Mirrors, they are forever betraying me.
Enlarging my flaws.
Highlighting my weaknesses.
Pinpointing my insecurities.
A sheet of glass that always manages to find my achilles heel.
Why are my eyes so puffy in the morning?
Are my thighs really always that big?
I scrutinize every inch of myself until my stomach feels sick.
But it’s not the mirror who despises me.
It’s not the glass that leaves me feeling this way.
It’s my own head, my own thoughts that betray me, conditioned to believe beauty is only skin deep.
I shake the horrible thoughts out of my head. I hug my arms around myself.
I will not fight my own flesh anymore.
This is my body, this is my home.
I have always had a tentative relationship with my body.
There have been times when I have treated it poorly. Depriving it, over exerting it, attempting to squeeze it into jeans that were never designed for these hips.
Our relationship is one filled with one-sided animosity.
It seemed unfair to me that as I grew up, I expanded in some areas and not others. Like a balloon blown up all wonky instead of precisely into the standard shape.
I thought that women came in a standard shape too.
Blonde hair, check. Blue eyes, check. But what happened to my large breasts and tiny waist? Where is my golden tan and long, lean legs?
It seemed some pieces were missing from this perfect puzzle.
So I wrestled with my body for years. Desperately trying to manipulate it into that ideal shape and degrading this home of mine in the process.
Allowing weeds to take over the flowerbeds. Letting paint start to chip. Not worrying about the cracks in the ceiling or wallpaper beginning to fade.
Making it look from the outside as though everything was as it should be but on the inside I was crumbling into disrepair.
But I thought I had put all of that behind me. I thought I had made peace with my body. I thought I was finally free from this crippling, self-loathing mindset.
In the back of my mind I always knew that my body would eventually change, I was under no illusion that I would stay the size of a twenty year old forever. I just didn’t expect gaining weight to affect me so much.
But it has.
I was surprised how quickly the tears would come when I looked at myself in the mirror. I was shocked just how easily I allowed guilt to dictate what I ate. I was saddened to watch myself slipping back into the same old habits and not knowing what to do to stop it.
Because it’s easy to love your body when it fits the mold. It’s not difficult to have self compassion when you believe you are the right size.
It’s when my jeans began to feel too tight and my stomach still stuck out a little even when I was sucking it in that I discovered how difficult self love really is.
Self love is not something that comes naturally like taking a breath as you come out of water or blinking when a bright light flashes.
Learning how to love myself, my new self has been hard.
Possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Which perhaps makes me sound vain and conceited but in a world which constantly reminds me that I need to change in order to fit in and be lovable, it’s not surprising at all.
I’ve been down this road now a few times and I’ve learnt that restriction and shame are not the answer. Loathing myself or fighting against my body just doesn’t work.
So it seems that a new attitude is in order.
I cannot be at war with myself anymore. It’s too exhausting. I cannot just sit idly by while the place I live begins to fall apart.
This is my body, this is my home.
And so I remind myself each and every day…
My worth is not dependent on my weight.
While this body is my home, it is not my full person.
I am singing along to country music with the windows down driving along the highway. I am laughing at the ocean waves lapping around my ankles and squealing when the water gets too high. I am giving a cheeky wink to my Father on stage at our school production.
You cannot contain me within the walls of this body, I am more than layers of flesh and a foundation of bones.
I am a gentle warmth, a cool breeze, a soft whisper.
My body is remarkable and it deserves my utmost respect.
To diminish its purpose to simple aesthetics is outrageous.
This body can run for miles and miles. This body can hear a rhythm and melt into the music. This body can heal itself, transform itself and grow another whole human being inside of it.
This body is incredible.
Change is inevitable, adaptation is crucial.
Nothing in this life stays the same forever. It has often been said that change is the only constant.
Therefore, I will not be surprised nor phased by change, I will simply adapt and move forwards.
A changing body means a life that is progressing. We are growing older and wiser. We are tracking towards new adventures and achievements.
Women aren’t like balloons. We don’t come in a standard shape or size. We are unique and that is something that should be celebrated rather than diminished.
Trying to squeeze us into one mold is a crying shame. There is so much beauty in our diversity. There is so much wonder in our individuality.
When I look at the women in my life I feel that this is a battle that might not be won overnight. Because I’ve seen these precious ladies fighting against their bodies my whole life.
But that makes me no less determined to win this war of self compassion.
If not for me than for my daughters, my nieces, my best friends. For every woman who looks up to me and watches how I treat this place I call home.
I hope they will see something different in me. A deeper respect, an honest disposition, an abundance of grace.
A woman who bears the wrinkles of decades of laughter. Who proudly wears stretch marks from bringing new life into the world. Who has freckles from glorious summers in the sunshine and perhaps carries a little extra weight for all the meals that make life worth living.
I believe that in the end, the struggle is worth it.
Because this is my body, this is my home.