In steps 1 – 4 I explained how my physical body got into its current state of scars and stripes. That was the easy part.
You call that easy?? Absolutely. All of those things were events, that for the most part, I couldn’t avoid. It was an external force that pushed my physical body to its limits and beyond. All I had to do was endure and allow time to pass. To me that’s easy compared to what Step 5 took to achieve that tummy, which is:
You have got to learn to love yourself.
Boom. Done. We can all go back to what we were doing now. Just kidding.
It was 2010 and that was probably the most difficult year of my life. Just when you thought there was no way, I say “yes way!”. My daughter was born in 2007 and for 2 years not much in my life changed. I continued to work two jobs and my life settled back into a routine. A routine that was slowly breaking me down. A pattern of behavior that, over time, drew me further and further into seclusion. It happened over such a long period of time I didn’t even see it. I felt it but I had succumbed to the idea that this was going to be my life. That the way I pictured my life as one giant adventure was just a childhood fantasy. I stopped dreaming. I stopped believing in the dreams I had once had for myself and my family. Until one day a very, very dear friend moved back into town and was so eager to catch up with me that we talked and talked for hours. I caught her up on the many things happening in my life and at the end of the conversation she looked at me and said:
“Are you ok?”
Those three words threw me. It was 5 years ago but I still remember her voice and the look on her face. The answer was simple but I couldn’t be honest enough to even say “no” because I didn’t have the chance to. I was working 7 days a week, sometimes for 5 weeks at a time, I was a size 10 ( the heaviest I had ever been), I barely saw my friends, and I was a shell of the ambitious girl everyone knew, and my life was no longer under my control. No, I wasn’t ok, but it didn’t even matter. I didn’t matter. I was robot at that point, just doing what I needed to do to get through the day so I could make it through another day.
Life changing decisions occurred that year but it was the realization that I needed to learn to love myself again that propelled each decision until it snowballed into one of the most incredible realizations that took me another 5 years to embrace. I am clearly a slow learner. Reflecting back, these are the lessons I learned:
1. Absolutely nothing changes overnight. We all know this and yet continue to be disappointed by slow progress. One step forward is still one step forward. For me, it was as simple as allowing the question to resonate and reflect. I didn’t push it away this time. One tiny change might be all it takes. Listen to that voice begging you to try, even if it’s not your own. I went from a size 10 to a Size 2 but, believe me, it took a long, long time with many, many setbacks.
2. You gotta have a team. I really, really, really can’t thank Team Ana enough for all they have done for me. They do not allow me to speak badly about myself. They have this unwavering faith in ME that is inspiring and really annoying when all I want to do is call it quits. They are the thunderous applause at the end of my races. They are my voice when I’m still to afraid to admit my feelings so they speak it for me. My team is comprised of all sorts of amazing people who I’d love to name individually but don’t have enough room for that. I can only hope you know exactly who you are.
3. A change in perspective goes a long way. When my then 2 year old daughter saw me in a two piece bathing suit for the very first time she said “Mommy, when I grow up I want to have a belly that looks just like yours!” My 3.5 year old son said “I like your bathing suit.” Then they wanted to know when we were going to leave for the beach. To this day my daughter is obsessed with my tummy and I had to make a very conscientious decision to speak positively about myself for her sake and it helped me to see myself through the eyes of someone who loves me unconditionally. So to finish off this series, I present my tummy in the eyes of my very artistic 7 year old. My lines have been transformed to leaves, trees, caterpillars, and more. I have been transformed through this experience and I am incredibly grateful.
But wait, my journey isn’t done. Did you know that the most common phrase searched on YouTube is “How to __________. ” Beacuse I think at the end of the day we’re all looking for guidance. We need to feel like there’s a place we can go to for answers to questions we might be too afraid to ask. When you find that magical place let me know, in the meantime my next series is going to focus on that. What are the basic 5 steps I took (some accidental, some advice, and some trial & error) to learn to love myself. Stick around and maybe it will help you or someone you love. Who knows but here goes.