By Shonna Ronelle
A few months ago, a friend of mine challenged me to make a list of things I love about me from head to toe. I was supposed to stand and look at my naked body in the mirror, telling myself these positive things out loud. Loving me. I tried. Really I did. I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote body parts and then began to fill in bullet points. I had every intention of following through on this task. Having been married to someone who expressed constant disapproval of my body through word and facial expression, I knew that I desperately needed to give myself this gift. I made it from the top of my head to my neck before I gave up and set the list aside without completing it.
This week I read Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog from December 31, 2013 titled “Don’t be Pretty – Be Beautiful in 2014. And I chose to embrace my beauty.
I looked in the mirror and noticed things with new eyes because I thought about the value of my story.
I noticed my eyes. The ones that shift from blue to green to purple to gray depending on the light, the color of my clothing, or what my heart is feeling. I love that my eyes change color without artificial lenses.
I noticed my breasts. The ones shaped similar to my daughter’s that she recently proclaimed to HATE because so many guys had told her they only liked her for her boobs and her booty. And for the first time I realized I love my breasts, even with a slight sag in them, because they exist due to nursing my daughter in her first months of life.
Before I had my daughter my chest was so flat that I was teased for being on the “itty bitty titty committee” or for wearing “training bras.” Now I see my breasts and they represent life and nurture, the joys and trials of motherhood. So much story!
I noticed my stomach with a bit of pooch and some remaining dimples and stretch marks from bringing my daughter into this world. As I looked at this part of my body I celebrated the miracle of life. Hers. I was told after miscarrying my second child that I should never have been able to become pregnant or carry a child to term. But I did. My daughter is my precious beautiful treasured miracle. If I choose to see when I look in the mirror, my breasts and my stomach tell the story of my miracle.
I scan farther down and notice the scar on my right shin. The one left after I was kicked by a horse. This happened during the first summer I worked at camp. The summer that I learned I have innate and valuable abilities with horses, people and leadership along with a wonderful sense of humor. I’ve always loved the scar for the stories it represents. Stories of practical jokes, laughter, and lessons learned. Three treasured summers in my life are wrapped up in that one scar.
Just below that on the left side I notice my ankle. The one that will always be shaped a bit different because of a slip and slide down some bus steps on a school field trip with my daughter. A split second that changed the next 13 months of my life with a blood clot, hospitalization, bed rest and way too much physical therapy.
This is the unique piece of me that tells this part of my story: the time where I first experienced sacrificial men who cared about my pain. The season where I had no choice but to rest and allow others to serve. Where God began to teach a do-er to be still. The season of learning perseverance through pain. And the joy of gaining back what was lost for far too many months: full and complete range of motion and the ability to do things I took for granted before the fall like climbing stairs and hiking in Yosemite.
Last on this trip to the mirror I notice my right 4th toe. The one that is crooked. It reminds me of the year when I lived on Majuro and taught Kindergarten. I broke the toe jumping off of a waterfall in Guam over Christmas break. (Well, actually, and embarrassingly, I broke it on a coffee table BEFORE I jumped and finished the job WHEN I jumped.)
Just looking at that beautiful crooked toe reminds me of the part of my story where I got a trial run, as a college student, at living on my own for a year. That was the year where I learned to love and embrace another culture. It was also the season when I had the privilege of sitting on a beautiful tropical beach every morning while learning my first lessons about intimacy with God.
I cannot remember my father ever once telling me I was beautiful. I’m not saying he never said it. I’m saying I have no recollection of positive comments about my appearance. However, I do remember the times he criticized my attire as not right for an event. Or the times when he accused me of being something I wasn’t, like “whore” or “slut” because he was displeased with what I chose to wear.
Suddenly the words and expressions of my father and ex-husband don’t matter anymore. I know that I know that I know that I am beautiful. Inside and out.
From this day forward I choose to be kind to myself when I look in the mirror, because now I can see what my daughter sees when she tells me how beautiful I am. I see the story. The grace. The lessons. I’m in love with me. And I’m grateful. Truly grateful for who I see looking back at me. A strong beloved woman who encourages freedom of the heart.