Looking back I can clearly remember when the conversation with my body changed from appreciation to criticism. I lived a childhood of being a tomboy and enjoying the outdoors and sports. To say I was a late bloomer would be an understatement. Being beautiful was one of the last things on my mind. But I’ll never forget that day, sitting in the high school cafeteria. I was in 7th grade and the cool thing to do during basketball games was to sit with your friends and eat junk food. Surrounded by a table full of girl and boy middle schoolers, a friend’s younger sister piped up over the crowd, “Your twin is prettier.” Ouch.
I laughed her off and said “Ok?” The conversation quickly continued because I think my dear friends felt as awkward as I did. What caused her to make that declaration I will never know but it obviously had a lasting impact. Growing up with a twin has been one of the biggest blessings of my life but it did not come without some unnecessary and unwanted comparisons. Who was faster? Prettier? Funnier? Smarter? More thoughtful? It wasn’t us comparing each other but more so the world thought they had an open invitation to compare us because we shared the same womb. (By the way, if you’re wondering, no you don’t.)
After that moment in the cafeteria I quickly decided that if I weren’t the pretty one, I would be the funny one. I am still proud of being voted class clown my senior year. I let offhand comments like that direct my narrative for years (despite the fact in high school 4 of my guy friends confessed their love for me, so I must have had some attractive qualities, but I wouldn’t hear it! I had decided and told myself I wasn’t attractive “enough” so I must find other things to be good at.)
Unfortunately, I talked to myself and my body terribly on and off throughout high school, college, and my early twenties. The death of my mother lit the match of an eating disorder. It was a match that had been waiting to be lit for years previously but I was in a dark enough place to listen to the negativity finally. I hated my body and it hated me. A body that had traveled the country, ziplined in the forests of Costa Rica, played collegiate softball and given me a million other gifts and experiences. A body I talked horribly to and only found fault in. Even at 93 lbs, I couldn’t find one nice thing to say to my body. Luckily, I had friends and family that did and I was able to conquer that eating disorder but I do look back at those three years with a lot of sadness for people I pushed away and time I wasted. Let me just say Theodore Roosevelt had it exactly right when he said that comparison is the thief of joy.
Let’s fast forward to where the conversation truly shifted.
Motherhood. Of all the gifts motherhood has given me the biggest blessing second only to my son himself is finally changing the conversation I had with my body. One of my favorite writers Nayyirah Waheed says it best herself,
“and I said to my body. softly. ‘i want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath. and replied ‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.”
Instead of finding faults I was simply amazed by all it was accomplishing and still accomplishes. Enduring 24 hours of distressed labor. This strong, healthy body fed and sustained not only one life for over a year but through breastmilk donation another baby as well. I was amazed at how little sleep it could function with during the first 6 months of my son’s life. I thank it for being his safe haven when he is hurt or upset. Never in my life have I spoken so much gratitude and praise to my body. Never have I been so appreciative of all that my body has done and does for me. I beam at the thought of the places it will take me.
Am I where I want to be size wise?
I’d be lying if I said yes. But again, this conversation has morphed from telling my body it’s not good enough into me having a conversation with it about how it good it can be. When I was at a pant size double zero, I was probably the unhappiest I have ever been. At a pant size 8-9, I have found more freedom than I have ever known in truly recognizing what a gift I have been given. Although I feel more beautiful than ever, beauty is once again one of the last things on my mind. I have come full circle.
I don’t use the mindset of other people have it worse than me either.
I did for so many years and on top of dissatisfaction, I layered a nice big helping of guilt right on top. Instead, I choose affirmations. I wake up and tell my body one thing that I am appreciative of or that I like about it. Is it a long exercise? Nope! It takes 10 seconds or less. Has it dramatically changed how I talk to and about myself? Absolutely. Please remember to not only be gentle with how you talk to other people but also with how you talk to yourself.
Motherhood not only gave me the gift of my son but finally turned an old enemy into a friend. For that, I am forever thankful.