What Mothers Need to Say When They Look in the Mirror

Emily Wieranga essentials

I want you to take a moment and look into a mirror. And as you look at yourself, I want you to say, with all of the sincerity you can muster, “Thank You.”

It will feel very silly. But it’s a start.

I’ve struggled with mirrors my whole life. I’m a recovering anorexic, and mirrors have been the bane of my existence. And not because I don’t necessarily think I’m pretty, but because I never feel pretty enough. It’s never enough.

But I am learning my true reflection is not in the glass, but in my eyes, and in how I see myself. I can change my reflection simply by the way I look at myself.

I am learning to thank my body. To treat my body, as Anne Lamott says, like a friend. I am learning to say thank you to my arms for carrying my babies, and thank you to my legs for carrying me, to my hands for making so many suppers, and to my eyes for lighting up every time my child enters a room.

We need to show grace to ourselves.

To take the time to have a bath; to eat nutritiously. When we’re grocery shopping, to stock up on healthy snacks for when we can’t sit down and eat a full meal.

To breathe deeply, and laugh at ourselves. To laugh at the kids. To laugh with our husband at the kids. If we feel like we’re going to snap, to step outside for a minute and stare at the sky.

The more grace we show ourselves, the more grace we’ll be able to show others.

This time to ourselves will give us the strength to serve: our husband, our children.

Keep in mind this space is not always available. And grace can find us in the midst of very hard things and very difficult days. In addition to loving ourselves, we are also called to die to ourselves. Because true love is this: laying our life down for another. Grace is a fine balance between taking care of ourselves and dying to ourselves.

In her book, Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic talks about this balance. “Our bodies are tools not treasures,” she says. “You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its 18 year old format. Let it be used. By the time you die you want to have a very dinged and dinted body.”

I was walking down the stairs, at midnight, the boys asleep and Trent in bed reading. I always go around the house picking up things before I head to bed, because I can’t stand to wake to a messy house.

And I was somewhere between the last stair and the floor, when I stepped right into it.

Love.

Like it had been there waiting for me for 33 years.

Just a giant pool of love, and I stopped, and I smiled. And I cried.

Because suddenly I adored the person I was.

This funky, awkward, clumsy artist girl, this introvert who loves people and desperately needs alone time, this girl who laughs loud and fumbles with jokes, who wears vintage clothing and puts off housework because she’d much rather write. I loved her. With all of her childhood baggage and all of her sensitive heart, I loved her.

I still have days when I struggle to even like myself. Days when the voice in my head tells me that no one likes me or I’m not worth it or I’m ugly, that terrible awful voice which haunted me as a child from the ages of nine to 13.

But those things we hear? They’re not true.

Because we’re pretty special.

Not because of anything we’ve done, but because of the broken beautiful mess that we are.

And this, friends, is grace.


Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoirAtlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

What do you want to tell yourself when you look in the mirror?