28. The Truth

28. The Truth

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

The Truth

I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time.

~Anna Freud

I was in my forties before I learned the truth about my mother . . . and the truth about myself. My sister had put together a montage of photos in celebration of my parents’ wedding anniversary. I watched as images depicting forty years of life and love flashed across my computer screen: my mother beaming at the camera as a nineteen-year-old bride; mom cradling my newborn sister in her arms.

As each photo documenting every momentous occasion of Mom and Dad’s life together appeared, I was surprised by what I saw. The pictures of Mom showed a very different version of the person I remembered from my childhood. She’d been overweight my entire life (her words, not mine) but the woman in the slideshow was anything but big. She was curvier in some seasons of life than others, but absolutely beautiful, with a body most women would love to have.

This could only mean one thing: All those years Mom told us how big she was, all of those ridiculous fad diets she tried and the Jazzercise classes I was dragged to . . . were all for a big “fat” lie. A lie I believed because Mom said it was true. The truly sad thing is . . . I’m sure Mom believed it, too.

I jumped up from my computer and headed for the closet. I climbed up a stepladder and carefully removed a box containing two decades of my own family memories. I carried it to my bed and opened the lid, uncertain of what I might find.

Like Mom, I struggled with body image as a young woman and spent a small fortune on exercise tapes, weight-loss pills, and gimmicky diets. Health had never been a motivating factor; it had always been about changing my appearance. I wanted to be skinny. Besides the five minutes I spent as a size 6 in the late 1990’s, I’d always thought of myself as grossly overweight. But the pictures I now thumbed through told a different story. The truth is, I hadn’t been fat at all! I was holding the proof in my hands.

But the pictures I now thumbed through told a different story. The truth is, I hadn’t been fat at all!

I shook my head. My son and daughter had grown up hearing me speak the same self-deprecating lies about my weight that my mother had told herself. I could only hope they hadn’t grown up believing them. I cringed at the thought.

Oh, how I wished I could go back in time! I would have told my mom how beautiful she was. I would have spent less time criticizing my own appearance and more time teaching my children the importance of loving yourself from the inside out. Positive self-image — being confident in every perfectly imperfect part of one’s body — it really does start at home. Women have diverse shapes and whether they are a size 2 or 22, we are all “real” women, each one of us beautiful in our own way.

This is the truth I hope my own children will know — a truth that took me far too long to learn.

~Melissa Wootan

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