Last month I wrote a little something about the women I needed to see. It was such a pleasure highlighting the awesome women doing awesome things in my life that I’d like to make it a habit. Sometimes I look around me at the beach or at bible study or on the bus or at a sushi restaurant and I think, “These are some really cool ladies. And they’re beautiful.”
I’ve never been what you would call modest. I, in fact, struggle with pride – with thinking I could do it better (whatever it is), with thinking everyone wants to be my friend obviously because I’m fun, with talking about myself too much, with listening only because I’m waiting for my turn to talk, with assuming my ideas are the best… you know, that kind of pride. And I really do think I’m great. On the inside, that is. I’m fairly intelligent, kind of funny, and mostly responsible. Those are good things. I love my inside-self. But my outside-self, well, loving that self has taken some more time.
Now a days I look in the mirror when I’m in my underwear and I say, “Looking good, Suzanne!” and I mean it. But maybe just a year ago I wouldn’t have spent any time looking in the mirror in my underwear. Not that I was ashamed of my outside-self, but I didn’t know how to love it, appreciate it, celebrate it. So I faked it till I maked it, as I am wont to do, and I talked about how hot I am until I believed it (or until I realized that I am totally okay with never being described as “hot”). I looked at myself in the mirror until I loved myself in the mirror. I said nice things about my outside-self. I acknowledged that even in “bad pictures” that is what my outside-self looks like and no matter how unappealing I might find it, there are still so many people who love me and want to be around me. My double chin isn’t stopping them from being my friend, so why should I worry about it?
So I learned to celebrate my outside-self and now I’m practicing taking better care of it. Here’s the thing – it’s easy to feel a lot of pressure to diet or work out when you weigh over 200 pounds. It’s easy to feel pressure to want to want to diet or work out when you weigh over 200 pounds. I have never in my life put myself on a diet because that sounds awful and the only kind of working out I like to do involves chasing kids around playgrounds or hiking to a waterfall. I’ve wavered in between totally embracing the couch-potato lifestyle, loudly and proudly, and feeling ashamed that I didn’t want to take better care of my temple.
For some people the outside-self-love comes before the inside-self-love. For me, it was the other way around. Now that I love this body, I want to take care of it.
So I started doing yoga.
And I drink a lot of water. I have even cut back on my soda pop intake!
And I get enough sleep. I am firm in my no-coffee-addiction conviction.
And I look for new ways to eat vegetables.
And I feel really good. On the inside and the outside.
But hey, this isn’t supposed to be all about me! This is supposed to be about women I needed to see, loving themselves inside and out, loud and proud and imperfectly and beautifully all over the place.
This is Lynette. We had mutual friends in high school and have kept in touch via the wonders of the internet. We probably talk more via Facebook and Instagram comments than we ever did when we lived in the same state. Although most of our communication is me commenting about how hot and funny she is. (Seriously, check out her YouTube channel.)
Here’s the thing, Lynette used to be kind of chubby. And she struggled with self-love (the inside and outside kind). Now her actual job is to inspire and encourage other people towards that self-love (the inside and outside kind). She is currently training for some kind of hot-bod competition, which means a lot of sacrifices and a LOT of self-care. She is taking care of her body like nobody’s business. She is loving herself, man. And she’s doing a really good job at it.
You can look at this picture of Lynette and imagine that it probably isn’t very hard for her to look in the mirror every day and love her outside-self. Surely a girl who looks like that has no problem with insecurities, right? But Lynette confessed to the internet today (via her Instagram) that “no matter what shape a girl is in, we still have our insecurities.” Because learning to love your outside-self takes sacrifice and care and work.
I needed to see Lynette looking FIERCE while being vulnerable. I needed to see Lynette acknowledging that this self-love thing is a journey, not a destination. I needed to see Lynette keep going and not give up because gaining muscles didn’t automatically do away with any negative looking-in-the-mirror thought. I needed to see Lynette loving her body the way it’s asking to be loved and teaching others to do the same, to give me permission to love my outside-self in this water-drinking, vegetable-quest, beginners-yoga way.
This is Melissa. She is one of the funniest people I know. We lived together for a while and it was great. She is also wise and discerning and good at giving advice. She is also loving her outside-self well. Melissa started going to the gym recently and she took a look at what she was eating and decided to make some changes. Not because she wants to be hot (if that were the case, mission accomplished, am I right?), but because she wants to be healthy. She wants to feel good living inside her body. This is how she is loving her outside-self.
Some people really like going to the gym. The post-workout good feelings are totally enough to get them through the actual workout. They love walking and running and getting all sweaty and feeling their muscles ache. My friends, Melissa is not that kind of person. She hates the gym. “Haaatttesss it.” (That is a direct quote.) Which is why I needed to see her doing it anyway. Because self-love isn’t always fun or easy or convenient or popular. Sometimes it’s lonely and burdensome and sometimes you feel like you’re the only one who believes that what you’ve got going on is beautiful. But it is, man. It’s beautiful what you’re doing over there on your way to loving your inside- and outside-selves. It’s beautiful.
You know that super-bloggable, tattooable Gandhi quote – Be the change you wish to see in the world? Well, sometimes we physically, emotionally, spiritually cannot be the change we wish to see in the world. Sometimes we cannot even be the change we wish to see in ourselves. For that we have each other. These are the women I needed to see. Women who loved their inside-selves enough to change the way they love their outside-selves and being honest with the world along the way.