When I feel inspired to write, I will often refer to my list of potential blog topics. One of those is “Self-Love.” But every time I’d scroll past it, my inner voice would laugh–loudly. Critiquing myself is easy, but what do I know about self-love?
As a girl, I recall my father admiring and praising beautiful women on TV. They often had long flowy blonde locks to match their long lanky tanned limbs. And they were always slim. In contrast, when I looked in the mirror, I saw a round, freckly-faced, mousy brunette with teeth too large for her smile and stumpy pale chubby thighs.
I have always had love-hate relationships with diets. In fact, I dated my first one before I even had boobs. Despite being ravenous, the newness of it all was intoxicatingly exciting and I found myself slowly falling in love with cottage cheese and Melba toast. However, just as things were going well, relationship sabotage reared its ugly head. In record time, my diet and I broke up and I was once again reunited with McDonald’s and my cuddly love handles.
This would mark the beginning of my life-long, metabolically damaging, and emotionally onerous courtship with food. Low fat, high fat, no carb, low carb, grapefruit, cabbage – you name it, if it was a diet trend, I tried it. And I loved them all. For a while. Counting macros and memorizing calories became an addictive hobby. I could barely remember my license plate, but ask me how many calories were in a Starbucks Non-Fat Grande Caramel Macchiato, and I would know the answer. (In case you were wondering, it’s 190.)
Looking back at photos, I was far from obese but more, as my mother would say, (with only the best intentions) “pleasantly plump.” But my painfully shy and awkwardly coordinated demeanor made me a bully’s dream come true. “You’re fat. You’re stupid. You’re ugly,” they would say from across the playground, in the classroom and once while pinning me to the sidewalk as I attempted to make my way home for lunch. And even at the age of 50, the sounds of their voices often drown out what my reflection in the mirror faintly whispers.
The media is constantly telling women that we need to love and accept ourselves exactly as we are – at this very moment – not when we’re 20 pounds lighter, married to the perfect partner, or have successfully completed a half-marathon. But how exactly do we do that?
My Self-Love Experiment
According to The Enneagram Institute, I’m a “helper.” Most people would describe me as thoughtful and compassionate. Yet I am ashamed to admit to the cruel self-talk that often takes place between my ears. Cruel self-talk that I initiate and would never say to any other human being but myself.
The other day, though, something happened: I was flirting with some dumbbells in my basement gym/storage room and I saw something in the mirror. It was me, but it was a me I hadn’t seen before. Instead of dissecting and critiquing my body one piece at a time, I saw me as whole—a perfect machine that allowed me to walk and talk and see. A perfect machine that could carry groceries and children and love.
Maybe this was a turning point. Maybe, if I practice and am especially mindful, I could teach myself to feel like this every day.
So I made a decision: For the next 30 days I would offer myself unconditional love. No negative self-talk between my ears or out loud. And then immediately, I failed Days 1 through 3. I was shocked to learn just how habitual it has become to find fault with myself. But my newfound awareness is empowering. I sailed through Day 4 with ease. Each morning, I meditate for ten minutes and offer thanks and praise to a different part of my body. Today, I decided I have cute toes.
It’s going to be an uphill battle. I don’t really know if I’ll ever learn to love my thighs or the way they rub against each other while I walk the beach completely covered up in my five-piece bathing suit. But stay tuned.
Because I sure am going to try.
Linda Stuart is a Life-Cycle Celebrant / Officiant located in Toronto, Ontario.