My daughter caught me checking myself out in the mirror recently. I had on my new summer bathing suit — a size larger than the one from last year — and I was glancing from side to side at the figure staring back at me.
All I could see were my flaws. I wrinkled my nose as I caught a glimpse of my thighs and my belly. In the past year, hormones, stress, anxiety, and a newfound bad habit of emotional eating have resulted in a body I barely recognize.
My body has been ravaged by four children.
My body has been battered by grief and loss.
My body has been beaten down by age and self-doubt and anxiety.
My body has been wrecked by both the weather and the storms of life.
“Mommy, you look beautiful! I love your bathing suit! Are you ready to go swimming?”
My eight-year old’s sincere words pulled me out of my body shaming stupor.
I leaned down and wrapped my flabby arms around her in the tightest squeeze we both could muster.
That day, my daughter helped me understand my body is so much more than what I saw in the mirror.
My body is strong. It carried four children and brought them into this world. It cares for them and nourishes them and wakes with them at all hours of the night. It held them when they were tiny and continues to hold them as they grow.
My body is resilient. It has overcome pain and fear and stress and worry. It has learned how to love and laugh and live amid deep sorrow and darkness. It’s fought its way back to the light.
My body is seasoned. It has healed from sunburns and surgeries and sadness. It has learned from mistakes.
It chases kids around the backyard. It climbs rocks. It jumps on giant trampolines. It goes down water slides and runs through sprinklers.
It trains for half marathons.
It laughs and cries and feels an extensive range of emotions.
More than anything, my body is a vessel of love for my daughter and her brothers. My size and weight are of no importance. My kids need me to be there for them and to enjoy life with them.
I will always be there for them. I will bend over backwards to make sure they are okay. But, it’s hard to enjoy life with them when I don’t enjoy my body.
That’s why I’ve decided to not only enjoy my body but to love it. My children deserve this and so do I.
I will laugh with them and play with them and make the most of each day with them. I will love life and love my body. I will no longer worry self-consciously about how I look as I jump into the pool or water ski or climb the rope structure at the park.
And the next time I find myself staring aghast into the mirror, I’m going to remember my daughter’s loving words to me. In her eyes, I am beautiful. From now on, my own eyes will agree.