I have struggled with poor self-esteem my entire life, and I still struggle. But things are also starting to get a little bit better. And I owe it all to my one-year-old daughter, Phoenix.
Back in 2013 when the doctor first revealed that I'd be having a little girl, I was truly frightened. A boy, I could handle–but a girl? A girl meant I'd be the one having the sex and puberty talks, she meant that I'd have to learn to style hair and pick out matching outfits, but most of all, a daughter of my own meant facing my issues head on and finally finding a way to escape their shackles.
In preparation, I tried reading a self-help guide to improved self-esteem, but it gave me nightmares of my inner critic taking corporeal form and beating me down both mentally and physically. You've got to understand that I've been trying to overcome this particular monster for my entire life, and every defeat only made it that much stronger and me that much weaker.
I've even written a novel about a teen with bulimia as a way of working through my own self-loathing. That book was so hard to write, I had to dictate a large chunk of it to keep the tears at bay. Over the years, I've visited countless therapists with the specific aim of improving my self-image, but none ever broke through my shell, none of them made even the slightest dent.
How then did becoming a mom finally put me on the road to recovery? One word. Need.
The irony of the situation is that to improve self-esteem, you need to first have enough of it to prove to yourself that you're worth fighting for. And no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get there… Until I felt my baby kick for the first time. It was like bubbles popping inside my tummy, and it was the absolute best feeling in the world.
My horrible, ugly body was good for something after all. It created life, it nourished that life, and it gave me new motivation. How can something capable of such profound miracles be worthless?
Then she came, and I learned a whole new level of love. The most terrible yet wonderful part? She looked exactly like me, and she was–and continues to be–the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
And she gets that from me. Ugly, no-good me.
The brain can only deal with a distortion like this for so long before it craves a reconciliation. Eventually, I had to either choose to believe my daughter was hideous or find the beauty in my own form. I chose the latter.
She is beautiful, because I too am beautiful.
And when she looks up at me with those big blue eyes that look so much like my own, I see wonder, I see joy, and I see my love reflecting back at me through her.
To Phoenix, I'm not a failure. I'm not awkward or stupid or ugly. I am only Mommy, and I am the most amazing person in the entire world. When I enter the room, she leaps straight into my arms and giggles–my arrival the best part of her entire day. Together we sit for hours and tell secrets, play games, and put on chapstick and jewelry. We cuddle and kiss and make ourselves beautiful by allowing ourselves to love each other with everything we've got.
I never knew I was beautiful until I learned to look at myself through my daughter's eyes.