I got another tattoo a week ago, y’all! It may not sound like a big deal, but it marks a sort of milestone for me.
I was never a super thin young adult. I’ve always had curves, but I wasn’t unhappy with them. I wasn’t overweight; I was active and healthy.
After I graduated college and started working long hours, I began to slowly, but steadily gain weight. I got married, I had two kids. By the time I was 35 or so, I weighed 260 pounds.
For many years, I wouldn’t even get on a scale. I was too afraid to face the truth – and the truth wasn’t in the number, per say, it was in the acknowledgement of the symptom, the number representing, without a doubt, that there were underlying issues that I wasn’t addressing. I didn’t want to see them, and I certainly hoped no one else could. I tried to ensure that, actually.
And for a very long time I cared far too much about what others thought. I wanted to fit in, to look strong, like I had my shit together, like our family did. I needed others to need me and to rely on me, but I couldn’t need others. I couldn’t let anyone see my pain, or my perceived faults. And certainly not weakness.
In short, I sought my self worth from sources outside myself. I derived my worth in maintaining the strong front, in being strong for others, in the not needing others. In looking ‘perfect’, so I didn’t have to see the rest. But the cost was so very high.
It had become a continuous cycle of doing for others, of not living up to other’s expectations or my own unrealistic ones, feeling like a failure, stuffing feelings away, cycle, and repeat.
Eventually, I got to a point where I saw how that was not only affecting me, but also the ones I love. I knew I could not continue to live that way, stuffing the real me away, living with regret. I needed to be healthy, inside and out, to invest in me in order offer more, to have a more positive impact on the ones I love.
I exercised, joined a walking club, and weight watchers. I talked openly and honestly with my husband. I left my job and started a very small business.
I began a life-long journey to being me.
Investing in myself has had the single most significant impact in my life. It’s impact has been far-reaching. The personal growth has been astounding, a never-ending cycle of eye-opening experience, with my loved ones and friends, in my relationship with nature, my spiritual existence, and the world as a whole.
Becoming vulnerable and open with my husband has been the investment with the hugest significance. My surrender to this man I love has created the safest place I’ve ever known, and I thrive. I’m free to be me.
But what I’ve come to realize, is that my self image and my feelings of worth could not possibly be wholly fixed by this dynamic. No matter how he looks at me, cherishes me, takes amazing, sensual photos of me, guides me, and makes me feel desired and sexy and loved beyond my understanding – I must see myself as he sees me in order to truly receive it!
Can he support me? Can he not tolerate me not taking care of me? Can he help hold me accountable for my behaviors which are detrimental to my health and well-being? YES! But the rest is up to ME. The will to heal has to reside in ME. The acceptance of who I am must reside in me FIRST. And THAT is the best gift I could offer him, I think.
If I rely solely on him or any other external force to give me my sense of worth and value, it won’t last. There’s too much room for humanness and mistakes, scrutiny and doubt. And it’s completely unfair! No one else should carry that responsibility for me, it’s just too much, and it’s setting everyone up for failure.
My journey has been one of learning to see my worth, simply because I am. Of learning to seek and to accept help, and not be the one who always has to appear to be strong and have my shit together. Just human, messy, fallable, me.
Here’s where the tattoo comes in! Over the winter, I gained 10 pounds. My instinctual response is to feel like a failure, set unrealistic expectations, feel defeated, cycle, and repeat. I won’t do it this time! I won’t continue it!
I was supposed to get that tattoo a few years ago when I reached my fitness goals, but it never happened. Recently, M told me he wanted me to go get it. Despite that self-defeating voice that tried to tell me I didn’t deserve it because I’d gained the 10 pounds, I got the tattoo anyway, a reminder that I am worth it, that I need to forgive myself, and accept where I am. A reminder that I can accomplish my goals, despite setbacks. Because I’m worth it. I am not a number on a scale. I’m not worth it only if I ____ or accomplish _____.
I am worthy, as I am.
I chose an owl! A beautiful owl (my daughter got the idea online and hand drew it!), a reminder that I hold the wisdom within, and I need to trust in me. I am my own wings, and I need to continue to spread them….and fly.