myself, about daughters of beautiful women who look like their fathers instead. I often thought it must be a struggle.

    • so says:

      I always have that though when I see Salma Hayek and her daughter… Genetic can be a bitch sometimes :'(

  13. FHMom says:

    It must be tough being the kids of Bruce and Demi. They ‘be had a lot of mean natured comments thrown at them from the time they reached their teen years. Not to mention, Demi has not been the best /healthiest role model. Tallulah does look like her dad, and I mean that as a complement. She is a very pretty girl, and I hope she finds happiness in her marriage.

  14. Twin falls says:

    My mother was objectively more physically attractive that I am and I struggled with “pretty inadequacy” but it came from inside my own head and family not the public at large. I feel for Tallulah and love what she has to say about her own journey and healing.

  15. Fleur says:

    Honestly, I get it. I too grew up with a BEAUTIFUL mother. Like homecoming court , could have been a model beautiful . I did not grow up looking a thing like her, I looked like my dad. My mother is an angel and always called me beautiful, but other people in the family (my grandmother, my great aunts ) would make negative comments about my appearance . For all of my teen years, I resented the fact that I wasn’t born looking like my momma. As a teen I I used to cry about it, convinced my life would have been different and “easier” if I’d just looked like her. It really negatively impacted me until I was old enough to grow out of it. I’m so sorry for the Willis girls. People don’t understand what a wound this can make, and believe me, daughters can hear the snarky asides from old rude relatives. Beyond that, we have eyes. We don’t need the verbal reminder. The Willis girls are pretty in a normal person way, and if they were your coworkers, no one would say a word questioning their appearance. They all have very pretty eyes.

    • Kristen says:

      So harmful! Every person is beautiful in their own unique way.

      I think it would be extremely difficult to have a conventionally beautiful mother because society values women’s looks more than anything else and somehow the children are held to the same standard set by the mother?

      What if beauty really is in the eye of the beholder?

      Sorry you had to withstand that kind of conditioning but sounds like you’ve found a way to self-acceptance, which is wonderful.

      • Fleur says:

        Thank you, that’s so empathetic and sweet! To be honest, it was hard but it did give me character and kindness. my mother is an outlier, as extremely kind as she is beautiful, but my awkward duckling phase made me an empathetic, kind person who had plenty of time to study instead of going out on dates , so I became smart to boot! Haha! I really grew into my features in my mid twenties — a very late bloomer! It was a combo of my cheekbones becoming more prominent and me eventually becoming really good at makeup, so I learned how to compliment and enhance my own features. I had plenty of time to practice LOL. Then the rest of life arrived, boys and love and a social life, but It was the journey that made me kind and interested in the world around me, so I wouldn’t trade it. Thank you for such a sweet comment ! And if anyone out there is reading this and going through the same thing; : learn to love your mind, your hobbies, and your own unique features. You’re perfect just the way you are !

  16. Kristen says:

    It’s so interesting – I remember looking at a picture of the Willis family many years ago, when all the girls were under the age of 7 or something. I immediately noticed Talulah’s beauty with her bright striking eyes – I thought she was absolutely gorgeous. It’s wild how much other people’s opinions shape our self-image. My family likes to say ‘wow you look good’ occasionally, as if they’re surprised, which I find harmful. Or ‘your skin looks good’ which means that they usually think it looks bad. All of which simply underscores why I love animals so much. XO

    • lucy2 says:

      I remember the same thing, she’s always been kind of striking, even from a young age.
      When they were younger, they all looked much more like Bruce, but now as they’re all adults, they don’t really look so much like either parent, or each other. They are all attractive women, but I can’t imagine the pressure, growing up in the public eye, and the daughters of one of the most beautiful famous women ever.

    • Fleur says:

      Oh I’m very sorry!! It is the family member comments that cut deepest, isn’t it? I’m sure you’re lovely. I agree, plus one for animals! Also every time I think of the great beauties of the golden age – Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, women like Vanessa Williams in the modern age, I think what a burden THAT inheritance must be!

  17. Granger says:

    Her post is really lovely. “I see you so clearly” says so much.

    My mom never made any negative comments about my looks, EVER — always told me I was beautiful. But she was hyper-focused on her own looks, talking about her “fat thighs” all the time, and dieting constantly. Worse, the first comments she would make after meeting another woman (or seeing someone she hadn’t seen in a long time) were ALWAYS related to their appearance — and you can bet it was never something complimentary. I remember once she introduced me to a high school friend she hadn’t seen in many years, and then commented on how old and tired and drab the woman looked. I found out later this woman was a well-known astrophysicist with many accolades behind her. It made me so sad to think that the only thing my mother saw in this woman was grey hair and a bit of extra weight.

    My point is, I internalized these comments, even though my mom never directed them at me. Now that I have a daughter, I’m so careful not to say anything to her/in front of her about people’s looks. And I also try and focus my compliments to her on how smart, funny, artistic, and curious she is. Yes, I tell her she’s beautiful, but it’s definitely not the only thing I want her to think I notice about her!

  18. goofpuff says:

    I remember people being so mean to her for her looks. It made me sad because I always thought she was beautiful, just not in the same way as her mother.

    My mom was obsessed with being thin. She even had me and my sister join her in her diets (my sister was 10 and I was 15) like that awful cabbage soup diet along with 100 different crazy fad diets. Be careful what you wish for because she was diagnosed with stomach cancer and the ensuing treatments and surgeries pretty much ensured she would be very thin the rest of her remaining life. In the end of her struggle, I know she would give up being thin and sick to being chubby and healthy.

    I remember that every time I feel bad about my extra weight after having children and the struggle to try to lose weight through healthy eating and exercise (my metabolism is atrocious).

  19. Milkweed says:

    This makes me sad. I think Tallulah is gorgeous inside and out.

  20. SKF says:

    I feel genuinely sorry for the daughters of famous beauties. It would be so hard… even the also very beautiful ones seem to get critiqued for bit being AS beautiful as their mothers. It’s awful and gross.

    My mother is/was very beautiful and I remember really struggling with that as an awkward, pimply, braces-wearing, gangly teen. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live under that with a famous and ultra-beautiful mother and the world watching and cruelly critiquing you.

    I actually think the Willis kids would have been better off if their parents hadn’t made them recognisable by the public. Avoid the scrutiny and attacks as much as possible. Don’t take them to premieres and put them in movies. You know? There are a number of celebrity children that are totally anonymous – we have no idea what they look like.

    Tallulah is really interesting looking with a handsome face and beautiful eyes. She’s not a classic beauty like her mother; but god, I don’t care, she looks great and I really wish no one cared!! She’s her own person and that person is great and highly attractive. I did notice that she was very very very thin last year and that made me sad as it didn’t look healthy. I hope she is able to overcome her BDD, feel comfortable in her own lovely skin, and be happy and healthy.