Monday, May 6, 2013

I've Had Enough of Not Being Enough

Today I went to the most beautiful place, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, The Grotto. The Grotto is filled with love, light and peace. In the upper garden, there is a labyrinth pattered after the one in Chartres Cathredral. I walked the one in Chartres when I was 19 years old. Today, almost twenty years to the day, I walked its twin at the Grotto.

Here's a picture of Chartres' labyrinth:


via google


A labyrinth is a path that one walks to mediate and find focus. Labyrinths are not mazes, but a path that one walks to clear the mind and enlighten the soul. I walked my walk on the labyrinth with a specific intention: Self acceptance.

I'm 39 years old. Not a day has passed since I was eight years old that I haven't looked in the mirror and thought something derogatory about my body. Too tall, too gangly, too clumsy, too freckled, weird speaking voice, too fat, too knock kneed--my list of perceived physical shortcomings could fill the O.E.D.  I inherited this attitude from my parents, who inherited it from their parents. The self hatred goes so deep that it colors every joyful experience of my life. I often catch myself thinking during life's sweetest experiences, "If only I were thinner I'd be even happier." Each time I think this, a little joy is chipped away from the moment because I am reminded that I'm not enough.

I have never felt comfortable in my own skin. I can tell you with exactness what I weighed on each important day in my life. My physical self loathing has colored each day of my life as long as I can remember. I carry it with me like a great stone around my neck. It drowns out the full breadth and depth of joy that I could experience and well, I'm sick of it.

I've talked to a lot of women--and at some point each has mentioned this feeling of not being enough. We are taught our physical lack at our mother's knee, in locker rooms, at school dances, on the playing field, and in dressing rooms, under fluorescent lights which show our every flaw in life sized high definition. We lament our lack of not being enough as teenagers with phrases like "I'm sooooo fat!!" at the same time swinging our gorgeous hair and silently begging for compliments and validation from other girls who feel the emptiness of not being enough as painfully as we do.

Some of us eat to fill up the hole of not being enough. Some of us have doctors remove excess fat with a sterile vacuum hose, not unlike the one you use to clean your car. Some of us develop eating disorders, get plastic surgery, take drugs, drink excessively, cut ourselves, and even inject toxic chemicals into our lines and wrinkles in a vain attempt to fill the bottomless pit of not being enough.

I'm standing on the crest of the big 4-0. Forty. Middle aged. Over the hill...in my almost four decades in this body I've been ogled, groped, leered at, felt up, patted down, and generally objectified in a variety of situations. Every gaze I've encountered since I was 13 (when those pesky boobs appeared like aliens on my chest) has left me completely confused. Is my cup size the measure of my worth? My dress size? What must I look like to be enough?

I've had several different bodies in my life, and I'm only half way through this journey. There was the tiny baby body, the awkward child body, the teenage explosion, the early twenties goddess (which of course, I didn't appreciate at the time.) Now, scarred, stretch-marked and flabby, I still carry the 35 extra pounds from my last baby--and he's nine.
I see his sweet face and am reminded that I still can't fit into those pre-baby jeans.  People use words like "robust", "healthy", "big boned", and the phrase "at least you have a pretty face", to describe me. People say things like:

"Have you lost weight?"
"Why don't you join a gym?"
"What size are your jeans?"
"Your boobs are huge!"

And with every question or comment, I am reminded, with crystal clarity, that I am not enough.

Not enough.
Not enough.

In our society, body image is the litmus test we use for being enough. Both women and men feel the sharp sting of the desire to be enough. But we've all been duped over and over (and again and again) into thinking that our worth, our sense of being "enough" is directly dependent on what we look like.

I've never met a woman who hasn't been able to paste a smile on her face and pretend that she is enough. I do it every damn day. We dye our hair, constrict our bodies in spandex and elastic that raise our boobs, and slim our waists. We don the torture of high heeled shoes and fake fingernails then slather our bodies in creams (that cost more than my first car) just to prove that we are enough.

But I know.
I can feel the gap within people, the ache of wanting to be pretty, attractive, thin, and young. There is a yawning chasm that resides in each of us and attempts to swallow us whole. We are reminded of our "ideal" image every time we turn on the television, open a magazine or walk out the door. Vast and unending, dark and deep, the chasm swallows us a little more each day with the negative thoughts we feed it. Every time I think, "I'm so fat" the gap opens a little wider and I sink a little deeper. I fear one day I may disappear altogether into the abyss; the abyss of not being "enough".

And here is the real, personal tragedy of my thinking: My body rocks. For loathing it so completely, I take really good care of it. I exercise it every day. I walk, run, swim, and climb. I eat right. My health is amazing. I haven't needed to see a doctor--except to have babies--in my entire adult life. I rarely catch the common cold. I've got fabulous skin and no wrinkles (fat chicks don't get 'em). I've got thick wonderful hair. I have fabulous hands that can play the piano, cook a meal, communicate to a jerky driver, and comfort a soul.

And beyond my physical characteristics: I've got a kind heart. I enjoy people. I can engage in conversation on a variety of subjects. I have great empathy. I would give you the shirt off my back if you needed it--but on second thought, then someone would inevtiably make a remark about my chest, so, I take that  back--no shirt for you.

But sexy personalities don't sell. You can't bottle "witty", "funny", or "clever". Instead, we focus on the exterior shell, the changing husk. We ask ourselves and others, "Are you losing weight? What have you been doing? You look fabulous!" We make snide comments about people who are shaped differently than us in order to prove to ourselves that we are enough. We think, "At least I don't look like that." To keep the chasm at bay, we compare our bodies to others over and over and we willingly believe the biggest lie ever told: The lie that we are not enough.

So, I am finished.

You see, I've got a daughter. I refuse to have her sit at my knee and learn in the dressing rooms that she is not enough. I refuse to allow her to be swallowed whole into the abyss. I want her (and me, and you too) to find the tools to close the gap. I am taking my tools in hand to climb, inch by inch, into the belief that I am enough. I may have set backs. The odd remark about my ample chest, or my squishy arms may push me back into the darkness, but I will hang on.
am hanging on.

Are you hanging on too?

Today, right now, I am closing the gap. Hanging on is no longer enough for me. I want to sprout wings and fly away into drunk love for this amazing machine that houses my soul.
I am enough.
This lovely body is just right as it is. It changes every day but I am armed with the tools to help me gain ground to close the gap. My tools are good, merciful, kind, and loving thoughts about this body I've been blessed with. It is mine and it's an amazing opportunity to have one that works pretty well. I gain ground by focusing on the amazing things that my body can do.

So today, as I walked the labyrinth, I walked to be blessed with the tools necessary to make the journey.  I walked for self acceptance, but not self acceptance coupled with resignation; not the disappointment of "I really loathe my body, but I'll accept it anyway." I walked my labyrinth today for sublime self acceptance; self acceptance coupled with unconditional true love for this body I've got, cellulite, knobby knees, squeaky voice, kind heart and all.

The sum total of my being is not contained in the exterior shell that is my body. The most important parts of me, and you, are written on the walls of our very souls. This means that I am not my body and neither are you.

And we are enough.



62 comments:

  1. This was amazingly beautiful Lisa, and on a perfect day for you to have written it, for me! You are such an inspiration for me, and I LOVE YOU!

    XO

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  2. Your post is for the 7+ billion inhabitants of this planet Lisa. What a tragedy it is that we often refuse to accept the beauty within which has the power to enable us to see the true beauty on the outside. For me, the analogy of not judging a book by its cover could never be more apt - what storyline and lesson has ever been altered one iota whether the book's cover is a paperback or bound by the most exotic leather? Your beautiful heart and spirit is a blessing to all of us. You are most definitely more than enough. Thank you so much for reminding us that we are likewise. Best wishes.

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    1. Jeff, thank you for the lovely encouragement. YOU, my friend, are a joy and blessing. Thank you for being you!

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  3. This is wonderfully, wonderfully written Lisa. I've also grappled with this concept. I used to write the phrase, "I am enough" over and over in my journal until the tears would stop. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today. : ) Big Hug!

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    1. We are enough!! (We should have tee-shirts made!) ;)

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  4. Absolutely beautiful. As the mother of three daughters, I want to believe this, because I want them to not just believe it, but to know it. Thanks for the reminder that I am enough.

    P.S. I live literally three minutes from The Grotto. We could have gone to lunch!

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  5. Thank you for sharing this important gift. I am older than you, and recently found that I am not washed up. New attitude, new clothes, new attention, and I feel freer and prettier than ever!


    Aloha, Sis

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    1. Aloha, my friend!! New beginnings are a beautiful thing!

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  6. amazing post. squish, squish, squish... ;)

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  7. My husband has not seen me fully unclothed in a few years. I am not only overweight, but old. I knew what was going to happen when I got old. My mom and grandmas were not shy or critical about their bodies. But I am so surprised every time I look in the mirror. Somehow I didn't think it would happen to me. How silly is that. I am however reaching the point of not worrying about it anymore. I will lose all this when I get old enough, and the awesome fellow I live with is getting as old as I am. So it will all come out in the wash eventually.

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    1. It's interesting, I have NO problem strutting my naked self around Mountain Man, he is wholly kind. :) And it DOES all come out in the wash...:)

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  8. OK, Lisa -- I want you to submit this to Newsweek, and any other national magazine that has an InMyOpinion type of editorial page. This was beautifully articulate, honest, funny, and heartbreaking .... and I have never read a better written treatise on the issue. Please please please take these words of yours today and find a way to share them with as many women as possible. Thank you for your dual gift of insight and boldness -- it is not a double-edged sword -- it is a double whammy Ninja skill -- and these words today can help many many others. And I don't know how to post this as me, but "me" is Ellen Collette!

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    1. Ellen, thank you so much. You are an awesome example of unconditional and overflowing LOVE! xo!

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    2. Absolutely! This needs to be run nationally and translated so that it goes global! You say so well, things that all women and girls need to hear!

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  9. This post needs to be seen by EVERYONE. I think it could even be enough to help somebody who is selfharming, realize that they can seek out help and be able to recover.

    I ALWAYS worry about my appearance. Just last night, my boyfriend texted me a picture of me that he took recently, and the first thing I said was, "That is a TERRIBLE picture. I look AWFUL in it." While its not my best picture, I know I shouldn't have reacted like that. Especially when I was visibly happy in the picture. My first thoughts should have been on the happy memories, not just a weird face I happened to be making at that moment.

    We're all made in God's image and He made us to be enough, to be perfect the way we are. It's really a shame none of us seem to remember that and its horrible when people tear at each other's wounds, especially open ones, to make themselves feel better.

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    1. It IS a shame. And I remember right before I got married, I went through all my photographs and got rid of all the ones that made me look "fat". It was idiotic...truly.
      God DID make us to be enough and perfect as we are. Much love to you, my friend!

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  10. After putting on almost 90 pounds after 3 months of pneumonia, 2 spinal surgeries and way too much time not being able to move, I look back at my body and realize that I took my body for granted.

    Every time I talk to a doctor or physical therapist, they ask me what my goals are. My response is always that I want to be backpacking by summer 2014. Most of the time it takes them a little bit to realize that my goal isn't specifically to lose weight. (I am sure that I will need to lose weight to be ready to go backpacking, but focusing on function over a specific weight, it matters more what my body can do, rather than what I look like.)

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    1. Julia, I like that: function over form!! :) You will do it, and it will be amazing!!

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  11. Well worded. I have gone through so much of that. I work so hard to never say those thoughts I have where my children could hear them and think "oh, if mommy says she's fat, then she is and it's bad, and I don't want to be fat." It's so hard to break that cycle, but being aware of it is a good first step.

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    1. It's something we all have to be aware of all the time...

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  12. Oh. My. Gosh. I love this Lisa. I don't even know how to compliment you enough for what you have written here. It is beautiful, it is true, and I will share it, and I will read it again. Thank you.

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  13. This is beautiful and perfect, Lisa. I haven't seen you in many years, but I KNOW you're beautiful, no matter what anyone else thinks. Blessings to you and yours.

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    1. Ha! I look the exact same as I did after Lenorah was born, just with more gray hair. :) xo!

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  14. Great post! I think men go through the same thing to be honest, it's just not as prevalent. I used to be "perfect", love my body, flaunt it in fact and then I turned 22 and started taking anxiety and depression medication, started sitting on the couch more, and started stuffing my face more. I trained to run a half marathon last year. I ran an average of 7km a day 5 days a week and didn't lose any weight because I ate a lot more. I went to a wedding recently and was asked/told at least 5 times, something along the lines of, "you've really gained a lot of weight." Yes, thanks for that and FUCK OFF! We all struggle with it, but I think the most important thing is focusing on what is enough or better than enough, like all of the positive things you listed here. Those things made me smile and think of all of those things that I have that apply to myself!
    Cheers from Brandy at http://brandysbustlings.blogspot.ca/

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    1. Lovely attitude! My sentiments EXACTLY! ;) I also the men who have negative body image are the lost group in this equation. I know of SO many men who struggle too...
      xo!

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  15. I hear this all the time at the gym. I try to get people to look in the mirror to execute the exercise correctly, and women (never men!) turn away saying they can't look at themselves. Would you refuse to look at a friend for being too hideous? No, you wouldn't - you'd find something to compliment her on - even if she had put on 50lbs overnight and grown horns. It seems like you've finally got there though, so well done :-)

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  16. This was wonderfully written and true to its core. I am a generation older than you, and remember always feeling inadequate. Now? Somewhat, but I don't care much. Other things are more important--like grandkids, writing, family. Flabby arms and saggy boobs are just part of the package.

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  17. This post is beautiful, and reminds be of a line from a Regina Spektor song. "I've got a perfect body, but sometimes I forget. I've got a perfect body 'cause my eyelashes catch my sweat. Yes they do, they do-ooo-ooo!" Thanks for the reminders and for helping me not feel so alone. You. Are. Great.

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    1. Love Regina! YOU are great!! xo!

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    2. Ooh, one other thing. Have you seen this? Because it's pretty great.

      www.bodyimagemovement.com.au

      I don't know if she sells things on her site or whatever, but I follow her on Facebook and she's kind of a revolutionary : ) Thought you would enjoy.

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  18. Oh,Lisa...I am sobbing here at work while reading this. Because I have never in my life felt like I was enough and I still don't. And every time my beloved tells me something sweet and complimentary, inside I think to myself "He's just saying that because he wants me to feel good, but he doesn't really mean it," or "What a sweet lie." And every time I do that, I feel that very thing about crushing the joy hearing the compliment made me feel. Instead of taking him at his word, I look for all the ways I am not good/pretty/thin/interesting enough. And I, too, have been guilty of the mean-spirited thought, "Well, at least I don't look like that." and immediately feel bad afterward. I hate that I have bought into the hive mindset that I am nothing if I'm not beautiful (by THEIR standards) and instead of reveling in everything I am, I berate myself for all I think that I am not.

    Perhaps that should be what I concentrate on daily--self acceptance for exactly who I am today. Treating myself kinder. And not relying on constant reassurance from others that I'm okay, because that doesn't work either. Until I believe it for myself, I can be told all day every day that I am enough and it still wouldn't convince me. I have to believe it for myself.

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    1. It's a daily reminder, the daily act of being gentle with yourself. You can do this. I can too. And we are in it together and we are enough.
      LOve you, Mary!!

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  19. Amazing post! Your words are so true and they truly touched me. I tend to think that I am not enough too. But you are more than enough. You have this wonderful way of allowing your great personality to shine through in every word that you write and I feel so inspired after reading this post. You are amazing and what you look like does not matter. I think you rock! If anyone disagrees, tell them to come and see me.

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    1. Murees, your lovely sentiment "If anyone disagrees, tell them to come and see me." made my very heart sing with joy!!!
      What a fabulous human you are! Thank you for sharing your love and encouragment.
      xo!

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  20. I don't have anything unique to add to this conversation, other than to say ditto, awesome, fabulous and amen!

    It will probably be the work of our lives, this believing we're enough. But I'm up for it, and I sense you are as well. xo

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    1. of course! As long as we can have lunch every now and then too...:)
      xo!

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  21. What a beautiful, heartfelt post. It really touched me. I loved it, and I'll probably come read it every time I feel low about myself.

    And also, thanks for awarding me! :)

    Lots of love! xoxo <3

    Remember you are beautiful :)

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  22. Where is Chartres only place I know called that is a town in the UK. Passing through on my Roadtrip.
    http://spudsdailyphoto.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. It's about 40 minutes outside of Paris!

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  23. Hey there lovely Lisa,
    I see that you were recently nominated for a Leibster, but your "I've Had Enough of Not Being Enough" post came onto my radar right when I was looking for suitable people to nominate for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. With that said, I have nominated you!
    Cheers from Brandy at http://brandysbustlings.blogspot.ca/

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  24. Hey, I just awarded you the sunshine award on my blog.

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  25. I needed this today. Thank you Lisa. If you don't mind, I am sharing it with every woman and man I know.

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  26. And just so you know, I've read this at least six times today.

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  28. Thank you for writing this. It sums up what I've been thinking about myself for years and I know I need to move forward. Everyone should see this post!

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  29. This was beautiful. It's funny how having girls makes us rethink our vision of ourselves. Thank you for sharing.

    Random side note: I have been wanting (for about 5 years now) to get the Chartres labyrinth as a back tattoo. So pretty AND a reminder of life's journey.

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  30. OMG I love this sooooo much! AMEN!!!!!!!!!!

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