What if I told you that you can have a bounty of self-love, and yet, still not feel beautiful? That you can jam out to Lizzo’s Good As Hell, screaming the verses and pounding your minivan’s steering wheel like self-love is going out of style, and at the end of the day, still feel like you want to crawl inside a hole?
Because you can.
As a mother, it’s not uncommon to neglect your own wants and needs while going above and beyond for the needs and wants of your children. It’s not unusual that your shirts haven’t seen a stain-free day since before your kids were born. It’s not baffling that your sweet little babes rifle through your makeup and ruin it, leaving you without a stitch of makeup to hide the bags beneath your eyes.
Week after week, you promise yourself, this is the day I’ll start to take care of myself again. I’m finally going to spend some money on me. I’m going to make it a priority to do the things that let me feel a touch of my old self once more.
But week after week, when you’re face-to-face with last week’s broken promises, you assure yourself with an already empty certainty, next week.
A part of you loves this new version of yourself — this selflessly messy you. This person who is softer around the edges, sometimes dirtier from kid-induced stains, and with a huge heart that could literally burst at the seams with pride for your children. But then there is another version of you, and she’s tired of hiding in the background, feeling frumpy and a bit embarrassed, because she feels in her bones that she’s “let herself go.”
Out of a million things you could miss from your pre-mom life, one of the only things you miss is simply feeling pretty.
You don’t need to feel like a runway model. You’re not demanding to be pampered like someone fixin’ to make a grand entrance on the red carpet. And you’re not even asking for Jefree Star’s to-die-for contour pallet (even though you wouldn’t object). But damn… the downright shady things you’d do for a fresh stick of eyeliner that hasn’t been smashed on a baby doll’s face or some mascara that hasn’t hardened into a sticky clump.
But as you express these feelings, it’s not long before society jumps down your throat to reassure you that all you need to resolve these contradictions is a bit of self-love and perhaps a taste of self-care. You’re told that you should “just be grateful” for the blessings of motherhood instead of obsessing over the mess it brings. That you should “love your body as is,” and that the power to change these ill feelings toward yourself lies somewhere within.
And while we all should pursue a path filled with more self-love and self-care, these pep-talks don’t always change your deep-rooted feelings or perceptions of self — they only further burrow you into the deep, self-conscious rabbit hole.
You’re being told something you already know, and, quite frankly, it’s tiring.
You understand that you can be both beautiful and a mess. You see your worth. You know your potential. You’re confident that you’re truly a badass mama. And sure, you even know that outward beauty is fleeting. But that doesn’t mean you don’t long for the days when you weren’t fighting a rigged battle against motherhood and had the space in your day to make room for simply feeling pretty.
Because, chances are, you do miss it. As much as you love seeing your children run around with everything they could possibly need or ever want, you dearly miss the days when you weren’t lacking the basics to care for yourself in the way you deserve. You miss having the time, the money, and the energy it took to get yourself “dolled up” in a way that indulged your inner, childlike “princess.”
No matter how cheesy you feel in admitting it, it’s okay to miss that. It’s okay to want healthy change in your life that gives you the feel-goods. It’s okay to seek a path that puts yourself first every once in a while. And it’s okay not to settle for your life in its current state all for the sake of misinterpreted “self-love” while you’re skimming through some half-assed “self-care.”
Although we can feel and be beautiful in whatever size we are in, whatever skin we wear, and throughout the many ways life changes our outward appearance, it’s not something anybody can drill into us or persuade us into believing — it is something we, and we alone, must feel for ourselves.