4,000 likes. That’s how many statuses that I “liked” on Facebook last year—statuses that belonged to my people. Oh I’m a generous liker, that’s just the truth. I’ll like your meal update, your Easter photo, your gender reveal. I’ll watch your Facebook live and like it too. Oh, and then there’s all those letters “to your younger self” I probably lost a couple of days of my life liking those blog posts last year. I’m a sucker for those. But, just in case you’re wondering what’s on my mind today…it’s this: As much as I was dealing out likes last year—to the stranger, the business associate, to my favorite reads of 2016, to Kid President, and Kimmy Carlisle’s grandma that still strums a guitar at 80…I didn’t deal much love in my own direction.
You didn’t love yourself, is that what you’re sayin’?
Yes, that’s what I’m sayin’.
And I have a feeling that you women out there on the other side of this screen might be just like me.
Aren’t we good at liking other people’s stuff and doting on them? Oh, you know you are. Your friends having a horrible hair day, but when she says “Does my hair look okay today?” You nod and smile and say, “It sure does.” Because you love your friend. And you don’t want to hurt her feelings. You don’t want to tell her that the humidity in Texas caused some sort of phenomenon to occur when her hairspray hit her dyed roots.
When you love someone, your words are a reflection of that love.
But, you don’t talk that way to you. You have a bad hair day? And suddenly…
And not what you used to be.
Who are you and what have you done with my BODY?
You, who are kind to others and willing to pour love out onto strangers in Wal-Mart, or the barista at Starbucks—you are not kind to you.
Oh, you love her outfit.
Did you see how cute her haircut was?
She hasn’t aged a bit since high school.
But you…the woman that stares back at you in the mirror? You are so hard on her. You expect her to take her selfies just right, wouldn’t want to show her double chin. You see the baby weight she never lost. You call her tired, and old. And you repeatedly wonder who stole her teenage body? You see stretch marked skin that could honestly use a razor and a tan. See, people all over the Internet write letters to their teenage selves, but the letter I’m gonna have to write, and maybe you are too—is a letter of apology to me.
The one that lets us gently off of our own hooks.
Unfortunately, I don’t have to go back a decade to find a reason to cut myself some slack. I can go back to this morning, when I walked into the bathroom half awake—eyes covered in day old mascara, and gazed into the mirror. The ugly truth is that I’d criticized myself three times before I even finished brushing my teeth:
Gosh, whose hair is that on my head?
And I’m two pounds heavier than I was last week.
And my eyes are puffy and well…I look awful.
The truth is I’m not sure that I can pinpoint exactly when my inner dialogue got so critical. It’s just that over the years, I quit liking myself. I know it didn’t happen overnight, but it happened.
Of course, there are days that my cheeks are pink enough and my lipstick doesn’t get on my teeth that I am okay to accept that girl staring back at me. But, those occasions are rare. And no matter how old I get, there’s still some huge part of me that’s comparing grown up me to teenage me. That even feels pretty stupid to put on paper. I mean I tell my kids everyday “You’re not suppose to look like your five-year- old self, or your eight-your-old self, you are growing. You don’t need to weigh as an 11-year-old what you did as a nine-year-old.”
But, my gosh.
I can accept that for them, but for the life of me I can’t break that mentality in myself. I was thin, and athletic, and even though I wasn’t ever the prettiest girl, I didn’t feel shame. Not like this. And it’s hard to see past this stretched out 35-year-old that throws out her back, and can’t get over the price of her prescriptions.
Yes, I have prescriptions.
And I actually need them.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll still be this hard on myself—this harsh—when I’m old, and gray, and wearing my housecoat down the driveway to get the mail. Will I look in the mirror and pull my skin up in piles and tell that woman how bad she looks? Or will I say, “Woman you are a strong tower, a lighthouse, standing strong against the waves of a lifetime of storms and sea.” I hope I will give that woman some credit. I hope I will giggle at the funny shapes that her stretch marks make when she stands in the shower. When she’s too old to hear herself pass wind, and her eyes are too dim to see well enough to drive. I hope I cherish that woman with poorly dyed purple hair whose highlight of the day is filling in the last word in the crossword puzzle from the local paper.
I pray I don’t haze her the way younger me hazes current me.
The bottom line is, liking myself doesn’t come naturally to me these days.
Self-loathing is sneaky like that.
It’s a slow fade. What begins as a tiny seed of discontentment eventually grows into a tree whose unhealthy roots extend for miles and miles below the surface.
And although this is where I find myself— this is not where I plan to stay.
So, what are we going to do about us?
We’re going to make a deal. With ourselves. And with each other.
We can spend time scrolling Facebook liking Varina’s newest book, or we can put a “wow” next to Tracy’s new home or the fact that she toured the White House recently. So jealous. We can compliment Susannah’s beautiful new home in progress, and even give Carey a high five for the forty pounds that she lost. You go Carey. But, next year, when Facebook tells us that we’ve liked 4,000 statuses…the love we’ve given others better be equal to the “likes” we’ve given ourselves.
Life is too short to hate the only body that God gave us. So, will you join me? Will you choose to be kind…to you—to like yourself? Liking yourself always starts with telling the lies, “Nope, not today.” It might not come naturally to you, at first, but if we just keep trying, maybe we’ll get a few likes up on the board.
Jessie Kirkland is the primary agent and owner of Kirkland Media Management. She’s a mother to triplets, gluten-free cupcake connoisseur, and loves all things Southern. She makes her home beneath a canopy of pines in Southeast Texas and can be found “liking” stuff on Facebook most days … so feel free to connect with her there.