I can be fully present one moment, content with who and where I am, then, upon seeing my reflection, without even registering what I’ve seen on any conscious level, I become foul and discontented.
Next thing I know, one daughter or other comes into the room, stands too close to me, or asks me an innocent question, or– I really hate this– silently watches me get dressed, and next thing I know I’m snarling and snapping like a dog that doesn’t get enough exercise or attention.
“Stop looking at me,” I want to shout, but don’t. “Can’t a woman get dressed in peace?”
I’m not comfortable with them seeing my middle-aged womanliness. My sagging bits. My loose belly skin. What I really don’t want them picking up, is the message that any of this less-than perfect physical stuff should be a source of shame and self loathing.
Some role model I am. Oozing with irritable unease at being watched. By being treated as lovable and acceptable when I don’t feel remotely so.
It’s hard pin down the exact source of unease. I don’t always recognize the exact moment it happens. Then I remember, that moment just minutes before, when I saw myself in the mirror, or store or car window. It could have been the mere sight of my dreary hair, the lines around my mouth or, my newest obsession, stomach paunch that no amount of sucking in can make go away.
To be fair, it’s not always triggered by appearance. I can bring this shift on with a negative thought process as well. You may know the drill.
“I’m not good enough, not productive enough. I don’t earn enough money. My house isn’t clean enough. I’m not doing enough for my children. Other people have it more together than I do. Blah. Blah. Blah.”
And to be clear, this isn’t something that came up post-partum for me. My years as a competitive athlete, as fit as fit could be, I still found fault with myself.
It’s hard, nay impossible, to be a good mother when you’re your own worst critic. It’s hard to teach your children how to love themselves when you’ve been trying, and failing, for 40-something years. And it’s hard not to hate yourself even more for being stupid enough to keep on hating yourself,for such vain reasons, for so long.