• Joni Ganguzza

Mommas, Stop Deleting Your Photos

Last summer, generous friends let my family use their Galveston beach condo for a week long vacation. Like most Texans, I think Texas is the greatest state in the United States, but y'all, we can't say that about our beaches. Now, If you've never been to Galveston, let me paint the picture for you. Imagine that beautiful crisp blue ocean in your mind. Now take the soft, powder sugar texture sand and add a bunch of seaweed and broken shells. Now, take that blue water, and turn it a murky brown color and boom! You are now looking at Galveston. Nevertheless, it is still the ocean waves. It is still the ocean smell, and most importantly, to a child it is a trip to the beach and the color is irrelevant, and for my 7 kids, it was the best vacation of their lives. A week of sand, seashell collecting, playing in the waves, and undivided time with all of their family.

But here is the sad part, when I look back through the photos of the beach, I realized I erased myself from history. Despite the amazing come back of high waisted bikinis, I didn't feel comfortable enough in my own skin to have my picture taken and if I was in the photo, I must have deleted it. When I would look at a photo, I would see stretch marks, untoned thighs and arms, messy beach hair, but my kids would have just seen their mom and the world's best vacation. Here is the hard truth, I recently faced the harsh reality that my 20 year history of body shame brought on by the media's expectation of what a perfect woman's body is, caused me to think my body was not worthy enough to record me as part of the history of my kids' lives.

But erasing myself from my family's history and body shaming myself stops now. I attended the Rise Conference in Florida with a friend as a gift to myself for my 38th birthday. I needed this girls weekend and this conference to resent my mind. I had no idea I would come back with a radical change in self image.

At the conference, one of the exercises Rachel Hollis had us do was to make a list of all the negative things we say to ourselves when we look in the mirror or look at a picture. Y'all, I'm not sure I left out a single body part. From my left eye's CN VI palsy to my thighs to my feet. I had the startling realization how much negative self talk I do to myself. The exercise became more challenging from there. We then had to turn to a perfect stranger next to us and look them in the eye while reading our list to them. Can you imagine telling a stranger every negative thing you say about yourself?? Talk about mortifying. Two things happened in that moment. 1)I realized every single woman in that room regardless of body size were tearing themselves apart 2)I needed to change myself for my kids and especially my 2 daughters.

I made a promise to myself that I would learn to love myself exactly as I am. I realized I've been at my "goal weight" before, and even then, I would find things about my appearance I didn't like. I realized that my inability to see my beauty and that I truly am fearfully and wonderfully made by God has caused me so much negativity over the years and caused me to feel enough shame to erase myself from history.

Going forward, my focus is on health and not size. If I can be the best version of myself at a size 10, eat foods and take supplements that bless my body, and be strong enough to play with my kids and be in my family photos on the beach, that is what matters. I may not be Lizzo loving myself with buttless chaps, but I will be in a biking playing with my kids this summer and smiling in the photos.

So mommas, we deserve to be part of our family's history. Take the photo with your kids on the beach. Don't delete the photo just because your arm wasn't propped up on your hip and your hips turned sideways. From this moment forward, every time you look in the mirror, no more negative body shame. Change the dialogue and find something you love about yourself. When you see those stretch marks, remember another woman who struggles with infertility would kill for those stretch marks. When you see your thighs, thank God you have had 2 legs to carry you your whole life. Those are the 2 legs that allow me to find my solace in the yoga studio. When you see your wrinkles on your face, remember all the times you laughed until you cried creating those lines. Just think, if you can pass this habit of self love onto your daughter, you can save her a lifetime of negative dialogue.

So here is my challenge to you, every time you look in the mirror, find something to compliment about yourself. Let go of this mantra of body shame and learn to love that woman in the mirror.

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