I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of awkwardness when I was growing up.
I didn’t look like the other girls and I felt grossly out of place. Dark curly hair that never seemed to be properly styled, thick eyeglasses, tiny stature but curvy build—all of it added up to me feeling uncomfortable about myself.
When puberty hit, things got even worse. I perceived myself as flabby and misshapen, never seeming to look right in bathing suits or clothes like my friends. I tried various hair and fashion styles, none of them working and most of them making me feel worse. Looking back at old photos from that time when I felt so awful about my body, I don’t see the same qualities in my features that I did back then. I felt fat and I saw fat, but the old pictures tell a different story. I just looked—young. Still changing and growing. So why did I perceive something so awful when I was in the moment?
I try to ask myself that question and relate it to present day now that my body has changed not just from natural age but also from pregnancy and childbirth. I call it “melting and spreading.” My breasts are heavy, my stomach lost pretty much all of the little bit of tone it once had, my arms and thighs are softer and the battle scars from fatigue and motherhood seem to be tattooed all over my face and body.
I remember a while back when I was bemoaning all my physical changes to my boyfriend—pointing out everything I hated (particularly around my torso) and whining about how “This wasn’t here before!”
He looked me right in the eye and responded tenderly but firmly: “Neither was your daughter.”
Well, sh*t. Checkmate!
Another little gem from my boyfriend was this recent bomb drop:
“Shut up and love yourself.”
I’ve added this to my stockpile of self-affirming mantras and whip that sucker out whenever I get struck by a wave of that Poor Me crap.
It was an extremely difficult transition for me to go from a body that I seemed to be somewhat maintaining well in my adult years to what I perceived to be a disaster zone after having my daughter. I felt helpless, hopeless, unattractive and unappealing. I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror. But gradually, my distaste for myself has started to wane a bit. The more I focus on the features that I feel are positive, the less I am fixated on the qualities that I don’t particularly care for.
I’ve learned that it’s all about perception. I can choose to see myself as some defeated and frazzled bag of flab or I can choose to see myself as a woman who has beauty and strength both inside and out; a woman who created and sustained life; a woman who has the ultimate honor and responsibility of raising another human being—and that is the most crucial element of this whole challenge for me.
I have to be the example for my daughter. I have to show her through my actions and words that comparison and criticism are toxic; that we are so much more than our appearances; that love has to start and stay within; that we don’t need anybody or anything to validate us; that our individual minds, hearts, personalities and images make us totally unique and utterly beautiful.
I have to silence that sh*tty little voice in my head that makes me feel uncomfortable about myself. The one that makes me feel that I don’t measure up and that wants to criticize and slander instead of celebrate and support.
I have to shut up and love myself so that my daughter will learn to love herself too.
Author: Megan Michelle
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: Courtesy of Author