“Mom, am I fat?”
I remember the first time I asked that question. I was standing in the kitchen of my childhood home.
“You’re sturdy,” she replied. “You’ve got muscles.”
What I wanted her to say was, “Of course you’re not fat.”
That was the beginning of a long – really long – period during which I thought almost constantly about my body and how it looked. Or, more importantly, how it didn’t look in my eyes.
It took years to get to a place of feeling comfortable in my own skin. I’ve often thought back to those years I devoted to worrying and stressing about how my body looked, wondering: What could I have done with all that time and energy?
I was reminded of that sentiment when reading this piece by Jessica Valenti in The Nation, which recently came up in my Twitter feed. In it, she’s talking about women and their need to be liked — and how that need causes changes in their behavior that have long-term effects on how they perceive their place in the world – and how others perceive them. This line, in particular, resonated with me: “It pains me to think of what I could have achieved if I had that time back.”
Yeah, I know that feeling.
I don’t have many regrets in my life, but the time I’ve spent beating up on my body is among them. Because what I know now is that I’m healthy, I’m here, and that’s all that matters. I’ve been thinner, I’ve been heavier, I’ve taken good care of myself and I’ve let go of my healthy routines at times. Through it all, I’ve been the same person, though arguably much wiser, kinder and compassionate – especially toward myself – than I ever was in my younger years.
I don’t know if it’s a lesson we can learn from someone else – that the world will not cave in if everyone doesn’t like us. But the sooner we learn that lesson, the faster we can get on with the important work of just being exactly who we are…with no regrets.