I recently wrote an article and it was declined by Mothering Magazine, but they wrote me a very nice rejection letter and said it was really strong material. Instead of shopping it around to other publications I've decided to post it here. Enjoy!
Enough is Enough: My Journey Towards Self-Love
A friend of mine recently put a picture of me up on Facebook, and I cringed the second I saw it. My instant thoughts were: double chin, bad skin, untamed hair, big head, too fat, horrible posture, and so on and so forth. It also was a bit fuzzy, and not the greatest picture in terms of lighting, and I had to fight the temptation to untag myself so that my entire friend list wouldn’t see it, but then I looked again. My friend had titled it, “Smiles!” and I was indeed smiling; in the middle of a hearty laugh, actually. That had been an incredibly fun night; how a night with girlfriends is supposed to go – laughing, playing games, drinking too much, sharing secrets, dancing. It was a beautiful night, and I was beautiful in it.
Yes, that’s right, I was. I danced with abandon. I laughed and made jokes. I was honest and took pleasure in the exchanging and unburdening of secrets that meant I trusted these women and they trusted me. So now I am able to look at that photo and see the beauty in it, and the beauty in me. My friend captured a moment of bliss. That’s what she saw, and why she took it. I am so grateful that she did, because it’s precipitated this awakening within myself that my self-hatred and insecurity has gone on long enough. It’s time to squash it. Life is precious. I’ve wasted far too much time and energy on it.
Sometimes I think I can read people’s minds as we’re passing in the street or in a store. “Fat. Lazy. Probably eats junk food. Obviously doesn’t take care of her skin. Likely never exercises. A pretty face. Shame about her body.” And then I want to yell out, “No, it’s not true! I eat extremely healthy. I take meticulous care of my skin. I have a medical condition that has caused all this excess weight and acne.” What an exercise in futility, seeing as 1.) I’m making it up, since I can’t really read minds, and 2.) I know my truth. Since when do I have to justify my weight or the condition of my skin to anyone? I know that I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome that has wreaked hormonal havoc on my body, and I try really hard to eat well, and that even when I exercise faithfully the scale barely budges. I don’t judge others in the way that I’m imaging they are judging me, so why do I judge myself so harshly?
I know my truth. Those words bear repeating. I’m going to let them sit with me for a while, and call them up when I find myself feeling insecure. Maybe I’ll shout them out. “I KNOW MY TRUTH!” People will look at me like I’m crazy, but that’s okay, because I no longer care what they are thinking. Besides, some may look at me in admiration, because they will recognize confidence, and courage. I may sometimes feel envious of the women with slim figures and perfect skin, but you know which women I am the most jealous of? The ones who seem a little eccentric, who wear clothes that make them feel good even if they aren’t the latest style, who don’t wear make-up and just leave their hair be, who dance like nobody’s watching - the women who are comfortable in their skin. I want it, and I’m going to get it.
I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I think all women should quit wearing make-up and fixing their hair. That’s not it. Do those things if you like. I’m still going to, but not as if it’s a necessary action to take before going out in the world at all. I currently don’t leave my house without make-up on. Ever. I think it’s great to want to put your best face forward, but when that effort comes at the denigration and gradual hatred of your real face, and real self, it’s time to take a step back. I could launch into a diatribe about the whys of how my self-esteem became so low, about the ridiculous and unachievable images women are constantly bombarded by in our culture, how we all know the pictures are fake but are influenced by them anyway, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about letting it all go. That is my past, and love is my future. Love of me. I will get there, and I’ll be dancing all the way. Here are some more commitments that I am making, right here and now:
o Leave the house without make-up on occasionally.
o Stop asking my husband to Photoshop pictures of me.
o Let people take pictures of me, instead of shying away.
o Quit thinking, “Is this a flattering pose?” when people do take pictures.
o Wear what I want, when I want, without thinking about what others may think.
o Get a funky haircut and put blue streaks in my hair. I may be 30, but I’ve been wanting to do it since I was 18, so why the hell not?
o Get the tattoo I’ve always said I would get once I was skinny enough.
o Start replacing, ”Does this make me look fat?” with, “Am I comfortable in this?”
o Tune in to how I feel, instead of obsessing about how I look.
o Celebrate the amazing things my body can do, and has done, like grow and give birth to two beautiful human beings.
o Look at my stretch marks as a beautiful reminder of pregnancy, not a flaw.
o See my breasts not as too droopy, but as the way a mother’s breasts should look, especially one that has nursed her children for 7 1/2 years.
o Eat right and exercise not in an effort to be a certain size, but because it makes me feel good and keeps my body healthy.
o Splurge occasionally, and don’t beat myself up for it.
o Just be myself, and let people take it or leave it.
o Write to magazines and ask them to show us pictures of real, non-airbrushed women.
o Quit reading the magazines that make me feel bad about myself.
o Model self-confidence for my daughters, especially by stopping all self-denigrating talk. The last thing I want is to cause them to have these issues, too.
I hope many women will join me. Make your own list or join in mine. We need to rise up en masse and say, “Enough is enough!” These are the faces, the bodies, the imperfections and flaws that we have been blessed with, and we are good enough, just as we are. We don’t need the latest and greatest in clothing and cosmetics to feel that we have worth. We don’t need to eat and exercise obsessively just to get down a size or two. Making mostly healthy food choices and engaging in some physical activity that we love is good enough. I have saggy boobs, a cellulite covered ass, acne, saddlebags, stretch marks, big feet, a large head, really thick and unruly hair, but I also have lovely hands, large and mysterious brown eyes, a nice neck, a curvaceous figure…and I am beautiful.
So are you.