I have been sitting at my compute for the past 20 minutes trying to decide the direction of today's entry. Will my topic today be guidance? Will it be an outlet for my own feelings? Will it be a window into my past to see my struggles, and where I am today because of it?
When I first sat down, my mind was filled with a conversation I was having this morning with a friend whom I have been helping to try and understand that her body does not always have to be stage ready for her to feel beautiful and in shape. My mind is also focused on yet another friend and her body image. With my help, in the past, this friend had gotten herself in the best shape of her life but now has allowed her old habits to rule her life, and her hard work, sweat and tears are no longer visible.
In addition to these two women, my mind leads me back to my two daughters and seeing them each morning getting ready for school. My daughters are becoming more aware of their own bodies, the clothes they wear, and their overall appearance.
I am afraid for them.
When I was a young girl, I remember very clearly one day sitting in my room drawing a portrait of myself. Out of all the things I can recall of my younger years, this one has always stood out in my mind as if it happened only yesterday. The image I drew was my side profile and I recall that I drew my nose large, my breast small and my stomach bloated. This was how I saw myself at the age of 12. But if I look back on photos of me at that time, I looked nothing like that (well I had no chest, that part was true). I was a fairly average girl with no extra pounds on me but not too thin either. I had a great smile, clear complexion and a perfectly normal, healthy looking body. Recalling that drawing of myself really illustrates how the mind tries and tells you to see things one way, when really they are another.
My friend that we will call "T" (No, not T from the Valley) is a beautiful, strong and caring woman, who is independent and always tries to see the good in most situations. She is stubborn, strong willed and feisty but at the same time would give the shirt off her back to anyone who needed it. T use to compete in body competitions. I first met her a few years ago at a gym. She was there daily, always walking around with a purpose, her workout plan in hand and asfocused on what she had to do. She would often flash a smile at you or stop for a quick chat, but for the most part she was there to get her business done and put the most into her workouts. I recall I was in awe of her shape and her dedication.
Fast forward three years and T is still everything I described above, EXCEPT she is now caught in the drama of feeling like she has to be "stage ready" at all times. Stage ready is exactly how I felt when I did my competition through Max Muscle in 2012. http://www.maxmuscle.com/article/2012/7/maxformation-2012-top-25-announced.html
Once I reached my body fat goal of 9%, I felt like I had to stay that way forever. Not only did I not want to gain weight, but I did not want others to think I was lazy or going back to my old fat ways again. It was a battle I dealt with for many weeks. I literally felt myself falling into a disorder that I knew if I even dipped my toe in I would not be able to get out of easily. I had to tell myself that all my hard work up to that point was to be celebrated and honored, but that I had to find a new balance to start living by.
This is where T comes in.
I am trying to help her develop that same balance in her own life. Her body is lean, she is fit and she is a hard worker. Yet, the body image she holds in her mind tells her that she is fat and a monster. It is my daily goal to try and continue to help her work through this negativity that she sees and help her see the true image of herself--the one we all see when we look at her--which is the beautiful, lean and fit woman that she is.
The Dove commercial I attached to this blog is for the topic of my girls. Growing up, I did not have the mother - daughter relationship with my own mother that I have and continue to strive for with my girls. I do not have very good examples of that sort of relationship. I know what I longed for as a child with my own mother, and I know the image of a mother that I have in my own mind, and I know the type of wife and mother I want my two girls to be when they get older. With all of this, the last thing I thought about was what type of body image do my girls have of themselves?
I made a horrific mistake the other day with my daughter Gabriella. I had just gotten a new article of clothing and was about to wear it out. Gabriella came into my room and told me I looked pretty. I asked her if she liked the shirt and if it made me look fat. Her response was "I love it and you NEVER look fat." What message did I send to her in that very moment? Here I am asking my 9 year-old if I looked fat. Just like the Dove commercial shows us, our daughters learn from us in every way. If I think I am fat, she is probably going to think she is as well. Because what Gabriella sees is a fit, toned mommy who looks good and if I think that is fat, then she must be fat too. Life is about these little moments right here... and I have to be conscious of them each and every day and each and every moment.
The last thing I want for either of my daughters is for them to be doing a self portrait at 12 years old and drawing the same kind of image that I had once done.
No one is perfect. There is no perfect body. There is no perfect life. But we all have the ability to make the best of what we have and to work as hard as we can to improve anything we are not happy with. It takes hard work to achieve our goals and it can sometimes take just as much hard work to understand that we reached them and we can celebrate them now. We do not always have to be striving for the next big thing. We do not have to beat ourselves up thinking if we just got to this weight or looked like this then we would be happy. Happy comes from the soul not our images. We have to learn to find that happiness in ourselves and stop looking to others for it.
Today, I am going to go out of my way to show my daughters that I think my body is beautiful so that they will know their bodies are beautiful too. Today, I will continue to encourage my two friends to find a balance in their life that makes them happy, healthy, strong and satisfied. Today, I will love myself.
Please, love yourself today too.