That is what I see - today. But not too long ago, I would have seen something completely different.
Not too long ago, I most likely would not have taken this picture and I certainly would not have shared it with anyone.
You see, not too long ago, I was overwhelmed with insecurities and self loathing that carried through to every aspect of my life. I grew up believing that in order to have any self worth, I needed to achieve perfection or at least always "appear" to be perfect. Growing up, love in my family was shown by what I could achieve. If I got a good grade, I received praise. If I won a track race, I might make my dad proud. Love was never freely given - it was always earned.
So I grew up believing that I needed to be perfect in order to be loved. I was never loved unconditionally (until I met my husband). As a child, I was never told that it was okay to just be me. So I spent a large part of my adult life trying to achieve that perfection - hoping even as an adult to somehow win the love of my parents.
I created this "persona" of who I thought I needed to be in order to be loved. And that person had to always be perfect (at least on the outside because the good Lord knows I was dying inside). I would spend hours getting ready to go to even simple family events because I needed people to admire me and love me. I yearned for other people's approval and I thought that could only be attained if I looked and acted a certain way. And once I started venturing onto the pageant stage, heaven forbid I show up anywhere without being dressed to the nine (whatever that means)!
I spent years in the endless cycle of trying to be perfect while feeling so imperfect on the inside. I needed the world to see me as strong because somehow that meant I was worth something. And it wasn't until I almost lost my life that I finally found myself.
You see, once I was faced with the fact that I could either stand up and overcome or lay down and die, I decided that loving myself was not such a tough thing to do after all. I can't tell you when I finally decided that it was okay to just be me. It has taken a long time and I still struggle with insecurities.
Not too long ago, I would not have posed for the picture you see above and certainly would not have shared it on line. Not too long ago, I would have only seen the messed up hair, squinted eyes and no make-up. And not too long ago, I would have cried for days over the weight I have gained and loss of my once thin stomach. Those are the things I would have seen - not too long ago.
And although I would like to say that I am completely free of the insecurities that have plagued me my entire life, I can at this point only tell you that I am a work in progress and God still has His hand on me.
But for today - just for today - I am comfortable sharing this photo with the world not because I need affirmation of who I am but because I need affirmation that I am not who I once used to be.
I do not look perfect in this picture - but this picture couldn't be more perfect to me. I have finally begun to understand that God made each of us perfectly imperfect and it's those little quirks that make us so unique. I have big eyes but an even bigger mouth so my eyes squint when I smile. I am German and pale skinned which means I will never be tan no matter how hard I try. I am German (I just said that but it bears repeating) so I am curvy and no matter how hard I try, the booty isn't going anywhere.
I will never look like the women in the magazines and guess what? That's okay. That is finally okay. I am okay if you look at this picture and think my skin is too pale, or my stomach is too flabby or my face is too round.
Because what I see when I look at this picture is a mom who is so proud of her children and the adults they have become. Confident in who they are and knowing they are loved - unconditionally. No. Matter. What.
And THAT is the true brilliance of this photo.