“She really let herself go” is a saying I’ve heard more than a few times and always with a negative connotation. After the birth of my daughter “I really let myself go” in a positive way. Most of it had to do with reprioritizing and redefining beauty, or at least what makes me feel beautiful. Before I had my daughter, when I was first dating my husband, I was 30 minutes late to meet him for a date (he actually fell asleep on a bench waiting for me) because I was trying to put together the perfect outfit. Countless wardrobe changes and repeated twisting and turning in front of the mirror was par for the course. I never felt comfortable when my boyfriends saw me without makeup on. I was scared that they would be surprised at what they saw, somehow disappointed. I funneled an enormous amount of energy into my appearance, exhausted copious amounts of precious brain power to make sure other people viewed me in the “right” way.
Fast forward to today. My daughter is now two and a half. I have not worn makeup for 10 months. Not. A. Stitch. I decided I didn’t want to model for my daughter that who I was, naturally, wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want her to think that when you look in the mirror, you frown. Do I still have moments when I see myself and think “Hmm I wish my eyes were bigger, or “I wish my skin tone was more even” of course. I’m human. I’m a woman in today’s society. But mostly I look in the mirror and like what I see. And I like it because it looks like ME, who I really am and not some altered version of myself that I put on to go out into the world. I look the same first thing in the morning, albeit a little bit disheveled, as I do if I go out on a date with my husband. I am not saying that it is wrong, or bad to wear makeup. For me it was about the realization that I didn’t like what I saw without it, when it felt like something I HAD to do, and not like something I WANTED to do. Do I look less polished than I used to? Absolutely. Do my outfits sometimes not quite match, not quite flatter every angle? Absolutely. But I feel more confident walking around in the world today because my values and priorities have shifted. My relationship with myself and with acceptance has evolved.
So hopefully next time you see a mother, like me, out there in the world in sweatpants for the third day in a row, or with her hair shoved under a baseball cap you’ll think, “She really let herself go! Whoo! Good for her!” Because what you are looking at is someone who would rather spend an extra 30 minutes with her daughter, than stand in front of the mirror, twisting and turning.
Inquisitive. Open. Kind.
For most of my young womanhood, I struggled with yo-yo dieting, binge eating, emotional eating and compulsive exercising. I felt locked into a destructive cycle of guilt and shame around my eating and body image. Over the years I’ve learned that the purpose of exercise is not to punish the body, but to allow it to move freely. I’ve learned that there is a way of eating that can result in real nourishment, one that has absolutely nothing to do with calories or grams of fat. As women, I believe we need to stop giving away our power to the scale and to elusive images of perfection we see in the media. We need to stop denying our right to be exactly who we are. Then we can realize our journey through life is not bound by rules. It is a practice. And wherever we are is beautiful.