As I looked into the mirror, turning and twisting in different angles, dissecting the flaws on my body, I felt a heaviness in my heart. I don’t always do this. In fact, my confidence levels have gone up in the last near seven years since I met my husband. But, I’m human. I’m a mom and I’m not perfect and sometimes, even when I’m trying to be the best version of me for my kids, I fail. I have just as many days where I feel good about myself than I do feeling bad. I’ve always had confidence issues, especially as a teenager and a young adult, but that started to change when I met my husband. I could go on to explain how, but that’s another post for another day. My confidence has always rested on my appearance and it rested on the way others viewed my beauty. I could blame it on so many things like being raised in southern California where vanity is a large part of society, but that’s not what this post is about, the reason why isn’t the point of all of this. The point is, that as I was dissecting every little flaw, starring at my newly deflated chest after having weaned my twins after two years and ten months of nursing, I pictured my daughter, Emma, doing this one day. Staring at herself as she lists off the things she hates, the things she wishes she could erase, cursing her flaws, and feeling that same heaviness in her heart that she wasn’t happy about what she saw in the mirror. And as those images flew through my mind, I started to panic. My daughter, my beautiful, wonderful, incredible daughter, may one day look at herself the way I look at myself, and in that moment, I wanted to do nothing more than protect her. But how do you protect your child from something that just seems to happen? If it’s not one thing, it’s another, leading women down this road of unhappiness in their looks. There’s never just one reason, just one explanation that anyone could give that could pinpoint it. It’s so many things. And I didn’t want to be one of the things that made Emma start to look at herself in any other light than a bad-ass one. Because that’s what my daughter is; Emma is a bad ass, incredible, tiny human who will one day turn into a grown woman, beautiful, brave, smart, strong, and completely bad ass. But, I don’t want to be the only one that sees that. I tell her every day before bed, and multiple times throughout the day, that she is brave, she is beautiful, she is smart, and she is strong. Because I know as a girl, she’s going to hear that she’s beautiful over and over again. And I know that as a girl, it becomes the thing we want to hear the most, the one thing we’re taught to want in life, above all the other incredible traits you can be. But here’s the thing, I don’t ever want there to be a moment in her life where she thinks her life, her confidence, her self-worth, should rest on her looks. Because she is and always will be more than her looks. My daughter will always be beautiful, inside and out. She will always be strong, even when she’s weak. She will always be brave, even when she’s scared. And she will always be smart. Always, always.
So, I took a step back. I put myself in her shoes, knowing how intuitive she is, knowing she picks up on every one of my mannerisms, every single expression of mine she sees. And I made a promise to myself and, in turn, to my daughter. I promised that I would do better, that I would be better, if not for myself, than for my daughter, who looks up at me as her hero. I’ve had those proud mama moments recently when I hear her talking to her toys or to her friends, telling them, “You can do it! I know you can! Yay! You did it! I’m so proud of you!” It’s a proud moment because I know what I’m telling her is settling in her mind and she’s applying it to her life. It was in that proud moment that I realized how much of what I do, what I say, she embodies, and lord knows I don’t want her to ever embody the way I feel when I look in the mirror. So, I made the decision to change that. And it’s hard. It’s so hard. Because throughout pregnancy, motherhood, life, our bodies change and adapt with time and it’s not always in the best way. I’d like to say that as a mother, I’m always proud of the scars and changes my body went through to get them, but I know that’s not the truth. There are more times than not where I cringe at the sight of my caved-in stomach or the stretch marks or twin skin because I remember what it looked like before, and how much confidence I held because of it. There are so many times where I feel defeated because, after a twin pregnancy and labor, my body has more complications than I’d like to admit and it makes me feel less of a woman because of it. There are so many times where I look at my deflated chest and want to cry because it was only two years ago, in my peak nursing moments, where I was sporting DD’s and felt my confidence soar because I finally had boobs after a lifetime of living in the IBTC. There are so many moments where I wish I had all the money in the world to conceal all these things from anyone looking. And there are so many moments where I feel the worst guilt over feeling this way because, despite all the negative things I feel about my body, I also feel pride of what it has done and overcome to be pregnant, to have healthy twins, and to nourish them for two years and ten months of their lives. The guilt is the hardest pill to swallow and it’s the one I find myself fighting off the most. It’s every one of those flaws and the emotions that follow those flaws that I fight off every morning, every afternoon, every night as I wage a war with my inner doubt for the benefit of myself and the benefit of my daughter. I fight this war day in and day out and I come out winning, even if it doesn’t always feel like it, because my daughter sees me smiling and happy and she sees me in the way I fight to see myself. And I fight this war because it’s working and because instead of constantly going into the negative when I see myself, I’m reminding myself of the good. I’m adapting and I’m changing what I think. Instead of buying the bathing suit that covers up every imperfection, I bought a two-piece bikini, without padding and rocked it at a waterpark on our most recent family mini vacation. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t struggled as we walked down the lobby across the hundreds of people there, but you want to know what I realized? Who gives a shit? Who cares what I look like? After all the stress of what bathing suit I was going to wear and what people would see when they looked at me, I realized it was so pointless and so meaningless. Because as soon as I saw how happy my kids were playing in the water and laughing with us, going down the slides, and learning to swim, I didn’t think about my flaws once. Not once. My mind was on being in the moment, having fun, and giving my kids the attention they needed and deserved. When the weekend was over and I came home I realized I couldn’t remember a time where I didn’t take so much time worrying about my looks and just stayed in the moment. And now I crave that feeling. When I wake up in the morning, I remind myself of how that felt, and I remind myself of how my kids looked as we had a carefree weekend, and I remind myself of who I’m doing this for and why. This war I have with myself, it sucks, but I know that it’s worth the struggle, it’s worth the fight, and I know that I’m not alone.
Having two days being free from caring about my body, brought me a new perspective. I should not give a shit a lot more. I’m sure that statement isn’t politically correct or in perfect grammar but it’s the best way that I can describe it. Embodying the “I don’t give a shit” attitude did my heart and my mind some good. Sure, it’s good to be healthy, to look good, but I think it’s more important to feel good. I felt good and happy without a shred of anxiety and it’s because I was in the moment, because in that moment what was important had nothing to do with what I looked like, it was the smile on my kids faces, it was the ability to create a memory within my kids minds that they can cherish forever, and in that memory there wasn’t a moment where they had to see their mama struggle. And that’s the life I want to create for my babies, not one I have to repair later for my own insecurities that I pushed on them. I want to see the good parts of me when I look at my kids, not the bad ones.
So this is my declaration, as a mama to other mamas, let’s stop giving a shit. Let’s stop focusing so much on the beauty of a person’s appearance and start making memories. Focus on the memories. Focus on the fun. The love. The carefree. Focus on the way you make your kids feel when you stop giving a shit. And focus on the image of your kids doing the same as they grow up, knowing they won’t have to fight the inner war the way you do right now because you taught them better. Focus on the way it’ll feel to know that your child can look in the mirror and feel happy and know they’re brave and smart and strong AND beautiful. Focus on the happy. Focus on you. Because you are worth it. They are worth it. We are all worth it.