“Look at this,” I moan in disgust pinching a handful of stretch-marked, flabby skin from my mid-section. “Why do you even like me?” I ask J dejectedly, adding insult to injury as I place the value of my personhood on the perceived failings of my exterior.
“You had a baby,” he patiently soothes. “You are beautiful and wonderful, and a good Mommy.”
But I hear none of it. Too focused on the imperfections in the mirror. If I could just lose 20 pounds, then I’d be happy, I tell myself.
And I believe it.
I remember the first time my mom mentioned my weight to me. I was in 6th grade. She doesn’t remember, but I can vividly see us standing in the kitchen and my dad telling her she was silly, and that I looked great. A girl needs a dad like that.
It was silly, and that’s probably why my mom has forgotten the conversation. I was fit and healthy, and looking back now, just starting to add a few girlish curves. But I think it’s around that time that I started to realize my mom wasn’t happy with her body. After giving birth to my youngest brother – her third child – she’d struggled to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight.
My mother was (and still is!) beautiful, vivacious and simply fabulous but I don’t think she always saw it. She was too focused on those 10 pounds.
And now, I’m repeating the cycle. So focused on my imperfections – so focused inwardly – that I sometimes miss out on the joy of just being me with the ones I love.
What would it look like for me to break the cycle before it reaches the next generation – to learn to appreciate my body so that I can teach Reagan to value hers? One thing I know, this change has to start now. Today. With me. Steve Maraboli wrote, “There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
Creative Commons — photo by Robb North
And so today, instead of focusing on the things my body isn’t and can’t do, I’m choosing to focus on the beauty of my body, the perfect imperfections. The stretch marks that grew as my body expanded to hold and nurture my precious baby. The round arms that offer comfort and hugs to family and friends in need. The pale legs that carry me out into the sunshine to work and make a difference in the world.
And as I focus on living a healthy lifestyle (because even as I learn to value my body, I want it to be healthier so I can do even more with it!), I want to teach my daughter to appreciate her own body and show her how to best take care of it.
Some days I will fail, but I pray that God will give me grace and help refocus my vision when it begins to settle on negative thoughts so that I can see myself the way he sees me.