Mirror, mirror, what do you see? I see my biggest critic looking right square at me. I don’t like my body. Never have, and if I’m being raw, I’m not sure I will ever find comfort in my own skin. This is not a new battle for me. Perceptions of my body image started as a young child. The struggle is real, and I own it. Distorted thinking is real, and its presence is relentless. I spend a lot of time in my own mind. That time does not serve my soul well. Negative or unwanted thoughts creep in often. Our minds are tricky. They have this clever and sneaky way of convincing us of something that isn’t true. Will I ever look in the mirror and be happy? What is considered “good enough” through my personal lense? When will the mirror portray a perfect me? I know I’m not alone. I also know that I need to get to the root of my distorted thinking…fast.
This is Me
Mamas, we always want more. We admire other women, compare ourselves, and become envious of their body. Guilty. Well, when God created me, he gifted me with some serious boobs! So many friends were jealous, while I did anything I could to hide them and make them appear smaller. I didn’t like my body before puberty and now this! They left grooves in my shoulders, my back ached, and running was a sight to see! I had to wear two heavy-duty sports bras to keep my girls in check. They impacted my life to the point that I made an appointment to see a plastic surgeon in college. Without hesitation, the surgeon gave medical approval for a breast reduction. This would be the key to loving my body, right? The surgery was never scheduled, and I carried on with college life. Avoiding mirrors, hiding behind clothes that were a size too big, and always skeptical of compliments from others. When you don’t love the real you, you miss the blessings all around you. Life is tricky. Who knew that years later, my breasts would be removed? Not reduced in size or modified cosmetically. All gone. Not by choice. Medically necessary to save my life.
Fast forward to two years ago. The phone rang, and I just knew. The call that brought me to my knees, literally. “Angie, you have breast cancer.” That was at 1:00 PM, and by 4:00 PM, I was sitting at a long table discussing the next steps with my husband, mom, and medical team. A month later, I was wheeled into the operating room to have my breasts removed. A part of me that gave me so much pain and grief. Maybe I would learn to love my body? Gone…nothing left. Mangled scars, endless stitches, and tiny holes in my sides that held my drain tubes in place. My first look at my body without breasts was painful, yet my husband looked me in the eyes and said, “they are beautiful and so are you.” What a man of pure love and grace…
That year, my body endured five surgeries to reconstruct my breasts. While my surgeon created a true masterpiece in many ways, it was not enough. One more surgery, and I would learn to love my body. My lens revealed every small imperfection. My heart felt so much guilt. I am here. I am alive. I am a survivor. Then we had a heart to heart. My plastic surgeon, whom I adore, grabbed my hands and said, “Angie, this is as good as they will be.” His gentle, yet firm words were just what I needed. He could read my heart. He knew I would keep pushing, and he reacted with such grace and professionalism. This man, a perfectionist with his hands, redirected my need for more and making my breasts perfect. No more surgeries. Time to accept my new normal and work on me. Easier said than done. Sometimes, it feels safe to avoid the hard truths you face. As a master of avoidance, facing reality makes you feel so out of control. Time to face the hard…deep breaths.
There is no compliment and no words of affirmation that will change who I see in the mirror. When you get down to it, it’s up to me to love what I see. That level of acceptance is not gained by others simply loving on you. Selfishly, I share my story. I’m so lucky to be here after cancer. So many have lost the good fight, and that makes it harder to be authentic with my journey. My journey to battling my distorted thoughts in ongoing. The roots are deep, thick, and intertwined. Getting through the roots is a process of therapy, spiritual growth, going back to my childhood, and recognizing my needs. My body image issues need to be examined. Discovering what underlies the negative perceptions and feelings can’t be avoided. It’s eye-opening, downright painful, and healing at the same time. One day, I will truly see the beauty in myself, rather than my imperfections. I am imperfect. We all are. God made me this way. I look into my children’s eyes and see perfection. In their eyes, I am perfect. We can learn so much from our children.