Investments & Inspiration

The other day I was lurking around in some forums and in the midst of a lot of snarking re: topknots and arm parties, a sentence jumped out at me. Someone said “Fashion is not inspirational, fashion is just clothes.”

Now, I do agree that fashion is not an investment, at least not a financial investment.  I suppose if you buy a $200 pair of jeans or an $1800 purse and grow tired of it, you  may be able to sell it on Ebay for some cash, but in general clothes aren’t worth anything other than the use you’ll get out of them.  This is an excellent reason not to fool yourself into buying clothing you don’t need as an investment, and also to make yourself wear the things you do have.  Clothings’ only actual financial worth is as clothing. If you want to invest in something, open a mutual fund.

However, I’m not sure that I agree that fashion is not inspirational.  I will tell you that I’m not attempting, here, to be inspirational to anyone. I am thrilled if I am, but I would never presume that anyone thinks that I am.  Inspirational is a BIG word, you know?  But the thing is, all this work that I’ve done, and it has been work, and the money I’ve spent (although not a grand sum by any stretch of the imagination, it was also not nothing), it has been totally totally worth it. In 35 years, this is the happiest I have ever been with myself.  It is almost the most I have ever weighed, and I have never liked myself more.

I mean, I would love to lose 50 pounds. I do not like my thighs.  There are things I just don’t wear. I take off and return a lot of clothes that look awful. I try to laugh in the dressing room but sometimes I have not my best moments standing in front of that godforsaken Target 3 way mirror.  But leaving the house every day feeling happy with how I look, instead of ducking my reflection and feeling cranky when I open my dresser drawers? It is the best best best feeling, you guys. It’s inspirational to ME, to feel great about how I look.

Especially because I have weighed 50 or 60 or 70 pounds less than this and I have hated how I looked. I have felt fat in a size 4. I have stood in front the mirror and pinched imaginary rolls while my husband rolled his eyes at me and walked away, and in none of those moments did I ever stop and say “No. I will not do this.” Instead I said “I can do better. I can do more. I can be better. I should try harder.”

That voice in my head never went away until I decided that even if those pants were a size 14, I deserved new pants. I deserved to wear clothing that made me feel good about myself.

I have to be honest with you. I did not set about to create a revolution, in my head or anywhere else, but I am astonishingly glad that I did, because there’s someone here now that matters even more than me, and what she hears and learns about herself? It starts with me.

As long as I live, until the day I die, I will never ever ever forgot the moment they said to me, lying on that table in that darkened room, “It’s a girl.” And I am not sure how many days it took me to say it out loud, but in my heart that was the moment that our house, our home, became a Body Disparagement Free Zone.  And I made it a rule, The Rule, that in our house, you don’t talk about how fat you are or how much weight you need to lose or how much you don’t like yourself. In our house, you are beautiful.

But there’s a big difference between refusing to let the words come out of your mouth and refusing to let the words come out of your brain.  Because I stopped talking about how fat I felt, but I didn’t stop telling myself, silently, in my head, how fat I was, until I started to dress myself like I actually cared about me and how I looked and what I wore. And then, somehow, I started to like myself, fat thighs and big kiester and all.

And damn, if that’s not one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

Because the thing is? The world? It is ready willing and able to tell our daughters how fat they are.  How imperfect.  How they should have longer legs or blonder hair or bigger lips or longer eyelashes.  And do not get me wrong. If my daughter comes to  me and she wants to wear deodorant or shave her legs or she wants a purple Esprit bag like every other girl in her 8th grade class? I will sit with her in the bathroom and I will teach her how to shave her legs. I am not going to ask that she not fit in so that I can prove some kind of feminist point.  And we are not going to sit around shoveling brownies in our mouths every morning for breakfast and every night for dinner. There will be brownies, sometimes, but there will also be kale.

BUT when you stand in front of the mirror and you call yourself fat? You might as well be screaming it in your daughter’s ear.  And trust me, that job has been taken care of already. The world is going to scream that at her for you.  But my daughter, from me? She will hear me screaming from the rooftops that I am beautiful.  That we’re all beautiful.  That fat thighs or no boobs or long hair or short hair or stubby eyelashes or big feet are the things that make you wonderful, and that as far as I am concerned?  She is stunning. Magical.  Amazing. Lovely. The most gorgeous girl the world has ever known.

Inspirational? I don’t know.  But it certainly feels like it from here.


41 Responses

  1. You’ve inspired me. And I love the path you are carving out for your daughter. I think you’re beautiful – inside and out.

  2. Yup. I’d call that inspirational. (*wipes away tears*) For real. Great post, thanks for writing it. 🙂

  3. Seriously? You are fantastic! My daughter is about the same age as Katie, and I remember when I found out she was a girl, I thought the same thing. No more comments about how fat I look, no more chubby remarks, no more of any of it! Because you are so right, the world will do that way better (worse) than I could. And she needs me in her corner, skinny, chubby, tall, short, no matter what!
    You are a fantastic mother and your daughter is lucky to have you!

  4. Best thing I’ve read all day. Except, man, there’s something in my eye now. And something in my other eye… (No, shut up, YOU’RE crying.)

  5. This is an awesome post. My mother’s loathing is deeply burnt into me. So is her inability to make daily decisions to change the way she looks and thinks and feel. I don’t talk body hate in my house but geez I think it. Thanks for the reminder to change my thoughts.

  6. WOOO HOOO this is awesome and unicorns and rainbows!!! I have thought a lot about your outfit posts and I LOVE THEM. I have even kicked my outfits up a notch because yes – we should all be happy with how we look.
    Also I so had a purple Esprit bag.

  7. Love it. As usual, you’re the best, E.

  8. This is one of my favorite posts ever. So honest.

    You inspire me. Thank you.

  9. Delurking to say –well done! And thank you! As moms of daughters, it is our job to change the way they see their bodies. And it begins with us. Good job!

  10. Thank you! It is because of Lovely Ladies like you that I finally decided that, even though my body is having issues, and I weigh more than I ever have, I should stop waiting for my body to return to what it used to be and buy clothes that I like and can wear NOW because THIS is the body I have, and, despite the things I don’t like about it, this body allows me to do a lot of the things I want to do. This body allowed me to bring FIVE NEW PEOPLE into the world! I want my daughter to feel comfortable with her body, no matter what shape or size she is, so I am trying to be a good example for her.

  11. This. This is wonderful. YOU are wonderful.

  12. I’m so happy for you and proud of you for having gotten to this place of confidence. I hope to get there someday, too.

  13. You have definitely inspired me. Although I know vaguely what looks good on me and what I like, I always end up reaching for the cheap basic stuff that I hate after a few wears. I love your thought about leaving the house feeling good about how you look, regardless of the number on the scale.

  14. Amazing. Thank you for writing this.

  15. Favorite thing you’ve ever written. Love.

  16. This post is amazing. Absolutely amazing.

  17. I could not love this post any more. And you also made me tear up at the “It’s a girl” line because I’ve heard that twice now and the whole raising daughters to have a positive body image thing terrifies me. I might just print this out.

  18. What a fantastic post. While I don’t have any daughters I did have a pretty amazing mom that was so great at keeping my sister and me full of confidence in our bodies and what they could do, no matter what we looked like. What a great gift to give your daughter.

  19. Your daughter is a lucky girl. Thank you!

  20. I love this post, and remember feeling the same responsibility to my own daughter when she was born. While the world might tell her she’s not enough, she would never ever hear from me that she (and I) were not enough. Thanks for this, Elizabeth.

  21. Such a wonderful post. I’ve had a similar experience—learning to love my body, even though I’m at my highest weight ever, learning to love my body and dress it well. Your posts on what you wore have been so inspiring–made me decide to go and buy clothes that fit my body, my place & time in life, and make me feel good. Thank you thank you thank you!

  22. This is just *fabulous*. Sometimes my hippy feminist side thinks I shouldn’t care but I do & YOU just explained why that’s OK. Our girls are perfect.

  23. You? You amaze me. I wish my mother had done this for me. And you have inspired me to do everything in my power to keep trying and to do better for my girls.

  24. […] that (and Elizabeth’s AWESOME post here) got me thinking about my own face.  At THIRTY-SIX (wait, y’all.  I just had to actually […]

  25. I had a mom who never mentioned weight, and I don’t think I ever thought about what I put in my mouth until college. It was one of the best gifts/values she instilled in me, and you’ve perfectly articulated how I want to instill the “you are always beautiful” feelings in my own daughters. Thank you.

  26. This is such an amazing post. I agree with everything that you have so beautifully said. I have a 6 year old daughter and I feel exactly the same way. It is hard to re-train our brains, but so so worth it for these girls. Thank you, thank you!

  27. I love this, I love your writing, and I am so happy that your family has you.

  28. What a fantastic post – thank you for you and your inspired & wonderful writing!

  29. Oh, if only EVERY girl had a mom like you.

  30. I’m pretty much just a lurker but I wanted to tell you just how much I LOVE this post and agree with every single word. That’s why, even though I’m embarrassed by my mushy self, I’ll walk from the shower to closet without a robe. I want my girls to know what real women look like. And we’re often a little mushy. Especially after a few kids 😉

  31. Oh, Elizabeth Jackson. I love you.

  32. This is just the smack upside the head I needed, Elizabeth. I’ve been falling into “woe is me” body territory again (those vestiges of disordered eating just won’t go away. BLAH.) and giving into them will be a disservice both to me and to V. You? Are awesome.

  33. This is great. I don’t have any little girls, but I have little boys, and they learn things from me. I hear them already. They pick up on the words and attitudes, and they are learning about women from me. From the woman who often falls into that way of thinking that everyone else is more important, and why even try (even though it makes me feels so good when I do) when life is very messy and dirty these days. Yep. Really great post.

  34. Oh, wow. This is inspiring. I have boys, not girls, and I think it is also important to show them my own body love. Because they need to love themselves, and also, they may love a woman one day.

    I’ve had body issues and issues with eating my whole life. Not letting the words come out of your brain is very, very hard.

  35. Awesome post. Thank you for this.

    As the mom of three boys, I think it’s just as important that THEY hear their parents speaking about their bodies in a healthy way, too. Boys need to see their moms (and dads!) exercising and eating healthy AND treating themselves to a cookie now and then, and being confident in any jeans size. And they need to see their fathers loving their mothers, leftover belly pooches and all. I want these little guys I’m raising to be the kind of friends, boyfriends, husbands, and someday, fathers, that treat girls with respect and find beauty in each of them as a whole person.

  36. “In our house, you are beautiful.” I love this so much. I am keenly aware of how harsh the outside world is going to be.

  37. Love this post. I just had a baby girl 10 weeks ago and of course I am having a hard time with this postpartum body that I don’t recognize. I have been complaining to my husband about how I feel fat and ugly and the other day I thought of this post and I just stopped. That’s it, I’m through with it. Because before I know it she is going to be listening and understanding and I do not want to set that kind of example. So thanks for the reminder and thanks for making me stop.

  38. It feels pretty darn inspirational from here too. Count me in on the revolution – I can’t imagine anything our daughters need more.
    A truly amazing and wonderful post!

  39. I am working on this. Really. I am also wondering if I should change the name of my blog to There Will Be Kale.

  40. Thank you for this post. Thank you so much.

  41. Thank you for writing this. I needed to hear this. THAT is the kind of world I want & need to carve out for my Katherine.

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