A few years ago, my husband and I went through a rough patch as many husbands and wives do. We saw a marriage counselor, and one of the things he told us really stuck out to me: We are often kinder to strangers than we are to our spouses.
I hadn’t thought about that in a while, but a few months ago, a mom on a breastfeeding board posted that she wanted to lose weight saying, “I feel like such a fatty.”
At that moment, our counselor’s words popped into my head and I realized something that he hadn’t said: Not only are we kinder to strangers than we are to our spouses, but we are kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves.
The more I thought about it, the sadder I felt. You would never call someone at the grocery store such an ugly name, but women say things like that to themselves all the time. Horrible names like fatty, cow, bitch, ugly, and so forth. When women say those things to themselves over and over, they must believe it. How horrible that society tells us it’s okay to treat ourselves that way. And Magazines feed this by promising miracle diets, exercises to get your body “swimsuit ready,” and photoshopped pictures of models with body shapes that most people will never have, flawless skin, flowing locks of hair, and clothing that reveals nary a bulge or a wrinkle. We’re bombarded with this all day every day.
Then, this week at work, I realized that I was just as guilty as other women. As I walked to the lunch room at the office to heat my leftover pork chop, I realized that I had forgotten my fork back at my desk. I thought to myself:
“I’m such a dummy.”
And then I stopped dead in my tracks.
It was one of those moments where images and moments flicker into your mind in rapid fire succession. Images of me right before our recent vacation trying on my swimsuit and rubbing the stretch marks on my belly and frowning. Images of me calling myself stupid for forgetting to pre-heat the oven before roasting the previous night’s asparagus. Images of me climbing out of the shower, turning around to look at my butt and saying, “Ugh.”
And in the background of all of those images are my daughters. Watching. Listening. Learning.
I am teaching my girls that it’s okay to hate themselves. I am teaching them to be kinder to strangers than to themselves.
That is not okay.
And in that moment in the hall at my office, I made a promise to myself: Any time I caught myself calling myself an ugly name or saying something rude about myself, something I wouldn’t tolerate from a stranger, I will stop myself and remind myself that it’s not true. I’m not dumb. I’m not stupid. I’m a person who sometimes makes mistakes. I won’t tolerate someone calling my family members names, and I’m ready to stop tolerating that behavior from myself.
Yes. I have stretch marks and the skin on my belly is loose. Every single mark on my belly is a reminder of the victory I won over hyperemesis gravidarum. That loose skin? It may be loose, but it’s special. That’s where I held my two precious daughters. My body will never be the same as it was before I had kids, but really, is anyone’s? I’m finding myself being more and more okay with that as time passes.
I hope this will not only bring a sense of peace and confidence to myself, but will teach my girls to love themselves and their bodies.
And yes. I wore that purple bikini on my vacation. Stretch marks and all.