I ordered a new swimsuit from Target via the app last week. They didn’t have it at the store closest to me so it was shipped from another store to my local Target and I had to pick it up today. I didn’t feel like doing much with myself before leaving because, for one, I’m a mom of two under three and I just did not feel like stressing over hair, makeup and outfit just to run in and out for a swimsuit and a squishy toy I told my son he could pick out and, for two, because my face is broken out still from being a woman last week and I like to let it breathe as much as possible so it will clear up more quickly.
So, I left the house in the athletic shorts I’ve worn for three days straight, a t-shirt for a college I didn’t attend, day 3 of unwashed hair pulled back into a pony tail which I didn’t even bother dry-shampooing, zero makeup with red spots all around my mouth and chin, and about 40-50 extra pounds from two babies and several years of hardship and depression. Honestly, I’m in a pretty great place most days compared to the past several years of emotional and mental distress and low self-esteem, so I didn’t really worry about it because I’m mostly over myself in that way these days (mostly).
So, we got minimally ready, left the house, put on our “dance party” playlist on Spotify, and set sail to Target. On the way there, I decided I wanted to buy a latte at the inside Starbucks for the next morning (an iced vanilla almond milk latte, to be exact). We were also celebrating Judah all day for saying goodbye to his “par-pars” (pacifiers), so I decided to get him a cake pop, as well.
We walked inside, placed our order, and walked to the end of the counter to wait and, as we arrive, I see one of my best friends from high school and her mom, both of whom I haven’t seen since her wedding day several years ago when I photographed the event and danced all night with my volleyball friends.
I was ambushed with two thoughts. First, “Omgsh! Angela! I love you so much and miss you and it’s SO good to see you!” Second, “Omgsh. Angela. Craaaaap. I look like total poop, I’ve gained so much weight since high school, my face is so messed up, I probably smell like breast milk, sweat, and baby food peas and… sh*t, did I put on deodorant? Whyyyyyy today?!”
The thoughts were immediate and intense. I had a genuine fight or flight moment. “Maybe she didn’t see me.” She did. “Maybe I can escape this interaction?” I shouldn’t. “Maybe I can stand a certain way so I look 20 pounds thinner and less zitty.” I one-hundred percent cannot.
”Angela!!!” I said with a genuine smile. I was, after all, truly delighted to see my long-time friend and teammate. She and her mom were just on their way out (literally could not have timed this better if I tried) and walked over to me for a hug and to say hi and meet my boys.
Angela, a mom of two little boys herself, looked great. She had a nice tan, she was still fit and trim even though her college athlete days are long gone and after giving birth twice. More importantly, she was just as sweet as ever.
Within seconds after saying our hellos, I felt this intense need to apologize for how I looked. I just kept wanting to say things like, “I’m so sorry I’m such a mess. I’m sorry you have to look at my face like this. I’m trying to lose weight and get back in fighting shape. I apologize I look gross.” But after years of working on my self-esteem and my emotional and mental health, I knew I shouldn’t. Even after I got home I felt this urge to message her on Facebook and let her know how good it was to see her and throw in a “sorry I looked so awful” somewhere in the mix. Thankfully, I resisted that urge.
You see, we are all allowed to take up space in this world. We are allowed to have not-so-hot days. We are allowed to have not-so-hot seasons.
Angela is kind. She doesn’t care what I look like. She isn’t judging me for being human. That’s the narrative I tell myself because I refuse to be the person I used to be. I refuse to walk around life believing other people are thinking the worst about me. I refuse to assume the worst about them in that way. I am choosing to believe that, regardless of how zitty I am, how much weight I’ve gained, or how much I smell like tired mom that Angela and her mom were also truly delighted to see me because they are lovely people.
I’ve worked so hard to rid myself of judgementalness and the need to constantly compare myself to others to falsely figure out how I measure up and I strive everyday to be the best I can be, so why wouldn’t I work just as hard to believe the best about others, too? And if I’m wrong and people are judging and criticizing me for such shallow things as appearance, that’s on them. They’re only hurting themselves with that attitude (as I once did) and I have zero control over their narratives anyway, so why stress? What other people think of me is none of my business.
And you know what? Even on my worst day, I am beautiful. Yes, simply because I’m a creation of the Most High, but also because I’ve worked hard on my inner-self the past decade and I am confident in who God says I am and who He’s called me to be because of it. Not perfect. But beautiful nonetheless. And what’s inside is far more important than what’s outside.
So today, I choose to hold my head high that I got out of the house and accomplished some things with my kids in tow. I choose to pat myself on the back that we successfully weaned our son from his “par-pars” and made him feel brave, empowered, and celebrated all day. I am going to rejoice over the fact that when I picked up my swimsuit from customer service that there was a clearance sticker on the tag and I ended up getting to return it and re-buy it for 50% off what I originally paid. And I am going to be proud of myself that I did not and will not apologize for my existence.
What a beautiful day. What a beautiful friend.
”It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry about.” - Amy Poehler