After 4.5 years in France (say whaaaaat?!) I’ve built myself a pretty large and stable network of friends, and life is feeling great right now. Even though I’ve always been a happy person, since having my little boy I’ve been on cloud 9. I have honestly felt the same magnitude of happiness that I felt at christmases or on birthdays as a child. This warmth, this wholeness, this complete peace with life and where I’m at. Every day I literally do count my blessings and recognise the privilege that I have, to be a mum, and a stay at home mum en plus! In this beautiful country. Life is good, and I know it.
But lately I have been confronted with this reality: there is a faction within my network of friends who are very focused on aesthetics, physical beauty and fashion. I have no problem with those things in and of themselves, nor with women building eachothers self-esteem and confidence. I normally rejoice in that stuff and love to share the love. But I take issue when it starts to become dogmatic and in your face, and when it starts making me feel alienated. Which it has.
Now I’m not a complete bitch and understand perfectly well that we all have issues. Everyone has baggage and some people need help unpacking that baggage. I understand that helping women to look and feel their best is one way of helping them take control of their lives. So I do sincerely get it. Where there is a need, there is a market. I get it. More power to ya 😉
But I am starting to feel resentful about some of the messages I am hearing. Messages that seem to suggest that I’m either worth something, and should therefore dress or look a certain way, and if I’m not taking care to look a certain why, I’m not being authentic. I’m being boring, I’m being like everyone else, I’m blending in or letting myself down. Contrary to making me feel confident, I find these messages meanspirited and hurtful.
Thankfully I have a pretty strong sense of self and a healthy mental compass, so I know when to check myself. And I did. I’ve had conversations with a few people about these very issues and am glad to say I’m not alone in how I’ve been experiencing these messages (thank god!). But after hearing this stuff over and over, seemingly on replay the last couple of months, I did start feeling more pressure, more self concious and overly concerned about aesthetics. I started worrying about the stretch marks and pouch on my body, the body which grew, cared for and gave birth to my beautiful baby. I started feeling conscious while dressing in my frumpy mum clothes. Despite looking good and feeling comfy, I also knew full well that they’d end up with vomit, wee, poo, milk, bits of food and other bodily liquids on them.
But all this is beside the point. I’ve had a baby for christ’s sake, give me and my body a damned break!!! Heaven knows its well deserved.
The point is that in spite of what I’m hearing (or wearing for that matter), that your mojo = getting your post-baby body into shape or wearing funky stylish clothes, I am the happiest I’ve been in ages! Yet if i dress up without thinking about it or if I don’t work on my abdos each day, apparently I’m not showing up for myself.
But I am! I do! I show up for my myself every bloody day. I show up for my beautiful baby, for my husband, for my household, for my family (from afar) for my friends. Its about having mana. And no matter what I look like, I uphold my mana, my integrity and pride as much as humanly possible. I may fail at times. Sheesh, i’m only human. We aren’t infallible. But even when I am feeling down in the dumps, I cannot, I will not allow myself to wallow in self pity any longer than is healthy or necessary (though let me be clear that it IS ok to feel down in the dumps. We dont have to be switched on and razzle dazzled every single minute of our day. But we gotta pick ourselves back up again).
We deserve better than to wallow in self pity. Our families deserve better than that. And the world can do without such first world problems.
I get that image is important to many. I understand that our appearance can influence people ‘and win friends too’. But to me, substance – your mana – takes priority. It always has and always will. Who you are on the inside, the beauty within, your mind, your thoughts, your beliefs, your life experiences, your knowledge, your goals, your dreams, your trials, your tribulations. The things that make you, YOU. Human and imperfect. Owning those things, THAT is what makes one authentic. And those are what concerns me when it comes to the wellbeing and happiness of my loved ones.
Happiness, authenticity and confidence are more than what you look like, what clothes you wear, having the picture perfect post-baby body or by playing up to other peoples ideas of perfection. They come from deep within each and every one of us. They come from being true to who we are, from nourishing our soul and by taking care of our physical and mental wellbeing. It comes from battling our own demons. So it is unfair to suppose that one persons path toward happiness, authenticity and confidence is going to look exactly the same as anothers. And it is incredibly unfair to assume that a wobbly stretchmarked tummy or that mere clothes are anything more than that. They’re not!
Finally, I find it hugely offensive that I should be viewed through a lense which reduces my wairua, my ahua, my mauri, my entire being down to a single body part or to the clothes that I wear. I am MUCH more. I am mana wahine.
Own your shit. Be happy. Grow. Most of all, recognise that other people will do these in their own, unique way and that is A-OKay. Lets build eachother up!