Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Loving Me Instead of Liking Me

There's a difference between being okay with who you are and loving yourself.

A friend challenged the ladies in her group to name something they love about themselves and then comment on something they love about the others who had commented. I was one of the first to see the post but at least half a dozen women commented before me. Not because they were so quick to respond but because I had to think.

And think.

And think.

It took me about two hours to come up with something I loved about myself. Two hours. I thought about the fact that I didn't go through a crisis of self-confidence after giving birth. I didn't struggle with my self-image. I accepted my squishy belly and my tiger stripes almost immediately. But I'm realizing it wasn't a struggle because I didn't love my body before I got pregnant either. I was okay with it. I accepted it as a matter of course. It was like an old car. It got me where I needed to, didn't cause too many problems, but I didn't put too much effort into it either. It just was. I didn't like it but I didn't dislike it either. But that wasn't something to love about me.

I thought about the breakdown I had the other night about how I felt about my attitude, my personality. I thought about all the mean things my anxiety and my depression tell me are true. That I'm mean and selfish. That other people don't really like me, they just put up with me. That I'm no fun and I'm awkward. That I talk too much. I thought about all the things I don't like about me. Clearly, those weren't answers either.

I tried to think of one thing about me that I loved. I love being a mom but that's not really about me. It's about a blessing I was given. It's about my daughter. It's a fact of my being. But I thought about the things I love about being a mom. Wearing my daughter in our wrap, holding her close, nursing her, spending time engaging with her, snuggling her, sleeping with her in my arms. So many of those things required me to do research, to know what I was doing before I tried. I needed to know how to wrap before I could try it with her. I had to know it even existed as an option!

I had to know so much more about breastfeeding than I thought possible. Knowing what hunger cues were and the reasons why babies need to eat on demand and not on a schedule. Why she might actually be hungry even though she just popped off an hour ago. That breastmilk is so easily digested. What things meant I might have a low supply and what things didn't. Why topping her off with formula would have done more harm than good in most cases. Things I see women question daily because we've lost that cultural knowledge. Once upon a time, our mothers passed us that information. But in families like mine, the last nursing mother is three generations back and she passed away before I got to this stage. It's not something we grow up with anymore. It's not something we're familiar with or that we're used to. We have to learn it. I've been successful because I read voraciously while I was pregnant.

There are many other things I had to learn to be confident in the choices I've made as a mom. And I don't think I'm by any means done learning. But rather than being a daunting prospect, I look forward to the journey. I love to learn and to research and I love my thirst for knowledge. That, ultimately, was what I shared with the other women in the group. But it took me two hours to come to that conclusion.

Until today, I thought I was doing pretty good in terms of self confidence, self esteem. Because I didn't have a litany of self-hatred pour out when I looked in the mirror and because I like my body, I'm proud of the stretch marks that cover my stomach, that show I grew an entire human being, I thought I was doing well. But liking yourself is not loving yourself and I realize that now. I realize I'm not where I need to be. So today I'm starting a journey to love myself. To forgive my imperfections and to move from liking me to loving me. To treat me the way I want my daughter to treat herself. I'm not sure how I'm going to get there but I know I have to try. Care to join me?


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