My 25 year-old self never would’ve guessed I’d say this as I approach 40 and the highest weight I’ve ever been (pregnancy excluded), but I've truly never felt more comfortable in my own skin. I’m not technically overweight, I just have the kind of not-so-perfect body you might expect a busy teacher & mom to have: a decent set of love handles, thighs that rub together a bit, underarms that wave a little when I do, and, when I look down toward my stomach while in a plank, well…
it’s just not good.
Yet that extra "me" somehow still feels lighter to carry than the mental load I lugged around back when keeping it off was my biggest priority--fixating over calories and a certain number on the scale, imposing consequences on myself if I ate "too much" or skipped a workout. I couldn't keep up with that today if I tried, and I don’t care to. These days, if my cholesterol's good, my blood pressure's in check, & I can keep up with my five year-old and share an ice cream with him, too--then we're all good.
That's why it was so surprising to me when I caught myself randomly getting sucked into the Compare-Myself-to-a-Completely-Unrelatable-Celebrity shame spiral the other day.
Here's, in a nutshell, how the scene played out in my head as I "watched TV" (a.k.a. TV show or movie plays in background while I jump from one thing to the next on my phone):
Wow, Kristen Bell has really nice skin! (wishes I had "nice" skin, too)
Googles "Kristen Bell skin care" (because somehow this should lead to some magical, easy answer for the increasing number of sunspots and crow’s feet popping up on my face)
Sees she's vegan.
Hmph. Well, that explains it. And probably explains why she's so tiny, too. She really is in good shape! And short, like me. I wonder if we're the same height?
Googles "how tall is Kristen Bell?" (you probably see I’m headed into tricky territory here…)
Hmm. Exact same height. But she looks so much thinner…
(Ohh boy, here we go. The perfect setting for Shame to make an appearance.)
Enter Shame: Of course she would be thinner than you, she’s vegan--you don't have the self-control to do that! Or keep up with any kind of restrictions, really…at least not long-term. You really should take better care of yourself, or at least do it for the animals—don’t you care about the animals?! You should Google how much she weighs--guarantee you it's at least twenty pounds less.
Now here's the difference between the Me now and the Me fifteen years ago: the Me today calls "cut" on the ridiculous scene at this point—both out of respect for her and myself. Because, let’s face it, not only is this woman’s weight none of my business but what a worthless (and inaccurate) endeavor.
The Me fifteen years ago would've followed Shame's suggestion without blinking an eye--comparing myself to someone whose life doesn’t even remotely resemble mine and then beating myself up over the answer; promptly followed by embarking on whatever diet or exercise routine Google said she follows because, well...if she can do it, then so can I!
The Me now isn't beyond going down the rabbit hole of comparing myself to celebrities and buying into unrealistic expectations, but the Me now does catch myself about halfway down. In other words, we all get hooked into shame, but the nice thing about growing older and wiser (and, yes, usually a little bigger and softer, too) is that we now catch it a little quicker and stop the nonsense before we've fallen too far in. For me, that’s a no brainer trade-off.
Because--let's get real. Although I applaud Kristen Bell and other celebrities' efforts to take care of their bodies and be health-conscious, my life can't be compared to theirs, and it shouldn't be. I can make the excuse "well they have money for personal trainers and chefs and have more time to work out because they have nannies and I'm just a teacher-mom that can't afford those things" but the truth is, I shouldn't be checking another woman's lane at all, celebrity or not.
All I need to keep my eyes focused on is my own lane; on being the best version of me I can be. Doing what feels good for my body. Rather than asking Google what makes her look so great, I should be asking myself what makes me feel good, because that's all that matters. Pilates and a vegan diet might feel good for her, but it may not necessarily be the best fit for me. Maybe the best path for me looks like a nightly walk after dinner listening to my favorite podcast and cutting back sugar because it makes me feel like crap. It might not mean I'm celebrity-level ripped, but if it means I'm in a good place mentally and I feel confident, that's enough these days.
In two weeks I'll return to teaching after the summer and if this coming school year is any like the ones before, it'll play out something like this: I'll get super busy, I won't make it to the gym as often as I did over the break, I might hit the drive-thru or get the school lunch now and then because it was too busy the night before to pack the healthier option, and I'll put an extra five to seven pounds on just in time for Pumpkin Spice Lattes to come back. Every summer I fight this inevitability and declare that the year ahead will be different this time.
And each year I feel like a failure.
So, this year, I'm going to try a new approach because this whole working mom thing--it could be viewed as an excuse, or it could be acknowledged as a legitimately tough load to juggle...a load not made easier to carry by beating myself up. The answer isn’t letting myself go; I'll keep my self-care in sight for my own sanity and health. But what I will do differently is give Shame a break and let a little Grace in, not if but when I fall short of my goals. Because, yes, I am strong enough to stick to them but also wise enough to understand that life happens and that I’m a woman simply doing the best she can.
As a teacher and a mom, trust me, I’ve got enough voices to listen to--one of them doesn’t need to be Shame.
She burst through the door for our parent-teacher conference talking loudly to a client on her Bluetooth. Her entrance aside, we were happy to see her given that she’d scheduled but not shown for the previous two conferences. Her son was struggling—not so much academically, but socially and emotionally. He was a small, quiet little thing that oozed anxiety; a loner on the playground and a worrier about seemingly every little detail of his day. We sat awkwardly as she loudly wrapped up her conversation with a client at the table.
When done, she sat back without saying a word, sunglasses unremoved, her lips tightly pursed together. As each teacher shared, she sat silently & reactionless--no longer the bold, expressive talker she was only a few minutes ago. We first shared her son’s accomplishments and then delicately eased into our concerns. Still no response. After we’d said everything we needed to say, she finally responded coolly “well, then…why don’t you help him? I mean, isn’t that your job, to take care of kids? If he’s struggling and your job is to help children, then I’d say you’re not doing your job.”
We have a few mutual friends, you and I. So every now & then I see the two of you as I’m scrolling through social media and I stop.
I observe the big smiles, the perfect lighting, the fit bodies clad in coordinating outfits. And, for a second, I buy into the perfection. I see what everyone else sees.
But then I wonder.
If you've stumbled across this post finding yourself in the thick of it--
in a mess you can't imagine finding your way out of,
off-track in seemingly every area of your life,
at a depth you can't imagine rising above...
~ b r e a t h e. You have that. Start there.
~ know you're not alone. We've all been there at some point in our lives.
~harness whatever little faith & willpower you've got left in you & sort out what's within your control & what to give over to God. What's not within your control--hand it over. (And know that you're not somehow doing the whole faith thing wrong if it feels uncomfortable or even painful doing so.)
We're all aware of the downsides to social media, but one of the benefits that I see is that it's a means of connecting us--not just in the way of keeping in touch with old friends from high school & family living out of state, but on a deeper level. Through sharing, commenting on, and tagging others in thought-provoking articles, inspirational memes, & the such, we're able to not only feel inspired and uplifted, but also find a like-minded community we may not have otherwise found in our daily encounters with, ya know, real actual people.
I was jogging (ok, walking & every now and then jogging for like two seconds so I can say I went jogging) & the song "7 Rings" by Ariana Grande came on. Catchy little tune, although I think the credit for that part mostly goes to the OG Julie Andrews. The lyrics, though...
Could we get more unrelatable? (wondered the middle class, middle-aged working mom).
I can relate to her mention of ATM's, although for me it usually involves a balance transfer so I don't overdraw at Publix.
I'm not sure what a "flossy neck" means exactly, although I can relate to noticing the first stages of "turkey neck" emerging.
And, yes, my receipts do "be lookin' like phone numbers" every time I go to Target even though I came in to only get paper towels. Unfortunately my income be lookin' more like a zip code.
I'm Krissy & I'm so thankful you're here. Teacher-Mom life is rewarding but it's tough--we need fuel (& each other) to keep going. I hope this is a place you can go that feels like caffeine for the soul--uplifting & highly addictive ;) Check out the categories below and, if you like what you read, subscribe to make sure you always have good Sunday morning reading to go with your coffee :)