Self love is hard
“I never knew my shoe size was in direct correlation to how happy I was supposed to be.”
Numbers that Define Us
I was standing in my closet in our home in Florida, half dressed for church and finding myself not really liking anything in my closet. My husband was in the bathroom splashing shaving lotion on his face and listening. After 17 years together, he has learned when to just be quiet and let me talk and when to offer suggestions to help.
This was a moment to be quiet.
“I guess I’ll just have to go in this,” I said, throwing a now worn flowy shirt over a simple skirt. I had been upset with the weight I had put on recently and hated getting dressed in anything not comfortable, partly because I felt it hid the weight and partly because most of the closet was now unwearable. I sighed. I had weighed myself that morning and was upset at the number. The little girl in my head, the one liked cake and pizza, she was happy. She danced in a field of wildflowers and made crowns of dandelions, she swung high on the swings and giggled too loud. She talked to strangers and smiled at friends.
But the other voice, the one from my high school days, the one whose voice screamed at me when I ate something or looked a certain way, she hated me.
She hated herself.
And she was louder.
“Why did you eat that?”
“No one cares that you look nice, it’s your waist size that matter.”
“Look at her, three kids and so thin.”
“Why aren’t you at the gym? Why can’t you do this? do that? Look at those stretch marks! Look at those wrinkles.”
“Don’t talk to them.”
“You aren’t good enough. Smart Enough. Kind enough. Just enough”
“Why can’t you care for yourself better?”
I promise, I’m not crazy, I am a woman over 35. For most of my life, I have made myself small, trying not to stand out and be embarrassed when I did. I was trying to fit a mold I was told all woman needed to conform to.
When I was 15, I noticed, for the first time how different I was from my mother. My mom is small in stature, fine-boned, small thin fingers and long legs. She, my sister, Grandmother all look alike. They all had these fine features that I lacked. I remember my mother telling me once that I was “shapely”. I had no idea what that meant but I was convinced it wasn’t good. All I knew was that my hips where round where hers were small. My breasts were larger, my fingers thicker, my shoe size larger. Where my mother was fine, I was solid. Where she was thin, I was an hourglass. I wanted so badly to be like her, to look like her but I was from my father’s side…. good Scottish stock. I looked like my grandmother on my dad’s side; rounded cheeks and nipped in waist, larger chest, shapely legs.
I was different.
And I hated it.
I remember crying in my room once and telling my mother that all I wanted was to be skinny like she was. She gathered me on the bed and softly told me that I was shapely, I was not meant to be small like she was. She told me I was beautiful and different and more voluptuous than she ever was. She tried her best to comfort that 15 year old, all awkward and weird, wanting so badly to be fine and thin boned.
Breaking Free of Your Inner Mean Girl
Over that last 20 some odd years since I laid on that bed and cried, I have met women of all shapes and sizes. Women who are more than the numbers on the scale or the size of clothing they wear or even the size shoe they are. I have met extraordinary women who build schools and water wells in far off countries. Women who save those in the sex trade and who love orphaned children. Women who are writers and authors and lovers of God. Women who take care of babies and women who work two jobs. Women who are single raising kids, women who are married and childless by choice. Women who carried babies they had to burry and say goodbye to and women who give birth to children through surrogacy. Women who are doctors and lawyers, teachers and ironworkers. Women who are creative and women who make everyone feel loved and wanted. I have become friends with a group of women who are fierce and captivating and inspiring, whom I aspire to be more like, who challenge me and encourage me to be better, reach further. and love harder.
Not once have I thought “Gee, she could stand to lose a few pounds.” or “her feet are big”. I don’t see the flaws I am certain they see, I can’t hear that inner voice that tells them they aren’t good enough. All I see before me is strength and courage and bravery.
Can I talk to us ladies for a moment?
Loving us…. is so hard. It’s hard to learn to love ourselves, to be kind to ourselves. Our comparison game is strong.
We compare ourselves to bank accounts and Facebook likes.
To waist sizes and clothing sizes.
To homes and cars.
To children and husbands.
To hair and teeth and skin and jobs and exhaustion and trials and struggles and pain.
We compare ourselves to those around us, choosing to look around instead of at our amazing attributes.
You know what numbers should define us?
Not our weight or our height or our bank accounts.
Numbers That Truly Define Us
The numbers that should define us should be numbers that bring about emotions.
The age you were when you fell madly in love.
The time of day you look best in.
The day you left a job you hated and went after what set your soul on fire.
The day you realized God died just for you.
The time you first held your child in your arms.
The moment you said goodbye to your parent.
The day you realized your passion.
The moment you watched kids in a far-off village squeal and laugh as water came bubbling up all fresh and clean.
The day you brought home your first fur baby.
The very first time you took a solo vacation.
The age you were when you married.
The moment you were baptized and made clean.
The night you laughed so hard with friends you spit water out of your nose.
The number of kisses your husband gave you on your wedding day.
The number of nights you spent talking dreams and aspirations with your best friend.
The time you wore a pretty dress to a fancy dance.
The day you put on your uniform and went to work.
The number of cancer treatments you endured before you got to “ring the bell”.
The number of sticky fingerprints you cleaned up before they left for college.
The day you first saw the ocean or the mountains or an elephant in the wild.
The moment you realized how small you were and grand the earth really is.
The day you jumped headlong out of an airplane and skydived.
The day you swam with sharks.
The adventures you planned.
The dreams you dreamed.
There are so many more numbers that should define us. Those numbers should be moments and times and ages where we slow down and let life happen to us. Where we look up and see the beauty all around us. Numbers of first apartments where we grew up and first homes where we had first fights. The numbers that define us should never be about material possessions or scale digits. They should be the numbers of moments that take our breath away. They should be numbers that flood us with memories and hope and happiness and loss. The numbers that define us should move us to something better not keep us stuck in a place of complacency.
The Next Generation
Ladies, I challenge you, take a few moments and write down memories only you can make. Keep them close and share them wide. Tell other women how beautiful they are, how smart they are, how capable they are, how you admire their mind or their ideals or their Harley.
Then…. go and tell your daughters and nieces and granddaughters and foster daughters, and Sunday School daughters…. go and tell them the numbers that define them. Tell them their dreams are not impossible. Tell them their minds are incredible. Tell them their skin is beautiful. Give them a journal and tell them to write down the days that inspire them. Let them see you in all your beautiful flaws be confident and happy. Let them feel loved for the very thing they feel makes them different. Let them know just how powerful their voice is or how wonderfully they write words. Tell them to continue to sing and dance and twirl. Tell them to hold onto their inner little girl as long as possible. The one who makes crowns out of dandelions and reads books under covers with flashlights.
Stop telling ourselves that what we do isn’t enough.
Stop with the “I’m JUST a mom….. or a working mom….. or a janitor…… or a childcare worker.”
Start looking at yourself with eyes of love. Start seeing yourself the way your dearest friends see you.
Only when we stop and look at each other for the beautiful creation we are, only then can we stop the mean girl in our own heads.
She needs to take a seat, ladies. She needs to be silenced.
Let the numbers that define you inspire you to greatness.
Then….. let those numbers help you inspire someone else.
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