In the vein of self-love, I thought it prudent to talk about early lessons in self-love–that you don’t always learn it from your family. While this story may not apply to all, the lesson does.
I got my first bra at 11 years old. I remember walking into KMart with my mother and shyly heading into the girls underwear section. It felt almost obscene to observe these garments that I had only heard about wearing a couple of years before. I felt like it was all happening too quickly, like I shouldn’t be looking at these things or shouldn’t want them. I looked at the different styles, the designs on the fabric jumping out at me. I wanted the pretty floral one but my mother selected a few plain white ones from the rack that she thought would fit my own growing rack. Instead of coaching me through the experience, my mother told me she was sorry she passed on her curse to me. I didn’t think much of it at the time other than now I had new clothing to keep track of. I remember being a little excited because I felt like my sister and thought we would have something in common.
After we left the store, I remember proudly showing my best friend’s mother that I acquired this new garment and feeling like I had a new secret all to myself. I was conflicted by my mother’s reaction because she taught me to be ashamed of my changing body and to not trust my choices but I was honestly a little excited. Like I mentioned, I thought it would bring me closer to my sister and I wanted to trust my body.
Every time I needed to expand my bra size—which was fairly often as my mother did pass on her ample assets—she would apologize to me. She would always tell me to be careful with the clothes I wore or she would tell me she would never have the confidence to wear the things I chose to wear. She would get me the plainest, most non-descript underwear and act like I needed to be ashamed of it. As I continued to grow, I would allow myself to spill over (literally) because I didn’t want to tell her that I needed another size bigger, yet again. I couldn’t believe that I was still growing so fast. By the time I turned 13 I was a 36DD and I started to feel like I might have to be ashamed of myself and that I might need to keep my body hidden. None of my bras fit me and I was always uncomfortable in my own skin. Nothing was supportive about this new undergarment anymore.
This pattern started to bleed over into other areas on my life. I wanted to sing and I was told, “I wouldn’t be brave enough to do that!” I wanted to go out with my friends and I was told, “Make sure you’re careful and that you’re home on time!” I stayed awake about half an hour longer than normal and she told me, “You better make sure you’re still awake on time!” Every time I wanted to have a normal life or try something new, I was met with statements like that encouraging me to always use caution and to never just go for it and trust in myself. The only praise I got was when I turned in good grades and when I did exactly as I was told.
I honestly don’t fault my mother as she was raised to be extremely cautious and any mistake was met with ridiculous hostility from her own mother. I see this now as I have gotten older. I also see that without the support I needed from her to encourage or foster taking chances that could open doors, I remained timid when I needed to stand out. I hid my body and I hid my talents because I didn’t want to stand out if I wasn’t perfect. I picked friends with bold attitude and ambition and I found myself telling them that I wouldn’t be brave enough to do the things that they did. I married a man who did anything he wanted to do without consulting me and when I took a chance, he all but laughed at me (this was many years ago).
Now that I have been looking at my life a little more in depth, I have to admit that I am still looking for support. I have come to realize that the patterns instilled in me from that fateful first shopping trip with my mother have taught me to attract a certain kind of person in my life. I have continually attracted people and situations that always demand the best from me but don’t return anything but the bare minimum. I have kept myself out of the limelight while performing at the highest of standards and I have allowed people to berate me and belittle me for the smallest mistake while allowing them to take credit for work that I have done and I have praised them for doing next to nothing.
I sometimes have a hard time accepting what I know because I want to believe that those we love will always have our backs. The truth is if the support systems in your life aren’t working, get rid of them. Whether it is an unsupportive partner or a bra that doesn’t fit, there is no room in your life for things like that. Take the time to love yourself enough to speak to what you need and to demand the right support. Life is too short to diminish your greatness because you’re carrying any unnecessary weight, whether it is on your rack or your back.