Charged with finding a picture of my elementary self for our school’s yearbook (yep, I am a teacher) I spent some time last night digging through a bucket of pictures. A pleasure I am sad to say digital photography is doing away with (but that’s for another post.) Looking through some photos of younger years, high school, college, my 20s… I caught myself wishing I still looked that way. That my body were that lean, my hair that blond, my face so nicely kissed by the sun. Thinking back on who I was at each of those moments in time, I realized that at each of those stages I was insecure. I’d be in a bathing suit around my friends and be constantly comparing myself to them. They always seemed to be in better shape, or have better hair, or know more about fashion. I always had something, let’s be honest, many things to criticize myself for… um, hello! I wasn’t fat. At all. I wasn’t ever ugly. Fashionable? Never. I live in Colorado. I can wear flip-flops to a five-star restaurant. But, I digress.
The point is I was never the hefty, wobbly, scaly-skinned, acne-ridden monster that I’d made myself out to be. If I can be so bold, I was actually pretty damn hot in some of the photos I uncovered (albeit awkward in high school as all budding youth are.) The crux of it is – I never appreciated any of it in the moment. At any given time, I was (am) comparing myself to someone who seemed hotter, who seemed to fit into their clothes better, whose tummy seemed more deserving of a bikini than my belly. Now, post-baby and 50 pounds later, I find myself once again thinking – What was my problem? I’d give anything to look like that again.
Always wishing I looked like the me of yesteryear is no way to go through life. Nor is comparing myself to other women, no matter how beautiful they are. Especially now when I really am at my largest. With a belly that hangs over my jeans for the first time in my life, skin loose and stretched from carrying a child. Brow furrowed from adulting. Hair less blond for being inside too much… Shall I go on? No, of course not. This blog post isn’t about self-deprecating and certainly isn’t to body shame. It’s to get some perspective.
Really it’s to beg the question – why are girls that start so naturally unashamed raised to be women who are uncomfortable in their own skin? That’s something I am going to have to research and think about as I start to raise a daughter. I am not into the notion that self-love means allowing yourself to maintain an unhealthy weight as a lot of the anti-body shaming camp will have. I am anti-body shaming light perhaps. Of course you should develop self-love at any size, but also, shouldn’t the most important thing be health? If you’re healthy, you feel good. If you feel good, you look good and vice versa. All sizes are not healthy, extremes on either end of the spectrum are unhealthy.
With this in mind, I am trying to find some sort of balance between urging myself to shed some pounds and get to a healthier weight, and also a weight at which I feel more beautiful; while also not totally body shaming myself. To embrace my flaws while still bettering myself. What a pull it is in two separate directions. Sometimes I just tell myself what my mom once told me… “We’re fat. At least we’re not ugly.” I usually chuckle at that and try to remind myself of my positive physical qualities.
Oh I know some of you are thinking “but beauty comes from within.” Sure it does, but that doesn’t mean outer beauty accounts for nothing. Just ask the peacock or the mallard. First impressions matter, physical attraction matters. Personality can enhance or remove people’s overall likability and therefore their attractiveness can go up or down. However, we come across so many people in our lives, we cannot engage with each of them to determine their true value… we make assessments based on what we see most of the time. So, it’s OK to want to be prettier, or thinner. It’s not OK to hate yourself in the interim.
Find the balance. Love yourself. Increase your health. Have fun along the way.