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I wouldn’t consider myself fat. I could stand to loose a few pounds, but at 5′ 6″ and a size 6-8 (occasionally a 10 depending on cut, fit, and if I’m having a fat day), I’m not fat. But I’m not a waif either. Even when I was really tiny (back in my high school days I wore a girls 14), I still had a booty and thighs. Those where back in the days where spandex hadn’t invaded all denim and pants were way less forgiving.
I have struggled with self esteem image for as long as can remember. I had frizzy long styleless hair when growing up, glasses by fourth grade, a retainer by fifth. I wore completely out of style hand me down, reject kmart clearance, and wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or read fashion magazines. I went to a private Christian school. Even among the outcasts, I was the bottom of the wrung of a social ladder I hadn’t even realized existed until far too late.
I didn’t stand a chance when I showed up the the first day of sixth grade wearing a Tweety bird shirt and hunter green jeans. I was pushed down, picked last, called names, and made to feel like the piece of unwanted garbage they imagined I was. I hated going to school. I hated each day I discovered a new way I didn’t fit in and thus would be made to know I didn’t fit in.
Some changes came in my life, namely a reason to be homeschooled, a job in which I was able to buy my own clothes and makeup, and even though I had an out of control eating disorder, I had some self confidence. Eventually, I did get a grip on my eating disorder, and was pretty happy 17 year old.
I met my husband and we started dating the summer after I turned 17. He made me feel like I had the most amazing looks ever, that I was smart, funny, and more. I let myself build my self-confidence in him, not me.
Life happened. We had kids. Mortgages. Jobs. Expectations. Failures. My heart was broken, and all that confidence I had built up in my husband, was dashed. Worse yet, I spent the next seven years, wallowing in that pain as it was brought up again, and again through failure after failure. We had another baby. This time I didn’t loose all the weight. This time I wasn’t a size 0 or 2 by the time the baby turned one. This time my feelings of inadequacy began to show on the outside. I stopped dressing cute. I wore poorly fitting jeans and t-shirts or pajamas around the house most of the time. I didn’t get my hair cut. I didn’t wear makeup. I didn’t feel worthy or that it mattered. I didn’t feel like I could ever be good enough or be everything my husband would want.
And then I woke up. I went back to school. I did things for myself. I admitted I was more than just a mom, a chauffeur, house keeper, and chef. I was a human. I was a woman, and fuck it all if I wasn’t worthy of time, money, love and confidence. So I started buying clothes again. I took up cycling to get healthy, to get stronger, to hopefully get in better shape and loose some fat, even if I wasn’t ever a smaller pants size. I didn’t always buy stuff that looked good on me. Sometimes there were disasters when I wanted to wear a current trend and it just did not look good on me if I didn’t translate it to my body shape. But I began to learn what I liked, what looked good on my shape, that a number doesn’t define me as a person. I am worth so much more than I was giving to myself.
And I had an epiphany.
I cannot let me self worth be defined by others. I have let other opinions be my metric as to how much I was worth, how pretty I was, whether or not I was worth time, energy, money, or love. But in reality, I am the only one who determines that. I can look anyone who had ever torn me down in the eye and say “FUCK YOU! YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME ANYMORE!”
So what I am not stick skinny. So what I diet, then fail at it 9 days later. I’m better for those 9 days of eating super healthy and I’m also in a better mood when I end up breaking my diet to eat licorice with my kids on family movie night. Even though I don’t have a media defined perfect body that can wear anything like a hanger, doesn’t mean I can’t look amazing. It doesn’t mean I have to be shut out from the fashion world, and my holy shit my body has done amazing things.
It brought my four children into this world healthy. I did it drug free, and felt every pain and tingle and move. I have stretch marks, I have curves, I have boobs (thank you life!), and I can turn a man’s head.
Then I realized my husband loves me and is attracted to me. It’s hard to believe all the time, but he is. I may not have that rocking 17 year olds body, or even the body I had before our last child, but I’m still beautiful and worth of his attention and love.
This was not an overnight realization. This was a hard won battle for my mind. One that reserves the right to be down in the dumps, and eat my feelings over. It is not over, and may never be. But each day that comes, I am further from that girl who let everyone else define her, and instead closer to a woman who defines everything on her own.