For so long, I looked in the mirror and sought out my flaws. Blame it on the media. Blame it on the way girls are raised. Blame it on the magazines or commercials or rows and rows of makeup lining the counters of every department store. But that’s the way I saw myself—flaws first.
I was always comparing myself to this idea of perfection. Always looking at where my skin was wrinkled around my eyes from squinting too much, or where my eyeliner was smudged, or where the folds of my belly could be smaller, or where the stretch marks on my thighs could disappear.
For a while I obsessively counted calories, restricting by numbers, beating myself up for every extra slice of cheese or handful of crackers, wishing I could press a button and restart the day, or sometimes even lacing up my running shoes and sprinting down the street, hoping I could undo what I just ate.
My self-love was determined by the image I created in my head, an unobtainable image of perfection.
And with every morning, every pimple, every stretch mark, every bite, every meal where I went a little overboard, I felt myself slipping away from the person I was meant to become.
But that person? That perfect, flawless person? She doesn’t exist.
It took me a long time to figure out that self-love is not determined by what the world told me I should be or look like. It took me a long time to realize that perfection doesn’t exist at all.
It took me years of eating too much, then eating too little, then binge-running, then crying at the numbers on the scale to realize I was striving for the impossible. That I would never love myself if I was always criticizing and finding every little thing wrong instead of right.
It took me so long to realize I was already created in God’s image, and I didn’t have to be perfect.
I was already perfect in His eyes, even in all the ways I fall short. Even in all the things that are ‘wrong.’ Even in all the pieces of me that don’t measure up to the ridiculous standards of this world.
None of that matters because to Him, I am made just the way I’m supposed to be.
Now, when I look in the mirror I see my smile before my flaws. I see my positive glow before my weakness. I see my poise and grace before my failures.
Now, when I look in the mirror, I see my birthmarks as uniqueness. I see my eye-wrinkles as memories of all the times I’ve laughed or laid blissfully in the sun. I see the rolls of my belly as the homemade pasta shared with family and the late night drunk pizza with friends. I see the scars as the lessons learned and stories to tell. I see thick thighs and legs as strong and powerful.
Now, when I look at myself, I see love.
And what I’ve learned is that self-love is not about seeking perfection. It’s not about looking in the mirror and appreciating all the ways you are flawless and wonderful and ‘ideal.’ It’s not about getting closer and closer to that impossible standard of beauty the world has put out there.
Self-love is about loving your mess.
It’s about looking in the mirror and seeing all the things that make you, you. All the tiny blemishes that make up the uniqueness of your face, your arms, your body, your legs. It’s seeing all the flaws, all the imperfections, all the things you used to hate, and finding a way to love them.
It’s having hard days, sometimes, when you don’t actually appreciate who you are, but learning to turn those bad days into good days tomorrow. It’s always pushing for a better you.
It’s loving your mess, your chaos, your change.
It’s knowing that you were created as you are.
And it’s smiling in that mirror, thankful to simply be.