You know what I really wanted for Mother’s Day? I wanted a picture of me and my boys. The kind that so many of my beautiful Facebook friends were posting on their timelines. A shot of my handsome boys, and me – looking fresh, young and carefree, with flawless skin, and a pure white smile, and my hair all curly and gorgeous.
And I got a picture of me and my handsome, perfect boys. In fact, I got about twenty of them. Ten at my parents house, where we had an awesome bbq to celebrate the day. Then I tried my hand at a couple selfies when I got home, first in front of the window, next with the light behind me. And then I made the Hubs take another five pictures, one of which I ran through several instagram filters before I finally, begrudgingly, settled on one. And you know what? I still wasn’t happy with it.
“Why are my eyes SOOO baggy all the time?!?!?!” I complained to the Hubs.
“They’re not,” he said simply.
I didn’t believe him. In fact, that night, I spent a good fifteen minutes leaning over the bathroom counter, my face about an inch from the mirror, taking a good look at myself. And my inner monologue went a little like this:
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the baggiest eyes of all? Why me, of course. Along with crazy unkempt eyebrows that haven’t been tweezed or waxed or threaded in a year. Wow, my skin tone is uneven. I’m like the before picture for a Nivea commercial. And why is this dark spot getting bigger?!?! I’m not pregnant anymore, for goodness sake. If the Hubs asks one more time if that’s food on my face I might cry. Isn’t your skin supposed to completely restore itself in like a month? Then why do I still have so many acne scars, nearly ten years later? And of course, this lovely scar across my forehead from the accident when I was three. I can usually hide that with my hair pretty good. UGH, MY HAIR!!!! I want a nice hair cut. Like, nice bangs or a cute bob or something. But then I’d look like a giant q-tip. Only chubby. Oh, hello, wrinkles all over my forehead. I see you invited some of your friends to camp out at the corners of my eyes, and what’s this?!? Around my lips too. Great. Thanks ever so much for that. Make yourselves at home why don’t you. I can’t look at myself anymore. This is depressing.
And all the time this was going through my head, all I could see were the beautiful faces of all those other women who weren’t me.
Do you play this game? The comparison game? Sometimes I play it knowingly, as I did on Sunday night. And sometimes I play it without even realizing. When I’m watching a show or see a poster at the mall, when I’m looking at a magazine, or even meeting new people. It can seem like a harmless game, but it is far from it. It’s dangerous, and toxic. And it hurts.
It hurts me. When I berate myself for the extra pudge here, or that flabby bit there. Out of the shame that accompanies that hurt comes a self-hatred that only leads to darker places. Insecurity fuels judgement, and soon my self-criticism turns outward.
It hurts my boys. When I gasp in exasperation and despair at the sight of myself every time I pass the mirror, my son learns that I only value myself based on how I look. I am teaching him that my happiness is based on my appearance. And I am teaching him that the first thing he should look for in the women around him, is outward beauty.
It hurts my marriage. When I don’t take my Hubs at his word, when I don’t trust that he truly thinks me beautiful, I create a breach in our relationship. When I look at other women and think, I wish I looked like that, I foster an insecurity that will only lead to doubt and destruction. I open the door to lies.
Thoughts are powerful. When we let our minds wander down a certain path, we can soon find ourselves in a jungle of ideas and emotions that have nothing to do with the truth. If we take a moment to really step back and think carefully, we can sometimes be amazed at how we arrived in that dark place.
My truth is this: I have tired, baggy eyes. I have too much flab here, and too much pudge there. I have bushy eyebrows, and when I raise them in surprise my forehead looks like a piece of school lined paper. These things are true. These things make me, me. But who I am is so much more than those things. And who I am, is loved. Loved by my Hubs, loved by my boys, and loved by the One who gave me life.
You are loved too.
Imagine the joy and the freedom that truth would provide, if we could just keep it in the forefront of our minds, every time we looked in the mirror.