It began with a jog in early January of this year. My husband and I were going for a run, I was having trouble keeping up with him, and it really frustrated me. Within minutes, I was getting down on myself about all manner of things.
It had been a rough week for self-loathing. I’d seen some holiday photos of myself in which I thought I looked sickly and *so* not posh-winter-chic like I’d been aiming for, and I’d just realized that I needed a nose job—how had I gone my whole life without knowing I needed a nose job?!
Of course, my nose is just fine, and a few less than flattering photos along the way is inevitable and so besides the point. As I was jogging and huffing and puffing, I noticed that my negative inner monologue was more than I could stand. Feeling down from time to time is natural for me, but I think I was actively fueling my less-than-sunny thoughts to an extent that was counterproductive, hurtful, and selfish. And that wasn’t who I wanted to be—especially given that I was trying to conceive.
I was—and am—determined to model positive, loving behavior for my child. If she hears me berating my nose, skin, photos, etc., there’s a chance it will become second nature for her to do the same to herself. I know what it’s like to fall into a pattern of only noticing imperfections and finding flaws where there simply aren’t any—like with a perfectly healthy and happy nose! I hope she will have a life free from that.
But my struggle with negativity last winter wasn’t merely about my appearance. I was sad and angry about what was happening to our country and world. Climate change, for example, seemed to me something that couldn’t possibly be ameliorated without everyone caring and making an effort, especially at the level of our lawmakers and political leaders. For obvious reasons, it was easy to feel like we were doomed, more so now than ever.
A woe is us attitude had been steeping in me for a few months by the time January rolled around, and it was hard to talk myself out of it, especially with new, bleak headlines piling up with every passing day.
I was constantly worried about the world I would be sharing with and leaving to my child. I’ve had friends say that the world needs good people raised by good parents, and while that’s true, I’m not raising a child for the purposes of having our problems fixed. I’m raising a child to show someone everything that is wonderful about the world—to add to a life rather than make demands of it.
Of course, it bears mentioning that being able to observe and comment on current events is an indication of my privilege. It means I’m not fleeing my home or consumed by the effort of getting my next meal. Furthermore, the absence of a mood disorder makes it possible for me to decide to be more positive and actually have to ability to achieve a mental change by putting my mind to it. That’s a another luxury not afforded to everyone.
Regardless of my emotional capacity for a more positive outlook, however, the reasoning part of me was having difficulty seeing the point. Feeling pretty powerless, I wondered what good it would do—could it actually help bring about needed change?
I wasn’t sure, and I’m honestly still not sure. But thankfully, I convinced myself to look at the situation a bit differently.
By the end of our run, I’d framed things to myself like this: I’m feeling so troubled because I love our world despite its many dark corners, and the future of the world seems especially precarious right now. I don’t know how much I can do to change that. But even if that’s nothing, I have to at least try. There’s nothing to lose and perhaps something to be gained. Perhaps a lot. I cannot waste my energy criticizing my appearance. Nor am I making any progress sitting around and feeling defeated about the challenges facing us all. True, major changes need to happen, but I cannot contribute to those if I don’t make important changes in myself.
These sentiments probably fall into the “easier said than done” category, but my mental gymnastics were enough to enact a lasting shift. Then, exactly two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant, and it felt crucial to maintain that shift for the next phase of my life. *This* is what I want to give my daughter.
It’s now December, and although I have my rough moments (I mean I still read the news), I’ve managed to keep my momentum. I think we’ve each had to reckon with the events of the past year in our own way. Certainly, my way won’t be the right way for everyone, but I do hope that you choose, to the extent that you’re able, an approach informed by love and stewardship to our planet. I can’t promise you anything other than that it’s sure as hell worth shot.
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