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See yourself positively, even in the mirror

Allison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

Last week I wrote about finally feeling well-adjusted and empowered to love myself for who I am. I think I may have yammered on about how my focus has shifted from vanity to thinking more about my health than squeezing into a size 4.

This week, as if on cue, I was at Lululemon in downtown Aspen trying on a pair of leggings, you know, the new high-waisted variety that hide your love handles but then push the fat up and out, like a toothpaste from a tube. I’m not even sure what to call that —rib fat?

I snapped a few selfies in the dressing room, trying to decipher what exactly I was seeing in the mirror. Did I look good? After all, I’m two weeks into Veganuary and maybe shed a few pounds by now, if only I was brave enough to step on the scale. I think it looked pretty good, but you never can tell. I took photos of the front and the back, just to be sure.

I decided to put the leggings in the “yes” pile when I overheard a voice I recognized.

I poked my head out and spotted Lara, an acquaintance I knew from yoga when I taught at the Aspen studio. Lara is in her early 60s and stick-thin.

We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time, so we embraced and started catching up. We were 45 seconds in when she patted my stomach and said, “Are you pregnant again?”

I did my best to make a quick recovery and move on. I turned toward the mirror and said, “No, it’s these leggings! I’m definitely not buying these!” I replied cheerily. Though truth be told, I did like them, and they were on the sale rack.

She pretended to commiserate about high-waisted leggings, just to try to remove the foot that had been lodged halfway down her throat.

Darling readers, you know this is not the first time I’ve been mistaken for pregnant. It happens so often that when I was actually, finally pregnant, it was the best I’d ever felt about my body simply because I could finally just be myself. The thing is, whether I’m 110 pounds or 160 pounds at 9 months pregnant, that’s just the way my body is shaped.

To make matters worse, two weeks into this vegan diet and, truth be told, I’m feeling like I might levitate from eating so many chickpeas. I was also two weeks into doing 50 sit-ups and 50 pushups every day for 50 days leading up to my 50th birthday. Why did I not have rock-hard abs by now?

I tried to let it roll off my back. I should be flattered she thinks I look young enough to still get pregnant! That’s almost as good as getting carded, right?

Still, I couldn’t shake it. Doubt crept in and my inner dialogue completely shifted. Maybe eating vegan was a waste of time and wasn’t working at all. Maybe I was going through (yet another) hormone shift that was causing the perpetual bloat that has mysteriously been with me since I was 10 years old.

These negative feelings began to haunt me at yoga. Suddenly I didn’t feel so good about myself anymore. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing what I thought was my newest cute outfit from Fabletics (the poor man’s Lululemon), it was as if I was seeing myself for the first time. Why hadn’t I covered up my stomach with a tank top instead of letting it all hang out like that? Why hadn’t I noticed the way the other women my age dressed in class, most of them more covered up? And for god’s sake, why had I never looked at myself from the side view, only focusing on myself from the front? From the side, you could see the way my stomach protruded, and that I was still too thick around the middle to be gallivanting around like I thought I was Kate-fricking-Hudson.

But what had changed? Just a week ago I was feeling so good, so empowered, ready to enter my fifth decade with a newfound confidence. Why did I let one person, someone I am not very close to, take that all away from me?

I guess the answer is also a question: when you look in the mirror, what do you see? And why is our perception of ourselves constantly changing? What is real?

I’m married to someone who was literally born with unshakable self-confidence. It drives him crazy when I beat myself up. he doesn’t understand why I don’t see what he sees.

Why can’t I see what he sees?

For Christmas, Sarah gave me a book called “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. The theme they keep coming back to is that true joy comes when we think about others instead of focusing so much on ourselves. As human beings, we all share in the same experience of love, loss, joy, pain, suffering and happiness. Now that I am a mother, I know this to be true. Never I have felt happier than being Levi’s mom because the love I feel for him and the love he radiates back to me is so pure.

Levi just had his fourth birthday, and everyone talks about how it goes so fast. I am fortunate I have been able to really be present with him and to enjoy every day. I listen to the song in his giggle, or watching him fall asleep or feeling his warm little hand when he clutches mine or reveling in his arms wrapped tightly around my neck. He makes me feel beautiful because when I see my child reflected in me, I see nothing but joy.

Now if only I could see that when I look in the mirror.

The Princess is trying. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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