Ohhh dear. This one hits close to home for me, so excuse my personal rambling, but I hope you can see that you are certainly not alone. Parental and body image relationships are so complex and often hard to break down.
I love my parents immensely, but they are not perfect. My dad projects his personal disappointments in athletics through myself and my siblings - or has with me in the past. Because he fucked up an attempt at athletic excellence (football scholarship), at times he can’t fucking comprehend that what he wanted out of his life can not be recreated through that of his children. My little brother is experiencing the brunt of this right now, as he’s being recruited for division 2 football scholarships at various universities, but his heart is no longer in it. My dad is unable to understand this.
My mom thinks the answer to everything is “exercise” - that my chronic/mental health issues will dissolve if I focus more on physical fitness, when she doesn’t know my habits or fully understand my situation. I was also a super active overweight young person, constantly conflicted by the number on the scale that didn’t make sense along with my active lifestyle, so that was difficult to live through.
I blamed myself and my body for not doing well enough on a constant basis. My dad was never satisfied with my athletic performance and often spoke to my potential, that he wished I would live up to it. I felt I constantly disappointed him, and myself. Blah blah blah.
It took me a long time to get my dad to understand how I felt about that time in my life, when I was having panic attacks before swim meets and felt persistently ill and horrible about myself from all this pressure to perform. It was always the same argument: “You could be so great if you just applied yourself.” “But I just want to have fun.” “THAT’S NOT WHAT SPORTS ARE FOR YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO WANT TO SUCCEED AND BE THE BEST OR WHAT’S THE POINT.”
I still don’t think he fully understands. He speaks about my past as an athlete with a kind of wistful nostalgia - my mother as well. They both fail to completely grasp that what they want for me, and my siblings, is immaterial. What we want for ourselves is all that should really fucking matter, you know?
I’m sure you know. You are in a good place and your dad is somehow not satisfied. You still feel like he isn’t proud of you or your accomplishments. It’s horrible to feel like you can never satisfy someone when you so badly want their approval.
You can try to talk to your dad about this until you’re blue in the face, you can do everything imaginable to get him to understand that you are really truly good and happy with who you are and what you’re doing, but I can’t promise you he may never fully comprehend it. So let’s focus on what’s really important: The way you feel about your own accomplishments. The things you are doing for you, for your own benefit, and no one else’s. That matters more than anything.
And I’m willing to bet your dad is very proud of you and your accomplishments, even if he doesn’t say it much. I know my dad is, despite what he may or may not be disappointed about in my past. But it has more to do with his own disappointments in himself than anything else. Maybe that is also the case with your father.
You can’t change the way other people see you. You can start a dialogue, try to get them to relate, try to reason…And please do, I’m not saying you shouldn’t try. But I can’t promise they will change their ways of thinking. Focus on strengthening yourself and the way you treat others, the shit you CAN control rather than what you can’t. Learn from it all and pass it on. It’s the best I can recommend you do.