59. The Curves Within

59. The Curves Within

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

The Curves Within

Believing in our hearts that who we are is enough is the key to a more satisfying and balanced life.

~Ellen Sue Stern

I slowly closed the laptop and fixed my stare on a distant corner of the living room. What was wrong with me? How did I cause this?

I’d just finished reading my spouse’s Facebook messages in which she proclaimed her love to a co-worker, a woman I didn’t know.

“Ten years,” I thought. “We wasted ten years assembling a life, a home, and a family.”

Why did this happen? The cheater I married was at work, probably flirting and stoking the affair just as I was learning about it.

My one-year-old sighed, asleep in her swing a few feet from where I sat. I looked down at my bulging thighs. I gained 60 pounds while pregnant, and though a year had passed since giving birth, I had not lost the weight.

It’s me, I thought. I let myself go.

Before this moment, I was okay with my appearance. I had the hips and rump that ran in my family, but I was skilled at dressing my curves. “Good, childbearing hips,” my five aunts always said, and they were right — my pregnancy and delivery went off without a hitch.

I thought I was handling the weight gain with grace, focusing on my daughter’s needs. Now I realized I might not be as attractive as I had felt, especially to the person for whom it mattered most — my spouse. My confidence shattered.

The infidelity continued for a couple of months even after I confronted my spouse, chipping away at more of my self-esteem with every lie I uncovered. I kept the affair a secret from everyone we knew, choosing not to smear our reputations, telling myself I could bounce back from this on my own. But I couldn’t.

I felt worthless, ashamed, and focused the blame and self-hate on my appearance. It wasn’t just my curves I blamed. I hated my brown eyes and my olive-toned skin. I hated my knees and stopped wearing shorts. I internalized every wrong done to me and took apart my self-image, telling myself I wasn’t as intelligent as I once believed, as funny, or as good a mother.

I felt worthless, ashamed, and focused the blame and self-hate on my appearance.

My friends thought of me as a strong, independent woman who moved mountains to get what she wanted. I didn’t feel like that woman anymore, and I began to believe that perhaps I never was.

One warm spring evening my best friend Robin asked if she could bring her kids by to play. She lived a few doors down, but we hadn’t seen each other in months because I’d been avoiding everyone. I agreed, keeping my lips on lockdown during our visit and nodding from time to time as she updated me on her life since we last spoke. We sipped ice-cold water on the deck and watched the kids toddle in the yard.

“What is going on with you?” Robin finally asked, concerned.

I shook my head.

“You can tell me,” she said.

I focused on the grass.

“You are not yourself. I’ve never seen you like this,” she said.

The dam broke. All the emotions I carried — the self-loathing, the disappointment in my weight gain and appearance, the absolute hate of myself — spewed out of me. I unloaded each feeling and unpacked it before my friend.

News of the affair did not surprise her. How I allowed it to control my self-worth, however, shocked her. We talked through each of the things I thought was wrong with me, starting with my personality and eventually moving to my appearance. We spoke for hours.

My gorgeous friend, curvy and beautiful with a bright smile, brilliant mind and contagious laugh, showed me that I wasn’t to blame for the affair, and neither was my appearance or my curves. She reminded me of all the times perfect strangers had hit on me because of my magnetic confidence.

Thankfully, my best friend’s insight helped me begin to heal.

Since that day, with her support, I’ve been through divorce, therapy, and am now happily remarried and friends with my ex.

When I look in the mirror today, I once again see the strong, self-assured, brave, beautiful and curvy woman that I am.

~Mary Anglin-Coulter

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