I was looking at photos from 8-10 years ago, when our first two kids were toddlers. These two boys are now 11- and 12-years-old. And I am fatter, wrinklier, and generally more disgruntled-looking.

Ha. Don’t get me wrong. I was tearfully gazing at each photos of my chubby little boys, missing their baby selves, even though I love their adolescent selves every bit as much.

But a little voice was also looking at the younger ME, going, “What the hell? I looked so different. I was thinner and prettier and somehow… simpler.”

The days flowed on after looking at the photos. But my mind kept going back to that younger version of me, wishing I was as young, as cute, as unsophisticatedly carefree as I used to be.

Simple Me

As I used to be. 

As I considered my former self, however, something struck me. I wasn’t completely happy then, either! I remember looking in the mirror, thinking I was fat. I remember looking in the mirror, thinking my clothes were dowdy. I’d had two babies 14 months apart, then another one three years after that. I remember looking in the mirror, thinking, “Where did I go?”

And now, here I am, 8-10 years later, looking at the photos, thinking, “I had it going ON back then. I was a hoochie mama!”

But I didn’t have it all going on. I didn’t love myself as I should have. And, if I was a hoochie mama, it was only in the eyes of other people. To my own eyes, I was fat, dowdy, and ugly.

It’s hard for me to fess up to this now. But it’s even harder to realize that I haven’t unequivocally loved myself for many years. Why this is might be fodder for another post (if I ever figure it out). A low sense of self-esteem. Media that portrays impossible women with svelte little boy bodies and perfect features. The lack of anyone telling me that I was okay, that I am okay, that I will always be okay. Who knows.

But I’m done with it. It’s time to stop this immature attitude about myself. Because if I don’t love myself, I won’t love life.

So. The take-away lesson for me, and maybe for you, if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and felt you weren’t good enough:

Every moment is one to cherish. Every second of my life is a beautiful miracle. I am a piece of God who has many particles of light to share with the world. I am a piece of God who is NOT my body, not my face, not my wrinkles, rolls, or outdated clothes. I am here for a purpose–an important one–that will make the world better a better place for me having been in it.

Learning to love myself better isn’t ego. This is merely an understanding that God doesn’t make crap, that the Universe is an intricately designed masterpiece with every element (including me) planned for a special and significant purpose. This isn’t my ego speaking… it’s my heart.

Kevin and Me 2013

So, when I think back on those photos of me in my 20s, I remember how stressful it was to be a young kid who suddenly faced the loss of youth with those two young (exceptionally adorable) babies. Suddenly, I had stretch marks and saggy boobs and more worries. But I was also a sweet young kid who saw the world as a happy place. And the photos show that. In every one, my smile was pure and hopeful.

Today, I’m still generally a sweet person who sees the world as a happy place. Most days are happy. But I’ve had some personal problems that have forced me to see the darker side. And you can see that knowledge in my eyes these days. I’m old enough to now know that it’s not always happy and not always easy. People will fall down on you, die on you. You’ll fall down on yourself.

But here is the moment where I have to choose. I can continue to grow old in my soul and heap the worries on and see things in a negative light. Or I can stay young in my soul and choose to live life as happily and positively as possible. How? Well, another secret I haven’t quite cracked, but I have a hunch it has something to do with minimizing the thoughts rushing through my mind while focusing almost exclusively on the present moment.

I’m choosing a youthful outlook. I’m choosing to remain as I used to be, but with a sassier, more mature outlook. It’s only taken me until middle age to learn to truly love myself.

How about you?