“I am smart, I am kind, I am strong, I am a gift from God, I am loved and I love myself.”
This is the sentence my friend has her children occasionally recite to themselves in the mirror to encourage their self image and see their worth. She started when her children were really little.
This blog post has been the hardest for me to write. I kinda laughed even when I typed the title. For whatever reason, its much easier to talk about not being a perfect mom or wife than talking about the “issues” I face inside. I may be able to pretend I have an almost perfect life but no one, I mean no one is going to think I have a perfect body.
I’ve been overweight most of my life. It’s been a constant struggle and I surely have issues with food. Even though I’ve always been overweight, I’ve also always been physically active. Not a big sports participant but I was always outside or riding my bike, or at the pool, or on the go. During adolescence and since when other girls, much skinner that I was, were insecure about how they looked in a bathing suit, I had no problem getting in the water and splashing with my friends, chubby thighs and all. You see, confidence has really never been something I’ve struggled with. For that, I’m very grateful. I know I am pretty. I like the way I look when I’m heavy and when I’m not as heavy. I have always been able to see the bigger picture and know that I didn’t want to miss out on something just because of the way I may look to someone on the outside.
I was lucky growing up that my appearance never hindered my success with relationships. I don’t know why. I never was picked on for my weight- even though I was one of the largest girls in my class. I had lots of great friends. When I became boy crazy, I was successful in that area as well. I’ve been able to date many guys over the years and can say I’ve been in love with 3 different men, who all have been happy with the way I look.
While confidence may be something I can rock, I still have body issues. And feeling self worth and loving yourself is hard. After the birth of my daughter, Amara in May 2008, I knew I needed to make a change. A big one. I tipped the scales at 203 pounds during that time of my life. I was stagnant. Not moving. Not happy with the way I felt. Brian and I together decided to begin a journey to get healthy.
See, that’s the best part of this story- I get to do it with Brian. While I wouldn’t wish body issues on anyone, I’m so thankful my partner also struggles. We’ve been able to take this road together, every step of the way. We decided that along with losing weight, we needed to get healthy.
Over the next 6 months we began moving. Eating healthier. It worked for us. We lost more than 100 pounds together. I hit my goal weight of 150 pounds and for the next 3 years I kept the weight off with diet, exercise, and conditioning.
Summer 2011 I challenged myself to go below my goal weight and I did- lost 10 more pounds and actually made it to the weight I pretended to be on my drivers license. I knew the moment I saw 140 on the scale it wouldn’t last. I knew I couldn’t maintain that weight. And I didn’t. I was OK with that. My goal weight had always been 150 and that was OK with me ( but 140 looked really good on me).
But then LIFE happened again. Damn life! I had a debilitating running injury that caused terrible foot pain and I’m just now recovering from a massive surgery for it. I was diagnosed with cancer and had to have surgery in my chest, which prevented me from running or being physically active for a month. I got lazy. Not in life- no way- I’m up at 4am everyday and I don’t stop moving until I am ready to fall asleep. But lazy from putting my health and my body first. I’m up 15 pounds from where I want to be weight wise and I feel bad. And that’s where things get difficult when talking about body image….
I’ve never asked my children to stand in front of the mirror and recite the sentence written above. I want to. And I will. I think it’s a beautiful way of empowering them and giving them language to identify self worth other than beauty.
I’ve never said those words to myself looking in the mirror either. Maybe that’s where I should start, ya think? Yes, I’m confident. I’m even ok with rolls of fat hanging when I sit down and a cottage cheese butt. I still know I am loved. So why, is it so very difficult to FEEL love for myself. To believe I am strong enough to deny the Oreos being offered and cut away time each day to better myself. Why is that? How come a confident person like me still struggles accepting compliments?
“You look really pretty today”, someone said to me
“Ugg, glad YOU think so- its been one of those days”, I replied
“I love your hair- it looks great that way”, she complimented me
“Seriously? Its dirty and needs a cut. Thank God for ponytails!” I said back.
Christian Fashion consultant, Shari Braendel, spoke at the Hearts at Home Conference last year. This very topic of accepting compliments came up in regards to motherhood. Our children, our boys and our girls, are watching and listening to us. Even when we least expect it or don’t assume it will make a difference.
We can sit our children in front of the mirror and tell them how beautiful they are and how proud we are of them. My parents always did that for me. But we can’t make them feel it. We have to give them skills that will allow them to be competent and capable. We have to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them so they can grow. We have to provide them with experiences that will challenge their minds and souls. We have to give measurable compliments on who they are and what they are doing, not empty ones. We have to model self confidence and accepting compliments and model self worth- so they can begin to SEE us and themselves a certain way.
If our children hear us say, “Ugg, these pants don’t fit, I’m fat” or “look how big my butt is” or “I hate the way my hair looks” or “My skin looks terrible today” how will they respond…How will they feel when someone tells them they look just like their mommy?
Will they say “Thank you” and believe it in their heart that they are beautiful just like her? Or will they begin to see themselves as fat or ugly or not as good as they can be because their mommy feels that way about herself?
And when our children receive compliments,
“That drawing is amazing. The colors you used are really beautiful” How do you want them to respond?
“Thank you. I’m so glad you like it!” or “This? I just can’t seem to get the colors to blend the right way.”
“You did incredible on the soccer field today- you ran the whole length of the field!”
Do we want them to say,
“Yeah, I had a blast!” or “Yeah, but I didn’t score the goal. I missed.”
“That dress is gorgeous. You really look stunning tonight.”
Do we want them to say,
“ Thankyou. I really feel pretty in this dress too.” Or “I love the dress but I think it makes my arms look fat.”
SELF WORTH, PEOPLE! SELF WORTH, MAMAS! SELF WORTH, KATIE BECHTEL
Its not about confidence ( I’ve got that). Its not about how you look on the outside ( I know I look ok). Its about how we feel about ourselves. How we then reflect that to others and to our families.
I’ve got work to do. For myself and for my children. I would do anything if I could ensure my children really felt good about who they were now and who they would become. As I sit here at the computer literally banging my head against the desk, I begin to think of the lists of things I should or could be doing to encourage my kids differently. Big things and little things I can do NOW and in the future to help strengthen their self worth.
STOP! Its not all about them. Damn! I did it again. I need to think of me. Instead of listing all the things I can do for others to help them feel better about themselves, what can I do for me?
I know that if I can start there…With me…the one person I have control over, I can make the most significant difference with others just by changing myself.
So Katie- put on those big girl panties and do it! You may not be at your goal weight. Life may have knocked you off course for awhile. But don’t give up! Get back on track. Its not about the number on the scale, its about how you feel inside your own skin. Its about the image you reflect back to others and the message you are sending to the children who look to you for everything. No one ever thought you had a perfect body. Don’t go for perfect. Go for healthy. Powerful. Capable.
Katie- You ARE smart, You ARE kind, You ARE strong, You ARE a gift from God, You ARE loved.
Now start loving yourself!