What If

I exist through my living not because of some label. Descriptions enhance mind pictures but do not define the essence of my spirit. I am living. I am being. I am not a noun. I am a verb.
Gene McParland from “I Am a Verb”

I have a really big problem. At least to me it is.

I am mean to myself.

Really mean.

I constantly obsess about how I look, how much I weigh, how I could look better, how I need to be thinner, how I need to look fitter…it’s ridiculous and crazy.

I’ve got to stop.

What if…I did just that. I stopped.

But I’m scared.

I’ve been doing this since I was 11. Talking to myself in a mean voice, obsessing over my body. I’ve always been afraid that if I stopped, I’d…get fat and look even worse. That if I stopped berating myself over every morsel that went in my mouth and every minute of exercise I didn’t do in a day, I’d just let myself go.

What if…I just stopped.

But little by little / as you left their voices behind / the stars began to burn / through the sheets of clouds / and there was a new voice / which you slowly / recognized as your own / that kept you company / as you strode deeper and deeper / into the world / determined to do / the only thing you could do— / determined to save / the only life you could save.

— Mary Oliver, from “The Journey”

What if…I changed my mean voice to a nice voice? What if…I just didn’t have my body on my radar at all? What if… I just worked out because it makes me feel good and I like to? What if…I just eat to nourish myself and because I enjoy it instead of because of its calorie or protein content?

What if…I just stopped?

It’s the fire in my eyes / And the flash of my teeth / The swing in my waist / And the joy in my feet. / I’m a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman / That’s me.

— Maya Angelou, from “Phenomenal Woman”

I have spent so much time worrying about this…utter nonsense…that it makes me ill. I could have created world peace by now with all the time I’ve spent worrying about the way my body looks. It’s disgusting and sad that I’ve wasted that much time and energy…and I’m not going to do it anymore. I am way more than how I look. I am a mother and a wife and a friend…not just a body.

What if…I just stopped?

“What makes us truly beautiful is born well below the surface: a gleam in our eye, an ear-to-ear grin, a bounce in our step. But sometimes a little powder doesn’t hurt.”

–Rona Berge

When I stop to think about the real-life women I know that I think are beautiful, it’s not because they have the perfect face, clothes, body or haircut. It’s truly because of WHO they are…not what they look like.

What if…I judged myself in the same way?

“Exuberance is beauty.”

— William Blake

I am happy. I love my life. I am deeply in love with my husband. My kids make me cry with joy every single day. I am exuberant.

What if…that makes me beautiful?

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

— Buddha

I think I do deserve my love and affection. I’m scared to do it, I really am, but I can’t take it anymore.

What if…I just stopped being mean to myself and instead was…nice?

“We can learn to use makeup to emphasize our eyes or downplay a feature. But self-assurance involves learning to live with (and treasure) those fundamental things we can’t change: the very features that make each of us beautiful and unlike anyone else.”

— Bobbi Brown

I really need to stop comparing myself to others and just be me. I’m sure there are things about me, physical or otherwise, that others admire. I need to treasure those things and not worry about the rest.

“Welcoming imperfection is the way to accomplish what perfectionism promises but never delivers. It gives us our best performance, and genuine acceptance in the family of human—and by that I mean imperfect—beings.”

— Martha Beck

My favorite people in the world are flawed. Isn’t everyone? It’s ridiculous to try to be perfect.

What if…I stopped trying to be perfect?

“I don’t have to be perfect. All I have to do is show up and enjoy the messy, imperfect and beautiful journey of my life. It’s a trip more wonderful than I could have imagined.”

— Kerry Washington

What if…I just stopped all this and just enjoyed each and every day for all of its beauty?

“The relentless attempts to be thin take you further and further away from what could actually end your suffering: getting back in touch with who you really are. Your true nature. Your essence.”

— Geneen Roth

“Real beauty isn’t about symmetry or weight or makeup; it’s about looking life right in the face and seeing all its magnificence reflected in your own.”

— Valerie Monroe

What if…this is who I am and I just need to enjoy it?

What if…

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28 responses to “What If

  1. Wow. This is one of your best posts by far! I am speechless. Those quotes are amazing. Your thoughts are too. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could do this for ourselves. I often look at people I see and think to myself, “is she happy?” It is easier to just criticize and always be working towards some goal of self-improvement than to just be who you are and embrace it. I am going to print this and read it every day. I am going to let my girls read it. Especially my 13 year-old who is already having body image issues. We women are so incredibly hard on ourselves. Society doesn’t help very much. The only other quote I have that I think you would appreciate is this: “It is better to be an imperfect version of oneself, than a perfect impersonation of another”. I have had this on my message board in the kitchen for years. I show the girls it to teach them to love themselves and to be themselves. Thanks for posting this! This should be in a magazine!

  2. Wow! Just wow. Fantastic post. You hit the mark with this one. No matter who we have become or what we have, nothing can convince us of our worth but ourselves.

  3. I have that Maya poem on my mirror in my room…
    because yes, I am also mean to myself, and I read it to remind myself that I’m actually pretty awesome…

  4. I rencently read a really interesting book – The Self-Compassion Diet: a Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness – by Jean Fain. I think you’d really appreciate it. It’s hard to just stop your mean self-talk cold turkey.

  5. Tiffany,

    I like how you intertwined the various quotes with your own reflections. The worth comes from embracing who you are. And though there are days when that is particularly difficult, you have to believe you are enough.

  6. Great post, we all really need to be much kinder to ourselves and I am always working on being better, but also accepting who I am as well. Thanks for sharing!

  7. If we could only see ourselves the way other people see us, we probably wouldn’t recognize that person because we would look so much better than we think we do. I need to be kinder to me too. Beautifully written.

  8. I KNOW TIFF!! I too fight the voices in my head, and I too am afraid to change because I fear I may become conceded. That is my biggest night mare. This is a good post, and I like to know I am not alone in the way I think. And I find myself asking these same questions. Let me know if you find a trick to change the way our brains are wired.

    You are a great writer, and I am happy you can be honest and share all the things on your mind.

  9. This is raw and so very honest. You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are a truly amazing friend. You are always thinking of others. I’m honored to know you for so very many reasons.

  10. The ultimate craving here is to have the freedom of complete and absolute security. Our minds have ideas, often shaped by society, of how to achieve that…by a more perfect physical appearance. We think if “this” or “that” looked different about me I’d be more content, more lovable, more certain life would feel perfect. I do this too. But it is a lie. Even gorgeous people still have fears and are bound captivate by insecurity. One big example of this…you! Gorgeous you! And rethinking and abandoning that lie is a process.

  11. Janice Buehrer

    Wow! So true how hard we are on ourselves about size…I love my friends & family regardless of how much they weigh. It never occurs to me who is what size & how they could be a little better if they just dropped a size…or even a few pounds, yet we do this to ourselves! When I took your aerobic class years ago I thought wow – she’s so fit & trim, bet she can eat anything and look this great-lucky, never thinking you worked out for any reason but fun & working up a sweat. While there I was sweating because of everything I put in my mouth wishing I could be as thin as you 🙂 Too bad society puts so much emphasis on outward appearance. I’d rather have the life I do now than the life I had then(I know you do too) with all it’s blessings…even if that includes a few extra pounds!! Carpe Diem

  12. I am with you!! It’s hard- I think society shapes us that way? Or humanity itself? But you are right, we deserve to love ourselves and simply NE NICE to ourselves.

  13. Wow – I’m am visiting from SITS and this is the first post I’m reading from your blog. I love this post – thank you! Congrats on your SITS day.

  14. This is absolutely beautiful!

    I was questioning what if this morning, though in a negative light, so this was perfect for me to read!

    Congrats on your SITS day!

  15. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Indeed, what if we were all kind to ourselves? I need to do this, but it’s so darn hard…

  16. I am constantly too critical on myself. It’s a bad habit, but after what I’ve been through recently, I’m trying to be easier on myself. It’s a process. I stopped by from SITS, btw 🙂

  17. loved the quotes … reaffirming that this need to be comfortable in our own skin is universal. Thanks for the encouragement this morning!

    Enjoy your SITS day!

  18. I subscribe to the SITS blogposts, and was introduced to your blog today. I love this post. I love the quotes in between your own words. Very powerful, and a very important message. Thanks for writing it.

  19. Beautifully said! I love the way you wrote this — with stunning quotes plus your thoughts — and I love the message. What if I was just nice to myself? What if I treat me the way I want to be treated? Great post.

  20. I came here because of SITS…and having read you I will come back again and again. It’s like you reached inside my head and spoke what I wasn’t willing to say. I’m in a new relationship with a man I love very much who tells me daily how beautiful I am…how he loves my belly and my bottom. And all I can think is “I hate my belly…I hate my butt…I can’t believe he can look at me and think this is beautiful…what happens when the honeymoon phase wears off…will he see me the way I do”. And I know that’s crazy and I have to change that kind of thinking…but like you, I’ve been doing this since I was a child. I think I’m going to have to come back and re-read this on a regular basis.
    Thank you!

  21. BEAUTIFUL post… so glad I popped by today! Enjoy your day in the SITS spotlight! 🙂

  22. What an inspiring post! I think we all have the tendency to beat ourselves up pretty harshly and this post was just the “GIBBS Slap” that I needed to stop it 🙂

  23. Beautiful post! Love the quotes!
    Happy SITS Day!

  24. Pingback: SITS Surprise for 700!!! | Elastamom's Excerpts

  25. I so need to hang this up…everywhere! Thank you for this post!

  26. I am almost NEVER nice to myself. I can think of a cajillion things that I don’t like about me. I hope that you’re able to get past your self-criticism.

    Nice blog, by the way.

    And Happy SITS day!

  27. Pingback: What If Revisited | Elastamom's Excerpts

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