The other day I was scrolling through the hundreds of photos on my phone of Baby M, and I thought to myself, “Gosh, this baby is beautiful. He is absolute perfection.”
I know I’m not the only mother in the world who’s thought that. In fact, I hope every mother feels that way about her offspring.
But it got me thinking further—about how we think of ourselves.
Our babies are beautiful. And when they grow into toddlers…then “kids”…then pre-teens…then teenagers …then finally young adults and full-grown adults…we still think they’re perfect (at least that’s what every other mom in the world has told me). Our babies will always be our beautiful babies—even at 47.
If we always think this way of our children—no matter if they grow short or tall, thinner or heavier—then when do we (and they?) start questioning our self image?
- Is it when we outgrow our favorite pair of pants as a toddler?
- Is it when we can’t catch up to little Johnny in preschool soccer because he runs faster?
- Is it the first tear-filled recess on the playground in 2nd grade when the class bully makes fun of our clothing, haircut, or pudginess?
- Is it when our middle school crush calls us a “nerd,” and we feel that first gut-punching sting of rejection?
- Is it when a football coach says you need to beef up or a gymnastic coach tells you to suck your tummy a little tighter and tighten your butt?
- Is it in the high school bathroom, in front of the mirror with a handful of other girls, when we critique our giant pimples, our flat (or large) chests, and our other “imperfections?”
- Is it when we graduate college and hit rock bottom in our struggle to find our place in “the real world” or share in meaningful relationships?
- Is it after pregnancy when we struggle to lose those last 5 pounds and realize we can choose either to loathe or embrace our new—remarkable—bodies?
- Or is it at middle-to-old-age, when we truly feel the effects of aging—those grey hairs and laugh lines that weren’t there yesterday or those aches and pains when we get out of bed on a chilly winter morning?
Each of us is unique—with a distinct purpose in this beautiful, diverse world. We are more than our bodies. So why is it that at a very early age—too early, really—we lose sight of ourselves and begin comparing ourselves to others and growing more aware of what we assume are imperfections and qualities that need to be changed or fixed?
While both standard and social media do a great job of telling us “you’re not good enough” or “you shouldn’t eat that” or “you should look like this (photo-shopped) supermodel,” the blame can’t be placed squarely on TV, magazines, Pinterest, or Instagram.
It’s something we experience too soon in our lives. It’s societal—but it’s also in our nature, I guess.
In reality, I do love my body. I’m still amazed at what it has accomplished through pregnancy and childbirth—and how it continues to gain strength with each lift of my child. Instead of fearing new grey hairs or the hint of a wrinkle, I consider aging a privilege—and I hope I do it gracefully.
I’m still in a bit of a funk—trying to look and feel “my best” by beginning a fitness routine again and maintaining self-care (when not tending to my baby’s needs)—but I know the good days outnumber the bad and my self-worth is not tied to the definition (or lack thereof) of my abs.
As Baby M grows and changes, I hope that he sees himself as I see him: as the incredible miracle and beautiful person he is. Maybe by policing myself—avoiding the critical “mirror-talk” and simply enjoying that giant bowl of ice cream instead of rationalizing my choice out loud—I can help him hold onto his innocence and positive self-image for as long as possible.
I’m linking up for some Thinking Out Loud today. Happy Thursday, everyone!