The other night, my daughter burst into my room without a stitch of clothing on and stuck her bum in my direction. “Mom, does my butt look big?”
I got nervous and shifty and felt ready to spontaneously combust. But instead, I took a deep breath and remembered that it is often best to ask questions before assuming that ALL HOPE IS LOST. “Sweetheart…is that really your question?” I somehow squeaked out, hoping that my terror wasn’t apparent to her.
She cackled. Laughter poured from her in such a way that I thought she might fall over. “Of course not! I was just being funny. I LOVE my body. It was made by God Himself and it’s AWESOME.”
You see…ten years ago, I stared into the mirror and saw a girl I barely recognized. Traces of my newborn girl’s nine months of growth were everywhere. In the deflated beach ball that now lay where my stomach had been. In the zig-zag tracks, that ran across my midsection. I alternated between hatred and utter despair as I glared at what I had become. To say I wasn’t thrilled about the woman in the mirror was an understatement.
Beside me lay the tiny person who had caused the sagging, purple-lined everything. She lay there completely oblivious to the war going on within me and instead seemed consumed with sleeping off the work she’d put into her grand entrance into the world.
I loathed that girl in the mirror. I held her accountable for all the extra pounds and the utter devastation that had happened to my entire body.
But in that same moment, I felt the small whisper of an invitation. In this very moment, I could look at that body and find good. I could find something nice to say to the person staring back in the mirror, or I could continue ripping her to shreds with all of her shortcomings delivered in alphabetical order. The undeniably clear detail in it all, though? How I treated myself was the legacy I’d pass onto her.
My hours in front of the mirror and determining my worth from numbers on a scale began at the age of eight. I’d had more than 15 years of experience in self-hatred. Too much this. Not enough that. Rolls here. Ugliness there. That precious girl in the mirror was my enemy. She reminded me daily that I was never enough and way too much – all at the same time.
For those 15 years, I practiced my sacred ritual: Wash face. Analyze skin. Find it left wanting. Focus in on mid-section. Wish it were SOOOO much tinier. Notice thigh bulge and berate myself until I finally peeled myself away from the mirror.
But as I looked upon my little girl’s face, I knew it was time to make a new one.
My daughter needed to hear me appreciating my body. She might inherit my personality, but she didn’t need to inherit my complex. The world would yell at her from the very beginning that she was too much this or not enough that. She didn’t need to hear her own mom internalizing that hateful message. I had to take a stand and create a safe place for my sweet girl.
It was hard. It still is. But I looked in the mirror and made these vows to myself that day:
No more negative talk about my body. My body just brought a human into this world. I need a friend, not a critic. It is time to be a friend to this body that worked so hard to get her here. It is okay to let my little girl know that I’m working out to get stronger, but not okay for her to hear me bash my current state.
I need to focus on what my body CAN do. My body is strong, it can hold her, feed her and rock her to sleep. My body gives me the opportunity to hear her stories and wrap her up in warm hugs. It’s a gift.
It is time to eat well and care for my body. I want to be around for her. I will work to find a way to show her that food isn’t something to fear, but something to enjoy and use to fuel my body. Talk of “diets” or needing to eat less to be skinny? OVER.
I’m grateful she didn’t understand English when I made these vows. It takes time to rewrite the years of words we’ve written upon our very bodies and souls.
It takes time to learn to MAKE YOURSELF look for the good.
Today – I’d be overjoyed and honored to hear your courageous vows. What are your rules? (And if you don’t have any – steal mine for the time being). Tell me how you’re learning to be courageous enough to love that beautiful person in the mirror. Or let me know that you’re starting today. (I am CHEERING YOU ON, sweet friend!)
Because I do truly believe that how we treat ourselves is going to write a legacy for our little ones.