I woke up the other day and as most of us do— I immediately checked my iPhone. The news feeds of the day were downloading and one of the top headlines was, “JLO Showing Off Rock Hard Abs on Her 49th Birthday!” Well, after I read it twice to ensure that is in fact what it said, I cried a little and then peaked beneath the covers to see my soft, supple abs (fat roll) staring back at me. You see, my forty-F*ING-eight (48th) birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and as it draws near and I begin to embark on my 49th trip around the sun; I start to ponder… what will my birthday headline read next year? Maybe something like— “Elaine Showing off FUPA While Straining to Blow Out All 49 Candles.” (in case you are wondering… FUPA is an acronym for — Fat Upper Pelvic Area – some more vulgar types use the “other” P-word)
It seems like as we age, our birthdays tend to create more anxiety. Inevitably, as the years pass, our mortality draws closer. AND!!! it doesn’t help anything that time seems to move faster and faster as each year passes. This leaves us feeling like we are on a runaway train heading the wrong way on a one-way track about to derail and crash straight into an assisted living facility. Needless to say, feeling vulnerable and questioning ourselves has become the norm. We start to ask ourselves— Did I accomplish what I set out to this year? Have my nipples migrated farther south? Have I been a good mother, friend, boss, daughter, wife? All this and more plague us as we attempt to do and be it all in the allusive game of life.
This year feels especially vulnerable to me. I am in the midst of immense change. My son is leaving 3 days after my birthday for college (I’m not crying, you’re crying!), my company is in the middle of a restructuring, and I am releasing my first-ever book in a couple of weeks. It’s like I’m walking around naked all the time with no robe in sight to cover up my flaws and insecurities. I mean, at least the Naked Cowboy in Time Square has a guitar to shield some judgment… I’ve got nothing. FUPA on full display, y’all.
In my new book, I devote an entire chapter to vulnerability. In one section I say,
“We women are perfectionists. We people-please. We believe in the big myth taught to us at a young age: If you’re “good enough,” it all works out in the end. We play many roles wearing many hats, all while suffocating under the illusion we can do it all and be it all. Misguided, often unrealistic expectations are placed on us as we seemingly glide through the overwhelming demands of everyday life. We accept those expectations and break our necks trying to be perfect all the time. And when we’re not, we lose it.
Research states that the top two areas for women of not feeling good enough are in relation to how we look and how we parent. Unfortunately, women are held up to impossible standards: Stay feminine, sweet, thin and modest, and make it all look easy.
How many times have you felt that way? No matter how much you do or how much you hustle, you still feel like it isn’t enough. The reality is we are human. Men and women alike. For instance, I know I’m aging: My hair is graying, my mind is tired, my body is swollen and no matter how many omega-3s I swallow, I still feel puffy. Thank God for Spanx, caftans, yoga pants and the color black, because there are some things kale and coconut oil just can’t solve. But why, oh why, do we do this to ourselves? It creates unsustainable, even detrimental conditions to exist within.
And like looking good isn’t enough pressure, there’s that whole other area where we continue to feel “less than”: parenting. While there are plenty of women who don’t have children and are perfectionists, there’s nothing quite as intense as a mom who feels the pressure to be perfect and to be …
… a GOOD mother. (Gulp.) Yep, I said it.
Chances are those standards we hold up for ourselves as mothers come from the outside: from society; from our family, friends and acquaintances; from television, movies and books. Basically, from what we’ve been taught are “good mom” traits … and we have no doubt pinned them on Pinterest for quick reference. And from what I can see, those traits create the dreaded, never-ending “should,” “always” and “never” word-vomit loop that gets stuck on repeat in our heads:
Always be happy.
Always listen to your baby.
You should exclusively breastfeed your baby.
You should stay home with your baby.
Always be patient with your child.
Never miss the important events.
Always be consistent.
You know what I think? Being a mother doesn’t suddenly require perfection—if anything, it requires humanity, modeling for our kids that not everything is always picture-perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome (or, shall we say, good enough). And just as important as allowing yourself the room to not be the world’s best mother is letting your kids see you f* up.
I think it’s imperative to show your child that you are not perfect. Show them you can make mistakes, and that you can work to correct them. That you can yell and maybe even hurt someone’s feelings, and you can apologize because you are truly sorry. Your children will still love you, and they will learn it’s possible to love someone who is imperfect, and thank God for that. And then they can grow up to be imperfect and love someone who is imperfect, instead of holding themselves and everyone around them to a Pinterest-level standard of perfection.”
So, JLo, I see your abs and I’ll raise you a FUPA. I can turn 48 without letting a 49-year-old goddess (with a team of trainers, I might add) make me feel like I’m turning 48 years old in the wrong way. After feeling a little sorry for myself and doing an endless set of crunches last Saturday morning and seeing no change in my ab tone on Saturday evening I decided this…
My birthday wish is that no matter where you are in your life or who you hold as measure of perfection, I hope you allow yourself the grace to find your worth. Your worth is neither added or subtracted by someone’s life, body, bank account, or perfect children. Your worth is up to you and the value you add to the world by staying true to yourself …and maybe your FUPA.
With that vulnerability in mind, I’d like to invite you to share three (or one!) self-affirmations in the comments below that demonstrate you have value. Just try it and see how it feels. You are worthy.