When I was younger (think adolescence through undergrad) I spent a lot of time wishing I was a little more _______ and had a smaller _______. The first blank was usually filled in with something personality-related like “outgoing”, “carefree” or “popular” (all of which I was definitely not) while the second blank usually stood for something physical like eyes, nose, or butt (I’m Greek – those traits kind of come with the territory). I didn’t think of myself as being unhappy, but I wistfully wished that I was somehow different. Somehow better.
It’s amazing how these little insecurities can worm their way into every aspect of our lives. They can impact whether you speak up in a group (and what you say when you do open your mouth) and they can influence everything from the haircuts we get to the clothes that
we wear. As I’ve gotten older and gained some perspective, I realize that all of this second-guessing of myself stemmed from one thing: needing external validation. In other words, the younger version of me needed other people to tell me whether I was good enough, fun enough or pretty enough. What an incredible power to give up to someone else!
I’m not sure when I stopped needing that validation. Perhaps it was when I got married and stopped feeling the need to shave my legs regularly. Or maybe it was when I had children and realized that they would have the very eyes, nose and butt that I so desperately wanted to change in my youth. I mean, I look at them and I see perfection. Don’t get me wrong – they aren’t angelic beings who can do no wrong. None of us are. They are, however, wonderful and delightful exactly as they are and they are worthy of all of the love and devotion that I can muster (and then some). So it occurred to me at some point, why on earth would I deny myself the same love and unconditional acceptance that I so generously bestow upon them?
Through the lens of my almost 34 years, I look at myself now and I am at peace with who I am. Sure, I’m kind of a neurotic introvert who is often socially awkward, but you know what? That’s okay. I live in a beautiful part of the country where my interactions with others are purposefully limited (no mass transit or long grocery store lines here!) and I work in a field where locking myself in an office for days on end to do research is not only acceptable, but encouraged. I look in the mirror and I no longer see too big features in an oval face. I see eyes that have (corrected) perfect vision, a nose that smells roses and farts from three rooms away and laugh lines around my mouth that I wouldn’t erase for the world. I see hips that have successfully birthed two children and legs that have carried me 26.2 miles and then some. And If I happen to have some cellulite, all that means is that my tushie won’t freeze in the winter and I’ll have a bit of extra cushion when I fall chasing my kids.
I so wish that I could go back to my 15-year-old self, give her a big hug and tell her that everything would end up alright. I’d also let her in on a little secret: being more outgoing or having a smaller nose wouldn’t have made her any happier, but loving and accepting exactly who she was at that very moment would have made all of the difference in the world.
Forgive yourselves your imperfections. I love you all exactly as you are. Promise!