My ratty sweatpants and stained tank top were covered haphazardly in paint. My hair was pulled back sloppily and I had splotches of yellow on my face and arms. I’m an incredibly messy painter who tends to get as much on myself as the walls.
Obviously, I was in no condition to go into the grocery store. But as the kids and I were starving and there was nothing to eat at home, that is exactly what I did.
“Ugh, I’m so embarrassed to walk into Trader Joes looking like this,” I said as we walked through the door. “I should not be out in public.”
“Mom,” my daughter said grabbing my hand and making me face her. “You look like you worked hard and you did. You were helping our school. You should be proud.”
“Your right,” I said.
I wish I could report that I felt completely better and that I walked around without giving my appearance another thought.
That’s not what happened.
I was still quite embarrassed to look such a wreck in public. I felt as if everyone was looking at me with their disappointed gazes of judgment. I was sure they were making assumptions of me as a person and mother.
At the checkout stand, I felt an urgent need to apologize and explain myself.
“Sorry I look so messy,” I said. “I was just painting and had to dart out quick.”
“You look fine mom,” my daughter said in a clearly annoyed tone. “I told you that. You worked hard and it looks like it.”
“Your right,” I told her. “I did work hard.”
“You always look great mom,” she pressed.
“Thanks love,” I said blushing, embarrassed that my 7-year-old daughter was schooling me in front of the store clerk.
“I mean it mom,” she said. “You do.”
And she is right.
I have made incredible strides in my self-esteem, but there are days when I feel like an ugly witch from a Grimm’s fairytale and nothing will shake it. That’s when all the mean things I’ve been told over the years comes bubbling to the surface and I can’t quiet the voices.
I’m 37-years-old and those voices are still there, whispering when I’m most vulnerable. What they say is untrue, but it doesn’t matter. When I am weak, I believe them. I let them tear at me. I let them get me.
If I had the power to grant my daughter one wish, it would be that she never loses the voice inside that tells her how special and amazing she is. That she stays true to herself.
Ever since that exchange at the grocery store, I can’t stop thinking about protecting my girl. What can I do to combat all the negativity that is headed her way? How can I ensure her voice stays the strongest and that she gives no power to all the other voices that will be directed at her?
Then I stumbled across an interesting piece featured on A Mighty Girl called “I Like My Body Because It’s Magic.” A photographer interviewed girls between the ages of four and eight about what they liked about their bodies. The answers inspired me to talk to my girl.
I asked her to draw a picture of herself and write what she liked about her body. Here is what she did:
I love this so much that I hardly have words for it. It makes me happy in the deepest of ways. It gives me hope that maybe she will not struggle like me.
As we were hanging her picture on the refrigerator, it occurred to me that I should have her do this every Thanksgiving as a yearly focus on what she loves about her body. We could keep them in a little book and pull it out each year to see how she has grown.
My hope is that this little act will serve as a yearly window of opportunity for us to talk about her body. It will give her a chance to focus in on her strengths and me a great opportunity to keep up with all the changes headed her way.
I also know that I need to set a good example, and I’m trying. I no longer say I hate my body and I’m learning to accept things about myself. I am growing and hopefully I can keep up with her.
Her wisdom and spirit is something I will fight to protect.
I have always tried to stay away from compliments, hoping that would help her see that she is more than her appearance. But everyone needs to hear they are beautiful, inside and out. I need to be a positive voice whispering the truths of her beauty to her, so she can combat the negativity headed her way.
I need to be louder.
So on this day of Thanksgiving, as a tribute to my daughter and to combat my own voices, I’m going to say a few nice things about my own body.
- I love how strong my back and arms are. I can work around the house, lift my children and carry things up and down the stairs all day. My arms help me to cradle my loved ones and make them feel safe in my embrace.
- I love how my eyes change colors. They are beautiful reflections of my mood and one of the most powerful ways I show my love for my children. When I am happy, they shine brightly and light up my entire face.
- I love how tiny my hands, feet and head are. I can shop in the kids department for shoes, gloves and hats. It makes me feel youthful and cute.
- I love how my brain works, always in wonder and awe of the world around me. I notice the clouds in the sky, the hummingbirds at my window and the tiny patterns in the leaves.
So I challenge everyone to take a moment today and be thankful for the beauty that is you. I know it’s cheesy, but do it.
As my beautiful girl reminds me every day, everyone is special.
Yes, even you with the gravy on your shirt, you are worth celebrating.
I love you.