I’m a Tigress

Originally written a few years ago, this post has been edited to add that this belly has now grown two amazing children, that I’ve learned how to handle longer curly hair, and that I now also DO rock skinny jeans AND leggings like you would…not…believe. I am also no longer part of that company but do still highly recommend it and am forever grateful for the lessons it taught me.
🙂 Mel (2018)

Puberty.
Remember that lovely period of adolescence? So awesome. We all had such a lovely time, of this I’m sure. Mine consisted of braces, frizzy hair including bangs and eventually straightening balm for said bangs, boobs, slightly oversized eyebrows, and the beginning of what seemed like never-ending self-consciousness.

This self doubt, which lasted until my mid to late twenties, was brought on by the keen awareness that I was not thin. That sole realization was THE cause of my yo-yo-ing confidence or lack thereof. Oh, there were other factors…I never had a boyfriend in high school, I was in the band (which was FUN, damnit!) and more, I’m sure, but they all linked back to that one kernel of truth. Please, let us not deny this. It is an empirical fact: I’m not skinny. I always wanted to be. I absolutely believed that if I was just THIN I would have a boyfriend. If I was THIN I would feel better about myself. If I was THIN I wouldn’t be so afraid of just admitting to my long time crush that I was calling because I thought he was funny and cute and not because I needed help with the math homework that I had actually finished two hours ago.

I have always had a small but dependable group of close friends and a phenomenal, supportive family who have never made me feel anything but perfect. But somehow the silent Reflection in the bathroom mirror had more to say than all of those people.

When I met Hubby and he actually LIKED me, I began to feel a tiny bit better about myself. I know, I know, I shouldn’t need a man’s approval to make me feel better. But I’m not talking about “should”, I’m just talking about DID. I began to stare back at that Reflection. I gave a little stink eye when she tried to put me down.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Oprah. Yes, seriously. Why? Because she is not a skinny lady either. Yet she is beautiful, respected, loved and admired. She is smart and honest and when I found someone whom I admired that wasn’t a size 4, it made a little difference. I stared harder at the Reflection. I “hushed” her when she dared to open her mouth.

There was one final piece of my puzzle of acceptance. I became a teacher of a wonderful Grade 4/5 class. That group and I gelled together and to this day I still think about those kids all the time. But where I felt I was most influential wasn’t in their spelling lists or time tables (which they eventually rocked, by the way), but was in spending recesses and after schools with the girls. Those 10 and 11 year old girls were just entering that lovely phase of puberty, and yet already they were preoccupied with dating boys and wearing bras and co-ed parties. Their mothers dyed  the girls’ hair and taught them how to wear makeup.

They were 10 years old. I hope I’m not offending anyone when I simply state that in my own humble opinion, 10 is too young for those things.

I examined who these girls’ role models were: their mothers, older makeup-wearing-bra-wearing-boy-kissing-co-ed-sleepover-girls in the school, and tall, thin, celebrities.
I realized part way through the year why I was there. Those kids made no secret of telling me that they liked me, I was a great teacher, and my favourite (and I quote): “You’re like a big sister and a best friend but also, you’re a TEACHER”. Please do not misunderstand, it was not their compliments I was after (although they were flattering), nor was I in search of any 10 year old gal pals. And while I truly appreciated their comments I also had no problem doling out the discipline when necessary. I knew and respected our relationship as student/teacher. I realized, though, that other than me, most of them didn’t have any non-blond, non-thin, non-make-up-pushing women in their lives. What I hope they learned that year, more than any curriculum I taught them, is that it IS possible to have short, brown, curly hair and freckles and curves AND be successful, smart, and…..here it is: Beautiful.

Now I know plenty of women who ARE tall and blond and beautiful and there is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING wrong with that providing that is what you actually and naturally look like. What I have a problem with is people thinking that is the ONLY way to look in order to be happy and feel good about yourself. And I do have  a problem with women looking absolutely nothing like that but making every attempt to change everything about their God-given beauty to look like a Barbie doll.

I said earlier that that experience was the last piece of my puzzle of acceptance. It didn’t occur to me until a year ago that simply accepting myself wasn’t actually good enough. I needed to L-O-V-E myself. And to be frank, I didn’t realize that’s what I needed until I actually started to do it. Now, I’m no ego-maniac spending all day in front of reflective surfaces and stopping to show my good side when I realize I’m actually in the background of someone taking a self-portrait with their iPhone on a sunny day. What I mean is that I am just completely happy with who I am. I’m happy with how my brain works (good with words bad with numbers), how my hair curls (a shorter cut helps keep it in control and reduces the risk of requiring a pick comb to pull of whatever is going on up on top),

how my belly sags (I grew a CHILD in there for Pete’s sake – I earned that!), and how my hips curve (I might not attempt skinny jeans any time soon but I wear a trouser pant like nobody’s business). I got here because one year ago I started my own business with a company that positively reeks of self-love (get your mind out of the gutter) and more-than-just-acceptance. The people with whom I work have indirectly taught me that having stripes makes me a tigress; that you can un-learn what you believed were truths about yourself but were, in fact, nothing more than misinterpretations; that you can be powerful, successful, beautiful, and heel-clickingly-happy with who you are.

They say that every person is a result of the 5 people with whom you spend the most time. When I started spending my time with people who built me up instead of tearing me down, who not only discredited the Reflection in the mirror but who ripped that mirror right off the wall and replaced it with a new one that was void of that old girl inside, and who are so full of love and light and metaphorical sparkles, it would be almost impossible NOT to feel this good.

This blog has been bouncing around in my brain for a few days but I didn’t know how to get it started and didn’t want to risk coming off as cocky. Because believe me, I will forever be a work in progress. But I just watched that video on YouTube about the boy who was called Pork Chop (if you haven’t seen it please do) and it pushed me into thinking that if by writing this one person somewhere can silence their Reflection for even a moment then it will be worth the risk.

We spend so much time advocating that we need to stop being unkind to others, bullying others, and start accepting others.
When will we spend even a fraction of that time advocating that we need to stop being unkind and bullying yourself? Start accepting – no, loving – yourself?

Look in the mirror. If you don’t like the way that Reflection is looking back at you, please, tell her from me, to shut the f**k up. She doesn’t belong.

You are a phenomenal woman.
Believe that.
And if you can rock a skinny jean – my God, DO IT!

Take care
🙂 Mel

mcdonaldselfie
Mel 2018 – Figured out the curly hair!

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