My journey with self acceptance really started after I had kids.
Have you ever seen an old picture of yourself and had the thought, “man I wish I was as skinny now as I was back then when I thought I was fat”?
I’ve always had some body image issues.
I’ve always felt a little awkward socially.
I remember being in second grade and having some boys at the public pool snicker at my big butt. They thought I couldn’t hear them.
A couple years later a kid on the almost all boy soccer team I was on pulled my hair and we tussled at practice. There was one other girl on the team, who was quiet and sweet. I was loud and opinionated, and they didn’t like me very much.
In intermediate school a group of older girls used to taunt me in the hallways and in the locker room. They asked me math questions because I wore glasses.
I’m not looking for sympathy. Just giving some back story to my feeling awkward.
So, I got picked on a lot.
The Dark Side To Self Image Issues
This is the part of the story I hate telling. I am a bit ashamed of it, but it’s my truth.
After high school I moved to a beach town and started bartending. I drank too much but had a lot of fun for a while. Bartending turned into a position of power for me. I felt cool. Some people actually thought I was cool, too. (I feel so lame even saying that now, haha. But being cool had always been so out of reach for me. Now that word seems silly.)
I remember one night in particular I made a jab at someone else. Everyone laughed at that person.
And it made me feel really… good. Being in a position of power can be intoxicating.
And it also made me a big fat jerk for a while.
When Self Acceptance Started To Change
I stopped drinking after it became really problematic for me. To read more about my recovery, check out my blog here.
Recovery led me onto a path of self exploration. I had to look at the pain I caused, and that position of power was part of that. I leveled myself.
I learned seeking humility is not about being more than or less than, but seeing myself for who I really am. It is recognition of what and who I am. No less than, no more than. I am not worse or better. I’m just Melissa. That is the heart of seeking humility.
I still felt awkward for many years to come. But the first step was acknowledging that I felt that way- awkward. I would even say it out loud. Someone who ask how I felt, and I would say… awkward.
And the truth is that most people feel that way at least part of the time. I thought I was alone in feeling weird and looking awkward. But even the people I thought were “cool” or “popular” felt exactly the same as I did. We’re all just trying to figure it out at every stage of life. Who knew!
Self Acceptance In A Marriage
Regardless of what phase we have been in, I have always felt secure with my husband. My security and self acceptance should not come from other people. But it was empowering to be with someone and never have to feel insecure.
It didn’t matter what weight fluctuation I was in. He loved me. It didn’t matter if I didn’t wear makeup, he thought I was pretty. And it was genuine and quiet and understated and real.
Self acceptance became easier being with someone who really cared about me. I had spent my whole life trying to live up to someone’s expectations or live to make someone else happy and hadn’t ever realized it until I was with someone who did not need me to make them happy.
Choosing Healthy Relationships
I started making some hard choices in my life regarding relationships. Recovery started this process by having me look at the past. Not just romantic relationships, but family, friends, coworkers, whoever. I have a choice to allow what is acceptable in my life and not feel guilty about it.
If someone repeatedly causes me pain I can choose to not have that person in my life. What a relief!
And self acceptance is so much easier when you are surrounded by love in your life. Again, I am not suggesting self acceptance should come from outside myself. But the decision to be around loving people was a choice I made to love myself better.
Self Acceptance After Children
After my first was born, I “bounced back pretty quickly.”
After my second, I did not. At all. And when I did it was not in a super healthy way. I was just tired of feeling “fat.”
Now after my third? I’m heavier than I have ever been. And surrounded by so much love in my life. And I had a revelation.
So much of my self image is tied to how I look.
When I look at pictures of myself thin, I don’t think, “I look skinny.” I think, “This is the *real* me.” I discovered that I think part of who I am fundamentally comes from my weight…
And that is so very wrong.
I want to be a healthy person, not a thin person. I want to be loving, kind, generous, respectful of my body and not abuse food because I am “eating my feelings.” I want to honor God with my choices. Being thin or heavier has nothing to do with who I am. I didn’t even know I felt that way until recently.
The real me has nothing to do with my weight.
The real me has nothing to do with feeling awkward, or what happened years ago.
And ultimately I have an identity in a loving God. I am not just a mom, a wife, an employee, a friend, a sister…
Above all I am a child of God and my identity is in Christ. And today I think that is the most awesome thing ever. That my identity and self acceptance are not tied to people around me or what I do, but who I am fundamentally in a kingdom I don’t even fully understand.
Find Self Acceptance Today
I would encourage everyone to think: what makes you who you are? Maybe journal about how you identify yourself.
What labels have others put on you now and in the past?
What labels do you put on yourself?
Where did those ideas come from?
What things do you do that feel fundamental to who you are?
How have those things changed over your lifetime?
Self love is a never ending journey that I am still on. Being self aware is a huge start. And stop the qualifying cycle. Change the inner dialogue. And surround yourself with love because you love yourself.