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Monday, February 1, 2010

Loving Ourselves...Easier Said Than Done

I'm in a dressing room, with my two year old daughter, trying to quickly and carefully slip into this expensive dress I have just purchased. A dress that the lady stressed to be careful with because of the fabric. I don't know what can happen to the fabric, but I have a good idea that if I rip it, it will costs me hundreds more to repair. So, I sit my daughter, Laila, in a chair, and I start peeling off layers of clothing. As I get ready to step into the dress, I say a secret prayer that my hips don't tear any fabric on this expensive dress.

My hips...something I'm not too fond of, and while I'm on the subject, I start to think of other things about my physical appearance I'm not that happy with either. Like why did I have to get my mother's hind end?! Or my dad's flat feet?! What about my knees, that have no definite shape?! Ugh, and then there's my big lips; don't know where those came from, but I'd be happy without them. All these thoughts run through my head.

Why is it so hard to love ourselves?

I look at myself in the expensive dress; I nod at myself in the mirror. Trying to take it all in and find something that I like about the image in front of me. As I search, I remember a poetry writing assignment I had my students do. They wrote poems celebrating something that they don't normally like about themselves. Some wrote poems about their big ears, their oddly shaped toes, the width of their nose, the sound of their laugh. None of them wrote at first, they sat; twenty-five pairs of big, round eyes, looking at me for some sort of guidance. I wrote on the board: my pale skin, my big lips, my frizzy hair, and then I told them about one girl in 7th grade who always made fun of me about how big my lips were and about how awful that made me feel. I tell them about being self conscious about the color of my skin, and then I show them how to learn to love those celebrate them. I write all the positives about my skin on the board, and they start writing too. Beautiful poems that celebrate their uniqueness and that laugh at their short comings.

I slip the dress off of my body and begin to place it delicately back on the hanger. As I am about to step back into my jeans, I pause. I wonder why it was so easy for me to encourage my students to celebrate themselves, and why it is still so difficult for me to do that same task. I wish someone would have taken the time to teach me to love myself more -- all of me -- not just certain parts. I wish that someone would have told me that everyone has things they don't like about themselves, but that beauty exists in each part of us -- even the parts we may find ugly. I wish someone would have helped me celebrate the things I grew up not liking and still do not like to this day.

I pull my jeans up over my big hips and polka dotted undergarments when my thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a sweet voice, coming from a chair behind me, "Mommy, I love your polka dot underwear booty." And for the first time in all my life, I kind of loved it too.

I took my expensive-have-to-be-careful-with-the-fabric dress and walked out of the store. As I walked, I held on to the hand of a little girl who taught me that while loving ourselves can often be easier said than done, we all have the power to help others celebrate the beauty that exists in them.

My dress, my daughter, and my polka dot booty made our way home, and I knew that I owed it to her to take the time to learn to love myself...booty and all.

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