For almost five years I have been blogging in this little space of mine, but very few have seen me, and there's been a reason for that. Before I rebranded to AnnMarie John, we were known as Growing Up Madison. This was all about Madison, but to be honest, there were instances I could have gotten IN-FRONT of the camera with Madison and shown the world who I was. I was a mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, an American soldier and so much more. I told the world, this is about Madison and so there was no need to show myself. However, that was very far from the truth. I hated being in-front of the camera because I didn't think that I was beautiful enough, that I was skinny enough, that my body was "good enough" to be shown to the world. My image of beauty was that size 2 person I was years ago. That skinny young girl who could flaunt it in her shorts, show off her legs and have men say "OMG look at those legs". While I didn't have the typical "black girl butt"which I blame on my European ancestry, I sure did have the legs!
While in the military, I was tough, I could shoot 36 out of my 40 bullets and not miss my mark with an M16 or M9. I was toned, I ran 5 miles and more 3 days a week and I did the mandatory pushups and sit-ups required to be physically fit. Fast forward to 2 years ago and also to the time when I retired. I thought "oh fun times". For me that meant no more getting up and getting ready for PT, no more 5 mile runs or rucks, no more having to hit the gym to stay in shape. I could eat whatever I want, drink whatever I want and there would be no consequences. Sure there weren't any military consequences, but what happened was that I gained 30lbs in less than a year. My now size 7 waist 28 denims could no longer fit. I'm now a size 10, waist 31, woman and I was not happy. Sure there are things that I could do to get back in shape. I could go back to the gym, which I hate, I could start eating a lot healthier and I could generally take better care of myself. These are all, however, choices I have to make for myself, not someone else making them for me, and definitely not by you telling me that I'm fat and ugly.
However, in the meantime, I have to love my body. After all it is my body! This body is 40 years old and have given birth to 4 children. This body has seen good times and bad times. This body may be filled with cellulite, my boobs may now hang and my tummy may be a little "pouchy" but it's my body and I have to live and be comfortable with it. I remember Madison asking one day after I had taken my bra off, "mommy why doesn't your boobs stay up?" and I laughed and said "it's because mommy breastfed all of you". It was then I started thinking about having a breast lift. Sure I can still wear some tops and get away with it, but my boobs sure aren't what they were sans kids. However, these boobs have nourished four children for various lengths of times and they're mine.
I haven't worn a two piece swimsuit in years because I have been so self-conscious about my body. I have been so worried about what other people think about the way that I look that I have literally stopped being myself. I have stopped living. My stomach may not be as flat as it was 5 years ago, but this stomach has also held and given birth to 4 beautiful children. It has the stretch marks and the caesarean scar to prove it, and once again this stomach is mine, all mine!
I complained that my eyes were too small. Why were my eyes so small, why can't you see my eyes when I smiled? My nose was too big, I hated my smile and my face was too fat, and the list went on and on.
We tend to put so much emphasis on what we consider beauty, but we're all beautiful. When someone tells me that I look great, instead of saying "thank you so much", I would say "thank you but..". Why can't we accept that we're beautiful just the way we are? I became obsessed with the way that I looked and ultimately became a photoshop junkie. I erased laugh lines, I erased my cellulite, I erased blemishes, and I realized that I was erasing what made me, ME.
I was living a lie, and what was I teaching my own daughters? That we're not beautiful unless we're perfect? And who defines what perfect beauty is? Does beauty mean that I should have flawless skin, perfect straight and white teeth, a size 2 body? Does that mean that if my own children didn't have that, then they're not perfect? How about focusing on what's on the inside, because as my mom used to say "having a beautiful face, but an ugly personality, makes you ugly all over".
Start focusing on your inward beauty and forget about how the world views you. Beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder and we all have our ideal of what beauty is. It doesn't matter if you're a size 2 or a size 20. It doesn't matter if you have a few extra love handles or we can see your ribs. Be comfortable in your skin. Don't let the world define who you are!
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So with that I say...
Be you, be unapologetically you!
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