On Being Good Enough

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One of the hardest steps on this journey (you know, the overcoming disordered eating and a sucky body image journey) has been coming to terms with and accepting the body I have, right now.  Not the body I wish I had or hope to have one day, if I work really hard and push myself; but this body—the body that has a loose, squishy stomach and stretch marks and deflated breasts and round cheeks and thin lips.  The body that won’t ever grace the front of a magazine and most likely won’t be caught dead in a bikini.  The body that doesn’t always look right in clothes and the body that can look legitimately pregnant after a good dinner.

This is also the body that created and grew and birthed two (big) little babies.  This body stretched and grew and ached and hurt, and it supported and sustained and nurtured all three of us.  It’s a pretty nifty body, after all.

I don’t look like I did in high school.  And sometimes, I get it into my head that I should.  I think that I should look like an underweight, not-yet-developed fifteen year old girl, not like a woman and wife and mother who carried two children.

But guess what, self?  I am a woman (whether or not I feel like it).  I am a wife.  I am a mother who carried two children, and those children left their mark on me.

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And that is okay.

There is so much pressure sometimes.  So much pressure to be better! stronger! prettier! thinner! and it can feel suffocating.

So a few months ago I just said, Screw it.  I’m done.

I’m done feeling like I’m not good enough.  I’m done with “self-improvement”.  I’m done with all of these workouts and diets that are being pushed at me.  I’m done with trying to be “stronger” and “healthier” when they’re being used as code words for “thinner” and “prettier”.  I’m done with feeling like I have to be beautiful to be worthy of love and attention.

I’m done with trying to be a green, natural, media-free, creative, inspiring, perfect mother. I just can’t do it right now. I’m done with all of the conflicting parenting rules and impossible standards I set for myself before I realized what I was doing.  I’m done feeling bad about everything I do because someone out there doesn’t agree with it.

I’m done with goals that never get reached, but taunt me later when I find the discarded slips of hopes, scribbled down in a fit of optimism.  I’m done with feeling like I’m never doing enough, with being overwhelmed by all there is to do.

I’m not saying goals are bad.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to improve.  Not at all.  What I am saying is, you have to know yourself.  Know when you’re okay and when you’re not okay.  Know when you need to step back from everything, and know that it’s okay to take a break for a while if that’s what you need.

Know that it’s okay to be exactly who you are, right now, and to like that person.  For a long time I thought it wasn’t okay to like myself.  I thought it was vain or prideful.  I thought women were supposed to hate themselves and criticize their bodies.  That’s what everyone does, right?  That’s normal.

That’s also a big, huge, freaking lie.

When I went to college and had roommates for the first time, I found out that I wasn’t the only one riddled with insecurities.  All of these girls that I thought were so beautiful and perfect and intelligent had things they didn’t like about themselves–their stomachs, their thighs, their eyebrows, their hair, their lips, their arms…the list really is infinite.

What the hell are we all doing, treating ourselves like that?  What is so wrong with us that we feel like we have to constantly be fixing and perfecting everything about us in order to be “good enough”?  Who or what are we trying to be “good enough” for?

The secret is that we are already good enough to the people that love us; to our friends and our families.  We are already good enough to God.  And I’m giving you permission to believe that you, exactly as you are right now, with all of your supposed imperfections and insecurities and habits and mistakes–you are good enough.

Maybe that sounds cheesy or trite.  But I spent years telling myself how stupid and ugly and fat and [fill in the blank with any negative word of your choice] I was and it took me a long time to realize that that is not okay.

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It was scary at first, learning to like myself.  It was scary to say, “Hey world.  I screw up a lot and I might offend people sometimes and I’m not very disciplined.  But I like myself, whether or not any of that ever changes.”  It’s scary to decide that you look good the way you are.  It’s scary to finally start buying clothes that flatter you, the current you in all your glory, instead of waiting until you’ve hit that ever-elusive goal.

If someone calls you fat (or ugly or stupid or whatever) it’s almost easier to just duck your head in shame than it is to stand up and say, “NO.  I love myself, and it is not okay for you to treat me like that.”  Sticking up for yourself can be terrifying.  But you have to do it.  You have to take care of yourself.  And that includes (and starts with) protecting yourself from that nasty critic that is constantly monologuing in your head.

Again, I don’t think that wanting to lose weight or improve yourself or reach any goal is bad.  It’s the motivation behind it that I don’t like.  When your motivation is coming from a negative place, or from self-loathing, that’s when I think it’s time to step back, take a breath, and give yourself some space.  Space to be, space to grow and change–or not.

And who knows–you might just surprise yourself.

——–

So, in the interest of authenticity and solidarity (and oversharing?) I did something I never ever thought I’d do–post a picture of my bare, non-pregnant abdomen.  So there’s that…  😉

Body image is something I’m really, really passionate about (obviously) so forgive me if I seem a little overzealous.  That said, it’s something I love to talk about, so if you have thoughts and experiences, please do share.

And show yourself some love.  You deserve it.

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13 thoughts on “On Being Good Enough

  1. I so agree! Many times I have to shift my thinking and try to remember that this body is a gift and I need to remember and be ever so grateful for it. In all it’s personal quirks and age lines and injuries and look what it has carried me through all these years!
    You know I haven’t been able to run for 4 months, and though I am not a runner, I really miss it. Last night I was so excited that I figured out how to sort of run in a hop- hobble kind of way.
    I was chatting with someone the other day and we started talking about those pictures we see of ourselves and we shove in a drawer, or delete, thinking how bad we look. But years later when we run across the picture again, we see how youthful we were, and how we were too hard on ourselves and actually looked better than we thought. I have done that and now think sadly of all the mental energy I wasted on self criticism.
    I guess what I am saying is that we don’t know how good we have it until it is gone. We complain, we whine, we try to change, or fix so we somehow measure up to……?? What ARE we trying to measure up to? If it is society, than that is a fools errand. If it is a true and honest attempt to try be a better human being, then I feel that is acceptable.

    How is that for an unclear muddy explanation of my thoughts as a forty-something? Lol

    • I agree with everything you said. I feel like being pregnant really helped me appreciate my body, because I kind of got to step out of it for a while and look at it from the perspective of someone else. When I was pregnant I would look at all those pictures that I thought were so terrible and think, “Damn girl, you lookin’ fine!” 😉

  2. It’s so funny (and tragic, and revelatory) reading this and remembering how in high school I was so jealous of Anna’s and your physiques…slender, willowy, yet also curvaceous. I was incredibly unhappy with what I felt was a short, stocky figure and an unending battle with my tummy and arms, and there were days when I was eaten up with envy. I say “were” but it has remained a constant battle with the near-resentment I feel towards those with more “perfect” bodies than mine. Sometimes I feel like a pudgy awkward dwarf in comparison with some of the other aggravatingly slim 20-somethings who are my friends. I have looked at your post-preggo pics and thought “Omg, how does her body still look like that after pregnancy?? Not cool.” To me, you DO still look like you did in high school. It’s amazing what we do and say to ourselves and the warped reflections we see in place of reality.

    Thanks for sharing your little precious tummy. You are sparkling and marvelous and eternally beautiful.

    • Oh Emmalyne, I’ve always thought you were so beautiful. And unfortunately, I know exactly what you mean about comparing yourself to others and feeling you come up short. I have struggled so much with being jealous of other girls…there are still people from high school that I have this uncomfortable, ugly mix of feelings towards because I’ve tainted our friendship with my own stupid envy. It sucks. I know it may not seem like I’ve ever struggled obviously with my weight, but I have felt all those angry, jealous, resentful feelings towards other girls/women. It’s mean and unfair and also SO hard to conquer.

      I love you and I love your honesty. Thank you for sharing with me.

  3. This. This is so so perfect, Heather. I remember how, as a kid, I was totally carefree and unconcerned with my body. I was the oldest and we only ever watched cartoons at home, so there was no pressure coming from anywhere. It was only when I started junior high and high school that I realized that something must be wrong with me — because there was something wrong with all these other pretty girls, apparently. It was around then that I started a decade of anger and loathing for my body that gradually moved on to me hating my personality, my mind, myself.

    But in the past couple of years, it’s like you said: I have learned to be gentle with myself. I am learning to let go of the “supposed to”s and the “should be”s. I love the rawness of this post, and I am sure it wasn’t easy at all to post. You are beautiful — but more importantly, you are kind, smart, empathetic, and brave. Even if you don’t feel like it sometimes, that’s how I see you.

    • I was the same way, completely oblivious about all this stuff until about the age of 14, when it all started to kick in. It’s like that scene in Mean Girls when they’re standing in front of the mirror, criticizing themselves. When we hear it from all of these other amazing women, we think, “Well, hell. I’m nothing like them and if there’s something wrong with them there has GOT to be something wrong with me!”

      Thank you for always understanding me. I love that we can relate on so many levels.

  4. I saw Marissa posted this and read it, and just, thanks. I am working REALLY hard on lots of this right now! I’ve been wanting to write something like this myself, but I don’t think I’m ready. I’m 6.5 weeks postpartum and I’ve been disgusted with myself and my body. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be. And I hate myself for hating myself because my body gave me my perfect, sweet little Annabelle! And I had 2 lost pregnancies trying to get her here, and if you would have showed me a picture of myself now during those dark times and said, “This is what you will look like, but you will have your baby. What do ya say?” I would have screamed and jumped up and down and said, “I don’t care a bit! Give her to me! Give me 20 more lbs and see if I care! I need her!” Finally I told myself I needed to forgive my body and come to peace, but then the thought came: “forgive?? What do you mean, forgive? As if it’s done something wrong? No no no, it’s done something incredibly right! It gave you Annabelle. It gave you Annabelle after much trial and error, and it figured it out! And everything with her was perfect! That body grew every little perfect piece of her without flaw. So cut the crap Ashlyn, your body deserves your utmost thanks and love for that.” It’s still reallllly hard sometimes, but I’m trying! And I’m so so so glad you wrote this so I know I’m not the only one. I used to look at pictures of anyone I knew that had had kids when they were pregnant, and I totally went through yours (stalker alert) and was so jealous! I was like, of course the beautiful one still looks like a knock out while pregnant, and nothing got big except her belly.” It actually gives me peace of mind to know you struggle too. So, thanks for writing, from someone who is still trying to figure it out 🙂 *end unsolicited novel*

    • Oh Ashlyn, postpartum body love is SO hard. Your comment brought tears to my eyes. In a fun twist of irony, I stalked your pregnancy pictures too (for some reason I am obsessed with other women’s pregnancies–even now!) and had the same thoughts! “Oh, of course she’s so pretty and tiny and she’s just going to look so perfect the whole time and have this cute little belly.” I guess that means we should give ourselves a little more credit, because at least someone else thinks we look good. 🙂

      Sometimes I think it’s kind of cruel that women have to struggle with a tired, achy, flabby, unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable body during the time when they’re also adjusting to having a tiny baby depend on them. The postpartum weeks and months are hard and full of so many adjustments. (SO MANY.) It’s taken me a few years to really learn to accept my body. So go easy on yourself, as much as you can. You might never love EVERYTHING about yourself, but that’s okay. (The other day I was trying on a swimsuit–why in January, I don’t know–and I looked in the mirror and I was like, “Why are my boobs so sad?? Somebody get some underwire and some push-up padding in here STAT!”) Just be gentle and give yourself the credit you deserve. I know that doesn’t help much and I know you might feel so defeated sometimes but you had a baby so you have earned your BadAss degree! If you ever want to talk or vent or just need encouragement, you can email me any time. Love.

  5. you are quite remarkable. and, as a woman who struggles with an eating disorder, i can very much relate. not to sound like a creeper or a lesbian, (!) but i think your body is beautiful. it shows all you’ve been through. it shows strength. i love that.

  6. I’ll never forget when I realized my body had changed. I knew it was changing…but I’m so terrible at making accurate comparisons. (In my mind I’m pretty tall…but 5’4″ is about as average as it gets.) I was pregnant and I saw a picture of myself from a year earlier. It was taken from the side, full body and candid…I was just doing some dishes…not trying to look cute or anything. I saw this picture and immediately felt this sort of caving in. I could see for the first time how I had changed and I felt devastated. I used to have a totally flat tummy, skinny little arms, slendor legs. All of it gone…covered up by a nice think layer of chubby. Eventually, (meaning a few years later,) I started to see that picture was of an underdeveloped girl, and no matter how inconvenient it may be…I’d rather be a woman.

    I started to look at classic depictions of women in art and I could see that my distaste for my womanly figure was a product of our society being infatuated with the 16 year old with a boob job body. Look at ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Botticelli. Now that girl obviously has a uterus. Bathsheba Bathing by Rembrandt, The Three Graces by Ruben! These are real women…and what used to be thought of as PERFECT women! They were goddesses! Soft, stretched out, pliant skin. And do any of them look sad about it? No! They’re laying around naked because they are so comfortable with themselves. Somewhere women lost pride in their bodies and started trying to look like little boys, and it’s perpetuated by women hiding what they perceive as imperfections. Exposing your changed body here is so brave, and exactly what we all need to see and show each other as women.

    • Thank you so much, Robin. It frustrates me when I see pictures on pinterest of a thin, sculpted girl with the tiniest, TINIEST bit of roundness in her stomach–and the picture is accompanied by some title like “BANISH THE POOCH!” and a workout or diet. I’m like IT’S NOT A POOCH SHE’S JUST A FEMALE!!!!! And it also infuriates me to see that because they’re putting up this image of this perfect girl, one who most of us could never be like anyway, and then pointing out the tiniest “flaw” (in quotations because it is NOT a flaw) and telling you that you should fix it. Can we just be who we are without having to beat every fat cell off of our bodies?

      I also love looking at women in classical art; I’m so glad that you brought that up. (I also loved, “Now that girl obviously has a uterus.”) 🙂 It helps me see that the current beauty standard has not always been “the law”. I love seeing those women because they look so soft and feminine and comfortable and real. Looking at “fitspiration” makes me feel horrible about myself–like I need to work harder and change everything about myself right now–and looking at classical art makes me feel happier with myself–like I might already be beautiful, without having to change anything. I like that better.

  7. Pingback: Things I Said I Would Never Do | Authentically Heather

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