“Sometimes it takes having a heartfelt conversation with a child, to give you the perspective you were missing in your life. This is often the case with my 8 years old daughter, who is wise and kind beyond her years. She sees me in a way that I have not yet learned to see myself. She places value on things and gives me credit for things that I don’t ever give myself a pat on the back for. As backwards as it may sound, she is my role model as much as I am hers sometimes.
So many of us speak to ourselves using unkind and invalidating words. We look in the mirror and say things to the reflection that we would never say to our friends or family or really anyone we even slightly liked. It would absolutely break my heart if my daughter or my sons viewed themselves in the same negative light in which I view myself so often. Some of the negativity can stem from our thoughts about our external appearance, but deep down it’s usually just a deep insecurity and lack of embracing ourselves and being proud of who we are, inside and out. It’s about never really learning to love ourselves.
I have always struggled with how I looked and with self-love, from as young an age as I can recall. Growing up, my thoughts, feelings and sometimes very existence were continually invalidated. This programmed me to believe that I wasn’t worth anything. As I analyze my roots and why I am the way that I am, I can see how ‘Never being good enough’ in general became the lens through which I viewed every aspect of my appearance.
I grew up in Hawaii from the time I was 7 and I was significantly taller than most of the people there and was always asked if I was a basketball player. Not asked like it was a normal question, but asked in amazement, as they gawked up at me, as if I was a real life giant! Awkward…in hindsight, I shouldn’t have worn heels that made me 6 feet tall either. That probably didn’t help my case.
I hated the size of my feet, that my mother always lovingly reminded me was necessary to support my height or I’d tip right over.
I was always at war with my weight, but more than my weight, I couldn’t stand my bone structure. Even at my absolute thinnest, I was never going to be the short, petite girl I wished I was.
I always see my dad’s nose when I look in the mirror and it is my least favorite feature on my face.
I see wrinkles forming under my eyes, which I choose to believe are temporary, due to a teething toddler, rather than a permanent addition to my facial features.
I see scars everywhere from the life I’ve survived. I see signs of the wear and tear that having 3 children has had on me.
Despite my sadly constant critiques of myself, I have been very careful to not speak these things out loud around my daughter or to in anyway encourage her to view herself with anything but self-love and acceptance. I didn’t want her to grow up like I did.
At the same time that I am watching her love herself and have absolute confidence in who she is, I am trying to grow to love myself even a touch of how much she does.
I watch her giggle when I point out the cute freckles she’s getting around her nose. I observe her proudly showing off the new band colors on her braces to all her friends, without even a thought that anyone would NOT think they were super cool. She boldly and in a hilarious, proud sort of way, will declare what she weighs to ANY one. There is nothing about herself that she doubts or despises, as it should be. She owns her style and everything about who she is. She is absolutely happy with herself and how many of us can say that?!
On a regular basis, in her own little ways and by her sweet example, I am taught self-love.
Recently, we both got dressed up for our community’s Trunk or Treat, in matching outfits of her choosing. Now, I am not a dress up for Halloween type…at ALL. But our kids chose our costumes and dang it, her Dad and I were going to embarrass ourselves and wear them!
As I looked at myself in the mirror, I immediately started mentally critiquing myself and thinking how I look nothing like Wonder Woman…or any superhero for that matter.
While I was in my own head, I heard my daughter quickly tell my husband, ‘She really IS Wonder Woman, you know. She takes care of 3 kids ALL the time. She is really nice. She buys THOUSANDS of Christmas presents and she does everything with a smile on her face.’
My heart just stopped for a minute. She sees who I am, who I really am. Not my wrinkles, or my figure or my clown sized feet. She sees my heart, my positive outlook, my giving spirit, my love for others, my dedication to this family and my semi ridiculous love for all things Christmas. I mean, I must be a LITTLE crazy to buy THOUSANDS of presents, y’all.
I instantly wished that I could learn to see myself the way she does and made a commitment for the millionth time over to be kinder to myself and to love myself a little more, the way that she loves me.
I am ready to change the narrative of the conversations that I have with myself. I’m going to look in the mirror and see a survivor and an overcomer. I am strong. I am a chain breaker and I am breaking generational habits. My kids will not grow up weighed down by the burdens that I carried.
Every night that they go to bed, they end their day knowing that they are loved beyond measure, for exactly who they are. Most nights, I lay by them till they fall asleep, after stories and prayers and I watch them fall asleep with smiles on their faces. Then I go to bed and beat myself up for all the things I forgot or didn’t do perfectly that day. They go to bed with smiles, and I fall asleep with a panic attack. No more. I am going to finally learn to love myself and believe that I AM enough – and if I want to change something about the reflection I see in the mirror, it’ll come from a place of self-love, not self- loathing.
I may not be Wonder Woman, but my kids think I’m pretty great, and that is enough for me. I am enough for me. One day, I hope I’ll climb in bed after a long day and smile, because I lived my best and it was wonderful.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tabitha Yates, a blogging, homeschooling, full time Mama to 3 kids in Southern Arizona. You can follow her work on her Facebook page or blog. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
Read more from Tabitha:
‘No, this can’t be real. Not this. It isn’t fair! Hasn’t she been through enough?’ But it was real. I heard the words no parent wants to hear.’
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