My husband took that photograph a few weeks ago on a family camping trip to the beach. He loved that picture so much he had saved it to his wallpaper on his phone. I asked him to send it to me because if he loved it, then certainly, I would love it too, right?
Instead, I shared it with the NOMB team to see if they saw the same things I saw. When I shared this photo with my fellow contributors, I got an overwhelming response – everyone commented on my smile and how happy I looked.
All I saw was my imperfections.
I realized I was having another battle with myself in the war of terrible body image. This view of myself has been going on for as long as I remember. Even at the age of 13, I was concerned about whether or not I looked “fat,” and I worried about how I looked in a swimsuit. I thought my hips and thighs were huge and that I looked terrible. I equated my personal happiness to my size. I thought that if I were thinner or exercised more, I would be happier. Losing that weight, etc. never really made me happy, per se. I was content, but I always had it on my mind. In retrospect, when I look at myself in pictures from those times, I looked HEALTHY! I wonder why I was so worried about my size and weight at such a young age?
I need to quiet that little voice inside my head that is telling me “you look terrible, you look overweight, you look gross” and remember that two years ago, when I was at my lowest weight since high school, I also was unhappy. I had anxiety about everything around me and worried non-stop. I was constantly unable to fully enjoy everything around me. I may have looked great in a pair of skinny jeans, but I was a hot mess of negative emotions.
These days, my heart feels feel to the brim with joy and love every day. I feel blessed and content with my marriage and feel gratified and fulfilled in my role as a mother and wife. I have friendships that fill my heart with joy and positivity, and I am in a place of overwhelming contentment. I am in a really good place. I would venture to say that I am probably the happiest I have been since becoming a mother. I enjoy every minute with my family more, I am more present with those I care about, and I am not obsessed about everything I eat or burning calories. I am living life and filling every minute I can with things that keep my heart joyful.
Except when it comes to how I look at myself.
All of these years, over all of this time, I STILL can’t get past the negative self-talk. At first glance, when I look at that picture up above, all I focus on is my tummy rolls. I start to think of the cellulite on my legs or how soft and lacking in definition my arms are.
But then, as I look at it further, I recall the moment when this picture was taken, where my son & I had just built a sand pile together and laughed because he had dumped sand all over his dad. I remember watching him build sandcastles and digging a moat with his cousins while I watched and joined him. I recall what a great day it was, and how we closed out the last night of our camping trip watching fireflies blink all around our camper at twilight. That picture helps me recall that sweet moment where he rested his head on my shoulder, his skin carrying that distinctive scent of sunscreen and salty water, while the sky around us lit up with firefly blinks. I will never forget how his little lips curved into a smile when he said to me “Mommy, guess what? I love you.”
So, why is it that at first glance all I can see in the picture is my imperfections, yet others can see that I am undeniably, over the moon, jubilantly happy, fat rolls and all? My weight or my rolls don’t define me; it is how I live my life that does.
Enjoy Life. This is not a dress rehearsal.
Now it is time to live my life and enjoy it and stop shaming my body. I need to stop this insanity. I need to stop the negative body image because you know what? I’d rather be fat and happy than miserable and skinny. This is isn’t meant to say that if you are skinny, you are miserable, but that, for ME, I need the reminder that skinny does NOT always equal happy.