It's not your job to like me - it's mine
When I was in junior high I was something of an outsider. I wore my father's farm clothes, lots of flannel and baggy clothes. My hair was mostly unkempt, just a daily brush through. My skin was getting the first smattering of acne (read more here, it's funny). I was all feet and legs and very little torso, in short I was pretty much like most girls at that age---painfully self-aware. The boys in my class had begun to notice me as well and it wasn't a good thing. Many of them just started calling me dog (don't feel too bad I turned out fine) and one day they even stuffed my locker with dog food. They watched, laughing and barking, as I opened my locker that afternoon. I remember the heat rising in my acne speckled cheeks as I tried to ignore the spectacle I had become. I should have just been upset with those boys. I should have raged on them a little bit, given them a piece of my mind. I wish I had just stood up for myself, but instead I inflicted my anger upon my own self. I began to notice my imperfections and magnify them. I suppose this is the age when many girls begin that terrible struggle with self acceptance.
I think, like most women I know, that I have always struggled with self-acceptance. I have wasted a significant portion of my life worrying about things like weight, acne, style, hair, etc. Then, in 2008, I began to work to quiet those negative voices in my head; the voices that told me I wasn't good enough as I was, that I should be better or more. My goal in this effort was to stop my own negative comments (both internal and external negative commentary) and to be capable of graciously accepting compliments (not brushing off kind things that others say, that's rude and weird).
The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.
Carl Gustav Jung
The reason that I started this journey in 2008 was because that is when Eric and I decided to have children. I knew that I wanted to give my children an example of a self-actualized parent and to do that I would need to fundamentally change the way that I treated myself. The road was long and hard. I was acutely aware of everything that I said or thought about myself and I worked to change my self-perspective. One day I realized that I had, in fact, changed. I still had insecurities, but the way that I approached those insecurities was completely different. I was kind to myself.
Then I went and messed it all up this summer. A few hours after Elise was born I went into the bathroom to "assess the damage," which was the wrong approach right off the bat. I stood in front of the mirror and told myself all of the right things. I reminded myself that I had been through a lot, that my body had given us another beautiful and healthy baby. I told myself that bodies don't just return to normal a few hours after giving birth. I didn't believe it. I felt that I was supposed to be the exception and that I had let myself down.
I told myself that I had a few months to really get back to normal...but I didn't give myself that time. I felt the eyes of friends and family sweep across my belly as they too wanted to see how my body had weathered the storm of pregnancy. When people told me I looked great I would say something like, "Thanks, but I still have a way to go." I should have just thanked them and believed it. I knew that this wasn't the person I wanted to be, nor was it the example I wanted to set for my daughters.
So I set out to get back that self-acceptance I had worked so hard to obtain. I continued to tell myself good things even when I didn't believe them. I tried to cheer myself on as I allowed myself to recover. I ate 3 balanced meals a day, plus snacks. I did not allow myself to diet because 1) I am a nursing mother 2) I knew that I needed patience and kindness more than anything . Slowly my body began to return to "normal." I gave myself praise when my pre-pregnancy pants fit, even if they are still a bit snug. Then I realized the issue had nothing to do with the clothes that I was wearing. I had to truly accept myself as is--- at that moment. So that is where I am. I am recovering and re-learning to be kind to myself and I think it is working. I am no longer prone to bouts of melancholy over the body that is, for now, a little less powerful in my favorite yoga poses. Instead I marvel at my ability to simultaneously carry a 3 year old, a baby in carseat, and a diaper bag with relative ease. I do know that I am nearly back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but that doesn't matter one little bit if I cannot be kind to myself. I deserve to be treated well and my girls deserve a mother who will teach them how to love themselves.
A low self-love in the parent desires that his child should
repeat his character and fortune.
Ralph Waldo Emerson