Until recent years I had a bad habit of putting myself down. I would look at my fine, straight brown and wish that it was long, thick, wavy auborn hair instead. Even as a little girl I would wish for hair like Charlene Tilton who played Lucy in Dallas. I have suffered from acne since I was 11 and I think this had a lot to do with how I saw myself. If I ate chips or sweets I’d imagine people were saying “No wonder her skin looks like that.” And although I am naturally slim I always had some criticism to be making about my body. I often felt fat and thought clothes looked terrible on me. The first person to point out this bad habit to me was my husband, way before he was my husband. He told me that he hated to me speak about myself in this way when he saw me so differently and wished I could see myself as he did. I thought he was blinded by love and didn’t see me as I actually was. I didn’t believe in the me that he saw. I wasn’t fishing for compliments. I saw myself through a filter of negativity and only really paid attention to what I perceived as my flaws.
The truth is that I am 160cm tall, 53kg in weight and the possessor of a strong, healthy body, a good appetite and a fast metabollism. I’m an average, reasonable looking woman. I have a ready smile, a friendly disposition and a good intellect. I can read, write, run, teach, learn, sing and have a passion for family and my work that gives me purpose and motivation. I do still have acne but it is the only health issue I have ever had. It is far worse in my eyes than in the eyes of anyone else, and so I look at it less through my eyes these days. I choose to see myself through a much more positive filter these days.
She has the same strong, athletic little body. She has hair that is brown, straight and shiny like mine. She has the same blue eyes shining out of her little face that is so similar to my own face. If she were to have a temper tantrum in the supermarket I could not pretend that she were not mine: our faces advertise our kinship and leave the world in no doubt that we are related! She knows this too. There’s a photograph in our dining room of my younger brother and I aged about 7 and 5. One day she looked at it and said “Mummy, that photo of you looks just like me!” She also shares my love of talking and tells anyone who’ll listen her business! She often tells them that she and mummy have the same hair and both use Mega Shampoo.
So shall I continue in the self-deprecating, negative, insulting way I have thought and spoken about myself in the past? What message would this send to my daughter? Because my Mum looks a lot like me, and when she looks at herself she sees a very ugly face looking back at her, to the extent that she hates to have her photograph taken and actively avoids mirrors. She actually has a lovely face; I’d show you, but there are no photos!
And the truth is that when I look at my little doppelganger daughter, she dazzles me. I love to see the expressions on her face that let me see into her inner world and her experiences of the outer world. As the eskimoes have many words for snow of different types, she has a different smile for experiences of different types, that range from mischief through mirth to bittersweet. When I check in on my girls before I go to bed at night, I gently give thanks for their existence and their wellbeing as I straighten their quilts and put teddies back in bed. If I love her face, and her face is so obviously derived from my face, I must have been seeing a different face to the one in the mirror all of these years.
So here I am, a thirty seven and three-quarter year old woman who has long-since made a decision to like and appreciate myself. Because I’m OK. I am fine just as I am. I am neither more nor less than myself. And some of the world will like me and some won’t. But my thoughts and opinion of myself no longer ebb and flow with the thoughts of others as they used to. All I really have is the body I inhabit and the mind that I create. This is where my power and control lie, this is where I have the ability to change things through my thoughts, actions and energy.
And I want to set an example for my daughters. If I bitch about myself and teach them that life should be a permanent striving to be different than I am, that I am never good enough and someone else is always better by comparison than me, then I harm them and do them a disservice.