Kindness starts with me. Kindness begins inside of me.
I saw this meme last week “I’m so sick of ugly. I’m not talking about physical looks. I’m talking about ugly hearts, ugly souls, and ugly actions.” I scrolled past it and couldn’t tell who posted it. I suddenly saw myself in it – like a mirror that sees the state of your heart instead of your face.
Immediately I realized I am ugly. I am ugly on the inside. I’m ugly in my heart and it spews out inside my head. It comes out of my mouth.
“I’m fat.” Those are ugly words. They have come from that little part of my heart that is black and mean.
I have gained 20 pounds over the last 2 years. It started when I quit smoking and continued through exercise, walking, yoga, and dieting.
I’m 38 and my thighs rub together. It annoys the crap outta me. I have about 10 pounds around my hips and thighs, with another five pounds around my belly.
I don’t like to look in the mirror anymore. In selfies, I see my chin. When I’m naked I don’t feel beautiful. I feel slovenly, unkempt, and downright ugly.
And I say it to myself all day every day. I beat myself black and blue daily. I compare myself to my 125 pound self from 10 years ago when I was proud that I weighed less than I did when I graduated high school. I compare myself to my size 4 self when I still had a thigh gap and never imagined thigh rub would be my problem.
Now, I can’t figure out regular things like how to buy a multi-pack of underwear in a package. I’m astounded that bras can be more comfortable and functional than decorative. I’m amazed that I want to wear sweatpants out of the house. I’m just being real here.
I have had to eradicate and recreate an entire wardrobe because of 20 pounds. I have had to begin exercising when I’ve never had to before. I ate celery for days. But I can’t give up cheese. And then I quit celery because after months of it, I couldn’t eat anymore. I switched to cucumbers. I quit and restarted bread. All to assuage my vanity.
I am learning to accept this new version of me. In the last year, I’ve gotten a new weight, a new last name, a new child, a new age, and a new wardrobe. I did not gain 20 pounds because I gave birth, but because I quit smoking. I want to be clear.
Is this what it’s like to face down 40? Is this what it should be like? Feeling ugly and fighting a battle against myself every day?
No. The answer is no. It’s not supposed to be this way. I’m sure of it. I’m not this mean. Yet, I do this every day. All damn day. It’s become some sort of mantra that is tearing me down and tearing me apart.
I feel ugly and I say I am. I compare my 38-year-old self to my 27-year-old self and find myself lacking. I feel pain at the words and labels I slap across myself that I would not accept from any other human. Yet, I put them on like a lead dress – poisoning me and holding me down.
And I wonder: how much more must I accept?
For much of my adult life, I have looked at women who have made it to their 50’s and I have known that they have some knowledge that I have no access to because I was a twenty-something. They have arrived at 55 and they are beautiful and they know something that I don’t know.
I am now suspicious that those women knew acceptance. I think they know themselves and maybe have accepted themselves. They might even love themselves.
Before I gained weight I had to accept my wide thighs, stretch marks, and improperly aligned bite. I have a crooked smile and tiny teeth. I have large cheeks and a funny-looking face. But I was thin and pretty. I decorated the mannequin well, too.
All the rest is the same. I am now not thin. I’ve stopped decorating it well. It does not matter how well you dress the mannequin, if it is rotting and ugly on the inside, it cannot be beautiful. What do I do now?
I believe the answer is contained in that quote: stop being ugly.
It is not my physical self that makes me ugly. I have never looked upon a larger woman and declared “she is fat, she is ugly.” NEVER. Yet here I sit doing this to myself daily. I am mean. Just mean. Several very country colloquialisms have flitted through my head which would show just how mean I am.
Yet, I am not. I am not she who calls people names. I am not she who puts people down. I am not she who makes people feel bad and outcast. I am not she who judges people by the way they look.
No, I am she who sees the insides and understands the person’s feelings. I am she who cried for babies and kittens and nice people in this hard world. I am she who hurts so much she cannot watch the news because it is too violent and gives her nightmares.
I wasn’t always this way. I have taken years to connect my mind to my heart to my body. I was in pain constantly. Believing it was my fault that at just the moment I was at my weakest I would be abandoned and abused. I believed it was my fault that I was a punching bag. It was not.
Yet here I am allowing me to bully myself. I won’t stand for it any longer. I won’t sit and watch as my inner mean girl abuses my inner vulnerable self. I will not longer be ugly.
The real truth: my physical self is not who I am.
What is the solution?
Maybe acceptance. This is my reality. Science says that hormones make it hard for me to lose weight. Damn science. Plus the cigarettes were keeping me thin through the constant poisoning that I was doing. So maybe this is where I’m supposed to be. Maybe it’s okay to be this version of who I am. Perhaps this version is better than the overachieving, stressed-out, oblivious version of me. Maybe I’m okay.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every through to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
Maybe taking every thought captive and forcing it to understand that I am neither fat nor ugly will work. Maybe beating up on that mean girl inside my head a little. Grabbing each thought by the tail and not letting go until it cries uncle and skulks away in fear.
I have learned this the first go-round after I left my abuser. I had to relearn how to live and love after I lived with my abuse for so long. I had to overcome all the mean things children say to each other as an adult. I should not have to do it all over again. Yet, here I am.
Maybe the answer is a mantra. Putting empowering quotes on my mirror and computer and planner. I love positive quotes. I love messages for the empowerment of those who have been disenfranchised. They speak to my nice girl heart.
Maybe it’s okay to not be okay with what I look like but still love who I am. I don’t have to stay 160 pounds if I want to be 150 pounds. I can be okay with being older and more round if I want but still exercise too. I can be okay with how absolutely amazing God made me. Just as I was when I weighed 110 pounds 15 years ago and was trying to gain weight because I was slowly starving to death through illness – I can be ok.
I can be okay in this time of transition. I can be okay In learning how to accept this new version of myself. It’s still me in here. I’m still her. I’m just better at being my former, thinner her. Maybe I’m getting better at being her.
Whatever the solution is, I’m over the ugly, too friend. I’m over the meanness in my heart that’s hurting my own damn feelings. I’m over the name-calling and the judgment that I’m dropping on me every day.
The truth is little meannesses like these give us doubts that proliferate the evil in this world. It’s the crap that we say to people, our kids, or strangers. It’s our failure to be kind that makes this world ugly. Just being kind is enough to change the world.
Being kind starts with being kind to you. So when you start the day be kind to yourself, you’re just living here. Every day is hard for everyone, you’re not in it alone. Start with yourself, make it a habit then be kind wherever you go. Tiny things matter, giant things matter, you matter.
What do you think my friend? I know this self-flagellation is something everyone experiences. What do you do when you start beating yourself up? Leave a comment below and enter the conversation. I’d love to hear from you.
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