Over the past few years, I have witnessed some of the most stunningly beautiful women (and men) make negative comments about themselves, because they find some type of imperfect characteristic about themselves, as if we as humans are perfect in anyway. As a late thirty-something wife of 19 years and mother of three wonderful boys, I completely understand this obsession with our bodies, after all I am a woman. However, it saddens me greatly when I hear women make inferences about themselves that are meritless. Women that are a size 2 whine about a little pot belly or women that are a size 22 cry themselves to sleep because getting to that “J-Lo” size is somehow unobtainable, yet these women never take into account what they do have. When we learn to see numbers for what they are, just a category that society places us in, then I believe we will finally reach true inner peace.

I’m no different than any other woman, I have insecurities. I wish I was a size 6, sometimes too. I wish I had more lean muscle and less fatty tissue. I wish my boobs were plumper and my belly less so, but I know that there is a certain “type” of woman that God never meant for me to be, like the one on the cover of Sports Illustrated and/or the VS catalog….yeah her, I’ll never be her….ever! But what I have learned over the course of my 39 years so far is that……I will never be her, because she doesn’t exist, and even more importantly, she will never be me. She will never have a man that worships the ground she walks on like I do. She doesn’t have the healthy, sweet natured, beautiful boys that God blessed me with. She will never know the feeling of being completely okay with being me, because she is not me and I will never have to feel the pinch of old age threatening my livelihood because I am not her.

Does this mean I throw my hands in the air, give up, and cry into a gallon of butter pecan, well I could and I have, but that’s not the end of me, or the be all-end all definition of me. What it means is, I have reached a point in my life where I feel just as beautiful and even more confident in my current size 14’s than I did when I graduated from high school in an 11/12 (which is the equivalent of a “perfect” size six for my height and build). I didn’t know this then, though. I thought if I didn’t look like the women that men drool over in the media, I was never going to have that “fairy tale” relationship. I thought I had to look like them to get the “guy” I thought wrong! I was young and dumb and inexperienced. I allowed what a group of marketers deem as being sexy, to define what’s sexy for me. Several years ago, I decided that I needed to get into better shape, for ALL the reasons one should. I was doing laundry at our old house in Lincoln Park, and I was climbing the basement stairs and I realized that I was completely out of breath just from one load of laundry. I went down the stairs and back up, and by the time I reached the top, I was so short of breath, I had to stop and sit. This was my epiphany. This was that moment when I realized, no matter what size I drop to, what type of bikini/suit I wear, or how my butt/hips look in my yoga pants, none of this is going to allow me to traverse a flight of stairs without needing oxygen. The only thing that will allow me to get over these physical obstacles in life is to be healthier.

That day I vowed that I would make the necessary changes I needed to, in order to make this happen. I decided I needed to change the way I looked at myself. I needed to turn the TV off and pick up my journal. I decided to write out the things that bothered me about myself: the bad habits, the wrong foods, the negative comments, the inconsistencies…..etc. As I began recording this, I realized that they were only perceptions of myself. I realized that the perception I had was not necessarily who or what I was and am. I started power walking, and I promised myself to try to do this at least 3-5 times a week. I decided to include WAY more water in my diet, and cut the unnecessary, like the Taco bell gorditas and the Coco Pebbles for breakfast. I did NOT stop eating, I simply cut the unnecessary and replaced it with necessary. By necessary I mean raw almonds, spring mix instead of a head of lettuce, and soups with clear broth instead of creamy. This was almost 4 years ago, and since then I have accomplished things I never thought I was capable of, like running my first half-marathon, fitting into jeans the same size as I wore when I graduated, and most importantly…..actually liking the body that I have.

I am still on this journey. I still struggle with my self perception, like many people. However, now I realize it’s a struggle that I have with myself, not with societal comparisons of imaginary perfection. I’m overweight right now as I type this, but the difference between now and back then is, I don’t feel the hopelessness that I once felt. I don’t feel as though getting to be my best me is out of reach. I know I can, because I have been and always will have the capacity to be that woman. The best me isn’t in my size or my swim suit or my hair color, my best me is the brain matter I utilized in recognizing a facade and the heart it took to overlook what this facade attempts to convince me of about myself. NO ONE in this world knows me better than me, and one thing I have learned is that even at my lowest point, when I’m feeling ugly or sloppy, all I have to do is take the time to be kind to someone: a smile, a compliment, a simple “hello” because that is what people will remember about me, not my size. This is how we learn to love ourselves, and this is what allows our counterparts to love us even more!