When I learned I was having a baby girl, I was mostly ecstatic, over the moon. I could hardly wait to go to the store and buy outfits covered in tulle. Honestly, if they had matching mommy outfits, I was more than ready to start rocking tutu’s again.
But, deep down, in the darkest places of my heart, I was more than a little terrified by the idea of raising this girl… and more than a little convinced that this task would prove beyond my ability. Because, for several years, I have been in recovery from an eating disorder. I have struggled with binge eating, compulsive overeating, negative self image, body dysmorphia, and obesity- for most of my life. I had bariatric surgery at the age of 28, when in truth, I should have forgone the surgery and went straight to therapy. This led to several years of anorexia. I have been every size imaginable, from 300 pounds to barely 100, never satisfied with the number.
So, how would I be able to raise a little girl and teach her to love herself, when I’m still learning to do the same? How would I raise her to know that she has unlimited potential and immeasurable value, when I have spent so much of my own life- weighing and judging myself by THAT number, a slave to the scale?
For a very long time, I believed myself to be “too much” or “not enough”- so, how would I be able to convince this sweet girl that even as a tiny little bean growing in my belly- she was “just right”? How can I prevent her from stumbling down this same path? In truth, I can’t prevent any of that, but I can create a daily mantra for us to live by, and hope that it is enough:
1. Do not “should” on yourself. As women, we put so much pressure on ourselves, living by strict rules of who we SHOULD be, how many pounds we SHOULD weigh, what we SHOULD have gotten done today, instead of taking time for ourselves…. Should is a slippery slope to guilt and shame, and that slope ends at Rock Bottom. So, stop shoulding, and start affirming.
2. Affirm your self. Every day and all day. Instead of looking for flaws, new stretch marks, etc., think instead of what you are capable of. Challenge negative thoughts by thinking of why you are unique, and what you have accomplished. And, then look at yourself in the mirror, and say that affirmation. Go on, try it! I know it feels dumb and uncomfortable. But, do it anyways. Especially when it feels dumb and uncomfortable. Affirmations are the first step to self love, and that kind of love is truly all you need.
3. Don’t should on your friends, either, and toss affirmations their way, too. (This number was definitely influenced by Mean Girls.) I will be the first person to admit that I have looked at plenty of other women, some of them very dear friends, and thought “Should she be wearing that?” or “She should not have gotten that haircut.” A solid sisterhood— friends who love you for all of your imperfections— they will be the warriors at your back, keeping you on the straight and narrow.
4. Food is fuel. Food is not your friend, nor your enemy. Trust me, I know this. In my early years, food was the only friend I had. It comforted me when I was lonely, and it seemed to fill up the empty places in my heart. But, that comfort was short lived, and disgust followed soon after the comforted feeling had disappeared. It was a vicious cycle to break, and it caused many years of grief and heartache. Food has no power of you— it is just the fuel you need to get through your day. Do not give it the power to be more.
5. Guilt and Secrecy breed Shame. And Shame is the path to addiction. No matter what happens to you, no matter what you have done, forgive yourself. Let go of that guilt, and move forward. Talk to someone about it, if you need to. And, always remember that the people who matter, the people who truly love you, will forgive you too. Wallowing in guilt, stuffing it down, and ignoring it- will only cause it to grow.
6. The word “Perfect” will be removed from the dictionary and all of our future conversations. To be perfect, is to be without flaws. And, your flaws make you unique. Striving to be perfect means that you are striving towards an unattainable goal. It will only leave you feeling empty. Reject perfection, and embrace reality.
7. Live your truth- not someone else’s ideal. I spent so many years of my life trying to be what I thought others would want me to be. And, it could have cost me my life. I was never truly happy because I was living for another person. I have learned that I am happier than I ever thought possible- living in my own reality- instead of dreaming of what I can never be.
8. Physical size has no impact on the value you have in this world. Do not be a slave to the scale- it will not bring you happiness, and at the end of the day, it is truly just a number. You are more than a number. I am more than a number. Repeat as often as needed.
My pregnancy was nine months of morning sickness, cankles, swollen everything, and plenty of truly embarrassing moments. It was also the first time in my life, that I could look at myself in the mirror, and truly appreciate my body and what it was capable of. What each of us is capable of. The chain of my eating disorder has finally loosened its hold enough for me to move on. I don’t know if it was just the pregnancy or all the years of hard work, but I have found peace.
I used to pray that I would lose weight, look different, feel different. Now, I pray that I continue to have the strength and conviction to teach my daughter how to avoid the path that I stumbled down.
Related post: To My (Maybe) Daughter