You’ve been here long enough. Cut the chains and wipe off the ashes. You have to do this on your own. Take a good look around. Do you see anyone else who can take on this task? No. You’ve tried that before and when they failed, your prison walls came closer and closer. You’re lucky the claustrophobia didn’t kill you. You were so sure that it would.
Take a good look in the mirror. Notice the wrinkles that you once used lotions and potions to prevent. Notice the chicken pox scar on your forehead that a few bad bang haircuts couldn’t conceal. Notice the freckles that once gave you enough faith to let the light in, if only for a brief moment. Notice the frizz and grey hairs popping up on your head that you desperately tried to hide with conditioner and hair dye. Glance down at your arms and the extra skin that sways back and forth when you wave your kids goodbye on the bus in the morning.
This next part will be hard, but you are worth it.
Pull your shirt up and look down at that space on your body that you have wanted to cut off since you were a kid. Try to remember a time when it was smaller. Try to remember a time when it was bigger. Try to remember a time when you didn’t hate it. Think about all of the diets, cleanses, disorders, cuts, Spanx, abuse, and tummy control leggings that suffocated you. Pain is beauty, isn’t it?
Now, focus on your legs that couldn’t sit still. Remember how they couldn’t run fast enough to set you free. Then remember how they ran a little too fast from moments that could have lasted if only you could have stayed in the present. Look at that extra skin that looks like cottage cheese and recall all of the gels, squats and self tanner you tried to use to make the fat disappear.
Lift your head up and look straight ahead. Make eye contact with person staring back at you. Think about all the times you couldn’t face her. Your eyes were always too blurry or too tired to focus. Remember how you wore the shame, disappointment, guilt, hurt, and anger like it was a new shade of foundation from Maybelline. Maybe you were born with it. Think about how you learned to hate that face and what’s behind it Think about all the plans you had, the places you would see, the life you thought you needed. Remember how you told yourself over and over that happiness was a big house, a two car garage and unlimited funds on a credit card. Then, remember how those things brought you desperation, not happiness.
Close your eyes. Fold your shaky hands and breathe.
Take a moment.
Take another moment.
Now, open your eyes. Those wrinkles on your face are souvenirs from happiness. You laughed too loud, now you have smile lines. You looked up to the sun and crinkled your forehead to take it all in. The chicken pox scar that made you feel different from the other kids isn’t visible at all anymore, it’s just part of your face. The freckles are reminders of camping by the ocean, walking the dog, bbqs with family, sitting on the swing with your legs pumping you up to the sky. That grey hair is there for a reason, you’re growing. No one becomes a self-sufficient adult without a few grey hairs. Those flappy arms have grown strong with each child you have carried through the sunshine and the dark. Those arms are home to the ones you love with each and every bear hug.
It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok to feel fear. Just ride it through so you can feel something better. I promise, you will.
That stomach that you wanted to carve out of your body is the most miraculous part of anatomy. That space is where you get nourished to live each day. That space has been abused for so long, it’s time to have gratitude for it. Your belly holds the memories of each delicious family meal and homemade desserts. It’s an excellent communicator of your daily needs, even when you forget. It may have been the space where you grew a life inside of you. It may have grown or shrunk over the years, but it’s sacred. It is your temple. It sustains your life and holds the parts of you that create the magic and wonder of life. It’s been beaten and bruised over and over again, but it’s still there. Part of you. Big, small, full, empty, covered in stretch marks, covered in scars. You can suck it in or push it out. It doesn’t matter.
Still a part of you.
Your legs are powerful. They have carried you this far, show some respect. Have gratitude for the limbs that have kept you standing on your own two feet. They haven’t given up on you, they just keep moving you right along.
Look back at your reflection again. That is the face of resilience. You are the image of strength, intelligence, perseverance and determination. The parts of you that are on the inside are the most important of all. You’ve let the voices of others create your internal dialogue. I’m here to tell you that you are the only voice you need to hear. You can gain knowledge and inspiration from others, but your thoughts are yours alone. They aren’t your enemy anymore, they are your gift. Your worth and presence in this world isn’t defined by your fears. It’s defined by your ability to go through them and survive.
You are a survivor.
It’s time to love yourself again. Take away your filters and appreciate the person you used to be, the person you are, and the person you are becoming. You may not know when or how you lost it, but you have just created the map to lead you right back to it. It’s always been there.