Every morning I strip down and step on the scale and I look to its numbers to tell me what I’m worth. With the softness of a belly that has swollen and receded four times, I ask it to tell me if I’m okay, if I measure up. And I know in my head that health is more important than numbers, that fitness is what matters more than a number, that I’m gifted with a body that can chase little children or do ninja moves alongside my boys. But I don’t believe all those things I know. I believe the numbers. Because it’s so easy to feel good about ourselves when that number’s what I want it to be and it’s easy to resolve to not drink another Pumpkin Spice Latte when the number isn’t what I want it to be. So I step off the scale either at peace (for the moment) or deflated, and resolve to just eat better, drink more water, exercise that day and say no to the yummy Fall-flavored treats that surround me and to just walk past the candy corn.
I’m stuck on a hamster wheel of obsession about me. Of criticizing my saddlebags or my wiggly upper arms. And I tell myself a lie: that if I just could tone up, or resist the candy corn, or exercise more, that then, then, I’d be okay. My body’s an easy target; I see my body all the time and so does everyone else. They can’t see that I spent 20 minutes organizing a toy bin that is destroyed in .5 seconds. They can’t see that I cooked a meal that was yummy and nutritious but my kids still didn’t like it. And so I pile all my fears about my self-worth and my accomplishments into that number. And like reading tarot cards or looking into a crystal ball, I let that dictate my future, about how I’ll go about my day. I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but I keep those thoughts deep and quiet inside, my own personal tape of not measuring up keeps playing all day until I can consult the medium of the scale on the next day and see if I’m any better.
But this god of the scale is not life; it’s death. It’s a prison of performance that taunts me daily. Actually I haven’t stepped on it in a few days and like an addict, I keep returning to it in the bathroom and want it to tell me if I’m okay. If I’m good enough. If I’ve arrived. But I know it just communicates lies about who I am; just a little sliver of a whole-orbed view of the self. It says nothing about my hopes or dreams or passions; nothing about the craziness of my life; nothing about the boo-boos I kissed or the lunches I’ve packed; nothing about having dance parties in the living room or playing Star Wars; nothing about meeting with a friend and really listening.
Instead of worshipping the trinity of my weight, my appearance and body image, I’m telling myself a new narrative. One that says, along with Brené Brown, “I am enough.” It’s a great message, a message that restores human dignity and combats those who, like me, like to obsess about failures in weight management, or lack of craftiness or my complete inability to keep the house clean or organized. But it can also feel pretty hollow. Like I’m just blowing smoke up my ass, like I’m just giving myself a new story — this time a positive, self-help, self-esteem mantra — to replace my old one.
Because the problem with my obsession about the numbers staring back at me each morning and the version of self-esteem that just says “I’m ok”, is that they both start and end with me.
And I’m becoming more and more convinced not simply in a theoretical way but also in a daily way, that it can’t be about me. That even if I had a week on a tropical island sipping umbrella drinks with a pile of life-changing books and was rocking that bikini, that I wouldn’t be fully satisfied or fully alive. That’s why seeing the beauty in the mundane is restorative — it pushes me outside of my head, outside of my to-do list and causes me to wrestle with the implications of what I say I believe. Is what I’m doing important? Does any of it matter? When the number gets where I want it to go on the scale, am I set free to love others and be full of joy? Nope. It’s in these quiet moments — moments to pause and drink in the goodness of the now, where I’m lost in thought or action with those I love — that I feel most alive. You see, “I am enough”, not because I’m great or smart or skinny or threw a Pinterest-worthy party; I am enough because I am loved by a lavish God who calls me his own beloved. Not because of how I look, or what I bring to the table (literally or figuratively), but simply because he loves me and sees the glorious perfection of his Son when he looks at me.
The scale still whispers to me. And I still have those voices that condemn me for drinking a Coke. And I still beat myself up when I yell or freak out at my kids. But I’m learning new dance steps of grace that spill over into laughter and twirl with joy; that as I fall and falter, that it’s not about “picking myself up” and “trying harder” but about leaning into a Comforter that envelops both my failures and puffed-up successes, that says, “Ashley, you are enough.”
This is the second post for the Write 31 days challenge, where I’ll be writing every day through the month of October. I’m excited to see what comes of this daily practice. I’d love for you to comment, pin the above image, share posts and subscribe to receive posts to the right in the sidebar as we work through these things together. Posts in the series are all linked to from the first post.