What I learned from ‘bad’ pictures

So here is the deal – yesterday I wanted to write about my day working on yard games with my sister as promised Monday , however, the reality of the day was such that the games didn’t get 100% finished … not a single one of them … and that I felt miserable by days end.  It was hot, it was humid, and it was an all day event of trying to figure out how to navigate world that was very new to us.

I was still ambitious, if exhausted, but when I sat down to start a post I saw the pictures I asked my sister to take of us working.  I was so disheartened by what I saw.

I picked apart the pictures in about 30 seconds or less and felt horrible about myself.  I try to follow the ‘body positive’ movement we have going on, I try to remember I am my own worst critic, and I absolutely try to remember how badly I don’t want to pass my own harsh self judgement tendencies to my kids.

But here is the thing – all of those messages about how I am supposed to feel and how I should see myself make the whole thing that much worse.

What?  The positive, love who you are, your kids only see you not your ‘imperfections’ messaging makes things worse?

Yes, that’s right.

Hear me out.  I look at the photos and I see my less than straight posture, my ‘extra’ in the middle, my ‘extra’ on my back, the heaviness that has sunk into my arms and I immediately feel guilty and worried about those thoughts.  I think as a culture we swing from one extreme to the next and avoid giving individuals permission to feel and be and think as they do.

So after beating myself up about how poorly I have taken care of myself in the past years (I used to have a gym habit and completed 2 marathons – now I have a ‘sugar’ habit and chase kids) I am also beating myself up for not seeing how strong and magical my mom body is, I mean growing 2 small humans is no small feat.  Holding them when they are sick and sad is a blessing all its own, and of course gardening, playing tag, and making homemade treats with them are special memories that I am blessed to have made.

And yet in the moment of seeing myself on camera – arguably the most objective way I am able to see my body in action – I am struck by this inability to take it in, feel organically, and evaluate those feelings.

Here is the cold hard truth – I will never be a size … whatever that desirable number is these days … and I will likely have some loose/saggy whatever body part chooses not to jump in line.  And even if I was the ‘perfect’ size, I would see those imperfections.

But I also need to do better.

I don’t exercise like I used to/should.  I have never had a diet that is admired by any health food expert.

I need to do better.

But in this body positive culture we have grown (which by the way is an amazing thing) we have gotten so intense in the attitude of all sizes are beautiful and you are perfect as you are, that I have noticed I feel guilty any time I feel less than okay anytime I have thoughts to the contrary … but without those thoughts of ‘I need to do better’, I can’t recognize a change is needed.

Yesterday I also saw a video about a woman talking about her ‘mom-bod’ struggle.  She talked about how hard it was to adopt and accept and to feel good in her new self.  She also talked about all the wondrous and amazing things she has done in this new body/phase of her life.

Most days I am in her camp – I wouldn’t trade a single minute of motherhood to erase the scares it’s left behind.  And yesterday after beating myself up for the poor modeling I am doing for my kids in the exercise and diet department – I looked at a collage of my pictures of the day.

Here is what I saw:

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  • I am strong, independent, silly, and hard working.
  • My son and daughter went to the hardware store with their mom and auntie to buy wood for projects – that they then watched us work on.
  • I am fearless – well okay fearless is an overstatement but my sister and I managed to set up a work area and I am a master at that chop saw and I didn’t do too bad with that circular saw either.
  • My kids got to experience new materials in their world and explore how to use them … they had a blast
  • And possibly most importantly – neither my kids nor myself had any thought or care about how I looked while we were working … it didn’t matter.  It didn’t define my ability to do any of these things and it doesn’t define me in my daily life … until I slow down and think about it.

In our quest to support woman and change the body shaming of people who are not model material, it almost seems we have gone to shaming anyone who is less than in love with what they see.

Here is the thing – until we stop worrying about size, regardless of the message attached – and start focusing on being healthy, we are never going to be in a place of support, love, and understanding.

So today we are going to go to the park, we are going to play, we are going to have a lunch of fruits, veggies, and cheese, and we are going to play in the sand, run around, and make memories.

And in my daily mom habits – I am not going to give my less than ideal body a second thought.  Instead I am going to make healthier choices – I may never run another marathon, but I can show my kids how to be determined, accomplished, confident, and maybe most importantly, how to take stock and strive for better.

PS. I promise an update on our yard games once they are done.

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