In my bare feet, I padded up the two carpeted steps into the short, narrow hallway outside my parents’ bedroom, crossed the two strides to the closed door, and reached my hand out to the cool, metal knob. No one else was home, so I twisted the knob without knocking and crossed into their sanctuary. Their bedroom always felt like a secret growing up, though I’d been in it countless times.
Once inside, I hugged the right wall and stepped into the walk-in closet, flipping the light on as I went. My eyes slid immediately through the rods full of hung clothes and stacked shoe boxes to the reason I was there: a large, green, metal-sided mid-century steamer trunk with brass-toned trim, corners, latches, and lock. I dragged it out into the middle of the closet and sat down in front of it, folding my legs in front of me. The trunk was never locked, so I carefully popped the latches and lifted the lid before peering into the treasured yet disorganized jumble of photographic evidence of my family’s existence.
I’d sifted through them many times before. Pictures of my parents growing up, dating, getting married. Photos of myself and my two younger sisters as we crossed milestones like birthdays, graduations, holidays, and more, but the ones I was most interested in that day were tucked into the large, white paper and plastic windowed envelopes of the school photography company. Each envelope held 8x10s, 5x7s, and several wallet-sized pictures of one of my sisters or me, plus one 8×10 class photo to mark the year and grade. I carefully sorted out the envelopes that were mine, put them in reverse order of 8th grade through kindergarten, and pulled out the class photos one by one, inspecting each one carefully.
I compared myself, my clothes, my hair, my body, to the other girls in my class, many of whom I spent the entire nine years with in that Catholic school class of 32, give or take a few depending on the year. Finally, I found what I was looking for. Although I’d been “the chubby girl” for most of my school career, I didn’t remember always being that way, and there in front of me I had the proof.
With my second grade class photo in my right hand, and my first grade photo in my left, I peered back and forth between the two and wondered what happened in that year that turned a thin, popular child into the overweight semi-outcast that I became. I tried as hard as I could to think back. Had my dad been out on WestPac with the Navy? Had getting a new teacher mid-school year affected me somehow? Was it something else that I had buried away? I always remembered being active as a child, playing on t-ball and softball teams, riding my bike, and dancing around, so I didn’t think that was it, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. There was no concrete answer, no element of blame, only the question forever hovering at the back of my mind.
Decades later, weight continues to be something I’ve “struggled” with ever since. I’ve tried SlimFast, Weight Watchers, Adkins, the Zone, South Beach, the Cabbage Soup Diet, and more. I even lost 100 lbs in 5 months on a medically supervised liquid fast, swearing that after spending that much money to lose weight, I wasn’t going to gain it back. And yet I did. Every time.
We’ve seen it a million times before, whether it be ourselves, our friends, or our family members. And here we are. The New Year arrives with all of its fanfare and resolutions, and we can’t escape the pressure or the slogan: New Year, New You!
I must admit, the idea is appealing. I’ve even written about it before, in journals and old blogs. The problem with the slogan, as catchy as it may be, is the underlying premise that the “old” you isn’t good enough, that the old you needs to be replaced with a shiny, new, more socially acceptable version of you. It comes out of a place of self-hatred or contempt, rather than self-love and acceptance. When we try to make changes out of self-hatred, it becomes about restrictions, can’ts, musts, punishments, struggles, and more.
But when we come at it from a place of self-love, it transforms into taking care of ourselves like we would for someone we loved, like a child or a significant other. It becomes about doing what really and truly makes us feel good and alive, like movement and foods that nourish us instead of making us feel sick, getting outside and having fun, and appreciating and living every moment we are given. If we do this, we can focus, instead, on our own happiness, and the effects of that focus on happiness and self-love will ripple through the other areas of our lives, our relationships, our jobs, and our health, and those things will be transformed, too, until we become the best versions of ourselves that we can be.
That’s why, this year, my wish for myself, for my friends and family, for my readers, and for everyone around me is that we all look in the mirror and say to ourselves, This Year I’m going to love This Me, and we will see how that love transforms our lives and the world around us. After all, happiness, love, and positivity are contagious.
I hope you’ll share with me the ways you practice self-love and a focus on happiness over the next year and beyond, as I do with you. Happy 2018! #ThisYearThisMe