The beautiful and talented August McLaughlin is hosting the very first Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. Her posts never fail to delight, but August has created something very special with this collection of authors. You will definitely want to check out her website tomorrow, February 10th and tour through the blogs of the gifted writers participating. In addition to the lure of the posts there are prizes to be won, including a Kindle and a $99 Amazon gift card.
I’m almost 45 years old, and it took me a little while to stop mourning the loss of my 20-something body. You see, I used to be a gym rat, lifting weights, cardio, swimming; I worked out almost every day to keep my body looking like the girls in the magazines. It helped that I had a very physically demanding job that kept me moving and on my feet most of the day, working as animal trainer.
But somewhere betwixt there and here, I picked up a few extra pounds year after year. I was curvier, and not entirely sure I wanted to be; I was used to thinking of 125 pounds as the end of the world, and now I was a bit beyond that. Hub was happy with me, but was I happy with me?
No mystery in the why. In the ten years between leaving the animal field and now I had moved to another state, changed careers, got married, and worked long hours on the night shift. I had spent my days off doing nothing but eating McDonalds and chocolate comfort food, reading, and sleeping, too exhausted to exercise, then too broke to keep the gym membership. Excuse after excuse. I spent a fair amount of time trying this fad pill or that exercise gimmick to try and lose the weight quickly. You know how well those work, right? Even though I left the night shift and joined the ranks of the daytime, Monday through Friday workers, I’d lost the habit of exercise, and picked up the habit of picking on myself, and spent a lot of time not feeling very pretty at all. Yeah, that’s also a big help isn’t it? I had a bunch of family drama in my life, and I pretty much turned into a hermit. Yes, the stretchy pants are my best friend.
I wanted to exercise more and eat better, but I was never very good at sticking with it. It took me months of self-castigation before I realized I was working against myself with the negative talk. I gave myself a stern reality check. Why would I avoid working out because I couldn’t go lift or run for an hour and half every day? Because I would hear: What’s the use? Anything less won’t do you any good. Oh that little voice in my head! I was trying regain the body I had 20 years ago, and I was using phrases like, you’re so ugly and fat, and you are such an idiot to try and get myself off the couch. For all my time spent meditating and working on my spiritual self and trying to practice love and compassion for my fellow beings, I had precious little to give to myself. Why is it that we are always hardest on ourselves, using words we would never dream of repeating out loud to another person, to bully and browbeat our inner self? I forgot that our strongest power comes from accenting the positive, not the negative. Instead of berating, I turned to offering myself love, and support.
Then came the real shocker. A friend recently posted a picture from that time, and I didn’t even recognize my own form at first. Seriously, the first thing that flashed across my brain was, sheesh, why doesn’t she eat a cheeseburger? With extra bacon? Although I didn’t consider myself unhealthy at the time, I remember a co-worker telling me that when I first started at the zoo, she didn’t think I’d be able to handle very physical quality of the work, that I looked so frail.
I was trying to squish myself back into a square hole when I’d become a round peg. My mental image of the younger me didn’t match the reality of who I was now, not just physically but mentally
Seeing that picture was a turning point. That ultra skinny and well-nigh unobtainable magazine body was not what I thought of as attractive or healthy now. I’d been beating myself up for not having something I didn’t really want anyway. I stopped thinking of the former me as something to be longed for, punishing myself because I was no longer that shape.
When I next looked in the mirror I saw my curves as beautiful, not ungainly. I wasn’t a stick skinny girl; I was woman in her prime. In that moment I was gorgeous in my eyes, and I learned to love my body all over again, when I’d been a fair way to hating it. I stopped whispering hateful messages in my ear, and instead switched to empowering phrases, and looked for ways to adapt my lifestyle to incorporate healthier eating and multiple, shorter bouts of exercise. I realized I was comfortable with who I am now, and while I saw room for improvement, now it was for me. I would define my body as beautiful, not give that power away to the media or the magazines! I can’t tell you I’m perfect at eating right all the time, and sometimes I get so lost in my story I completely lose track of time, but I am consistent about getting back on track, because now I am comfortable in my skin.
Every woman should be able to look herself in the eye, say I love you, and truly mean it. Don’t try and conform to the media’s narrow definition of what looks good, the beauty of a woman lies in her soul. Learn to love yourself and see yourself as a true child of the Spirit, and you will see the beauty we all carry within. Then will shine it for all to see.
How do you find your beauty within?