You look fine. You look like you.
If no one has told you lately, or ever, let me. You are fine. You look like you are supposed to look—and it is perfect.
Perfect is a loaded word, isn’t it? I could literally HEAR your eyes rolling as you read that line. “I don’t look perfect! I have “x” pounds to lose, my boobs are too “x”, my flab is too floppy.” Etc. But think about it. What if you just lived in your own skin for a day, without thinking about how it is aging, how much it weighs, or what it looks like to others? You look like YOU. You are the perfect you.
The Throwback Thursday (#TBT) phenomenon on Facebook is one of my favorites. I love looking at everyone’s past pictures and catching a glimpse of the person they used to be before I knew them, or be reminded of the person they once were. When I look at my own, especially from my last years in high school, I want to reach across to myself and tell her that she is fine. I want to reassure her that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to–that there is an end to her loneliness.
Seeing my picture, at 17, reminds me of all the things I was doing to myself to be thinner, prettier, look more like everyone else, be desired—things I hope my daughters never feel the need to do to themselves. What did I need then, and what can I give my children now, that might help them feel a little more sure of their place in their own skin?
My parents ached for me. All the tears I shed—face hot and crammed into a pillow–about being overweight, being picked on, or worse, feeling left out, spurred my parents to say, “We just have to work harder. I’ll go on a diet with you. Kids are mean,” or “You have such a beautiful face.” Friends listened and echoed sentiments rooted in their own insecurities. We could easily identify with each other’s flaws and shook our heads in agreement any time they were mentioned. We all felt we needed to change.
At no time can I remember hearing, “You are fine.” For all the well-meaning advice and consolation I received, I never heard any reinforcement that I was OK. I need to know that I looked like I was supposed to look in that moment.
As parents, we want to shelter our children from the pain we think is headed their way. We would do anything to save our children from torment. Perhaps we accidentally encourage our children to conform to an artificial standard, to fit-in, in a desperate attempt to save them from the cruelty we experienced or know to be present in the world. Instead, we must strive to love them for exactly who and what they are, and what they look like, at each and every moment.
There are times when the most difficult thing I can do is be silent in the face of my daughter’s fears and early insecurities. It doesn’t seem like enough to hold her and tell her how much she is loved, that she is just where she needs to be. I want to fix it. I want to make it stop. But it’s the “fixing” that mistakenly reinforces the idea that something is wrong.
I’ve always hated my arms. Following a long tradition of women in my family, we know our arms to be fat and ugly. Indeed my arms are big, much larger than the normal woman, but they are perfect for holding my daughters. They are the right size to cuddle both my girls at the same time and big enough to shoulder their burdens. My arms carry all the grocery bags into the house when it rains, and they make perfect pillows for sleepy little heads. My arms are perfect for this moment in my life.
And if no one ever told you, or you have long forgotten, you are perfect too. Trust me.
Go ahead, believe it. Then share this with a friend. Let her know you see how perfect she is in this. very. moment.