Saturday, October 6, 2012

Self-Acceptance

 It's not your job to like me - it's mine
Byron Katie


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.


100_5099 

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 

12 comments:

Victoria said...

Amen sister

Michelle said...

Sounds like you've got post-partum weirdness and a touch of baby blues. Pregnancy and birth do strange things to emotions. You've been there before--so you know it will pass. However it feels to you, to those of us who see you, you look amazing and your inner beauty shines through. It is heartwarming to see you with your little ladies. They are very blessed in their mother. (And Dad, too, of course; but he hasn't had his hormones and body rearranged!)

Tonya said...

This made me cry. I love your outlook. Thank you.

Maria Rose said...

Thank you!

Tammie said...

i love this post. ive reread it twice now.

its a constant battle to not fall into the trap of judging myself harshly. within the last year or so ive gotten better though. two things i always remind myself are that:

1. i dont judge my friends and family by the way they look, what they wear, hair, etc, so why should i judge myself that way?

2. life is just too short. i dont want to be on my death bed and thinking about all the things i didnt do because i was not pretty/thin/stylish enough.

Sarah Purdy said...

I've been going through similar emotions this time around. The stretch marks seem more pronounced; the pooch bigger. But you're the only person who sees them. Everyone else sees this marvel of a mother who can juggle two kids effortlessly while still maintaining her style and sense of self. Be kind to your body and be full of gratitude for the lives it's created and sustained.

sophie said...

Woah Maria that was brilliant. I cannot believe at my age I am still pulling myself apart, it's so stupid and nonsensical! Having daughters I to work really hard at being positive and thankful and strong for them every day.

Kate said...

This hit home for me. I despise having my picture taken because, after my daughter's gestation and birth, I went from a size 4-6 to a 14-16! She'll be 2 in December, and I'm Still a size 10. I don't look in the mirror, I don't dress nicely, and I rarely think nice things about myself physically. Today, while ending a camping trip, my husband took pictures of me with our daughter, and I realized they're the first snapshots I have with her in months. Maybe even a year. That hurts my heart as much as my extreme weight gain. So, instead of deleting the pictures of my double chin and flabdomen from my camera secretly, I kept them, I loaded them on my computer, and I accepted that's me now.


There may be a day in her future when she's unsatisfied with her own body as a momma, and I want her to know normal isn't just the size you are Before.

Kirstens Kitchen said...

I totally get this. My good friend and me joke about having breasts that look like tube socks. After having 3 children there are many things that I would like to be 'firmer'. I like to think of mine as battle scars!

On my way Home... said...

hit home hard. i'm dealing with varicose veins that have completely marred my legs... it's been an inward battle for quite some time. i'm holding my breath to "access the damage" after baby is born to see if any of it will go away. i keep telling myself that i'm giving my youth to my kids... and they are worth it. doesn't mean i wouldn't like my youthful legs back. i am thankful for my husband who doesn't see my scars and marred self... but still sees his beautiful wife. :)

Anonymous said...

I am deeply impressed by the unabashed honesty of this post. It is emotionally painful to learn of the anguish you endured as you confronted the insensitive cruelty of others and the self critic within that we all must deal with. Your resolute campaign to silence that inner critic and to model for Cordelia and Elise the self-acceptance which frees you (aka The Kindness Bandit) to be generously involved in the world is inspiring.

For the record, I have been absolutely delighted with the droll humor that frequents your writing and can assure you that you are as comely now as you were cute as a six-year old. TWB

Maria Rose said...

Thank you Terry! Sincerely.

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