I stood in the dressing room of the lovely clothing store in Manhattan and simply cried. My sister, who lives in Queens and hosted me for a few days, stood outside holding my infant nephew. She waited to see if I was going to show off any of my new finds. Instead, I took a few deep breaths and rubbed my eyes. (Eyes that, incidentally, did not need any additional help in looking tired but now had it anyway.) Then I made a beeline for the exit of the building without looking at anyone. I welcomed the busy nighttime streets of SoHo as I tried to hide the tears that continued to fall.
So why did I lose it while trying on a blouse and a skirt? I came up with two reasons.
First? In these moments, with the unpleasant florescent lights and solitude, I often become my own worst critic. I start thinking about my weight. I know that the number on the scale is not supposed to matter, but let’s be real . . . sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. And it does. Then, I spend some time mulling over the fact that I get a bit winded just going up the sixteen stairs in my house. Suddenly, I don’t feel healthy or strong anymore.
The frustrating thing? I LOVE to exercise. I’ve run half marathons and competed in boot camp challenges. I was even marginally an athlete in high school. But I never do it now. I worry about having my kids in school all day followed by at least two hours of aftercare just to say, “OK, children! Off to childcare at the gym you go!”
But maybe I shouldn’t worry. Maybe setting a better example for my kids comes from showing them a mom who made self-care and health a priority. So I continue to look in the mirror. I think that we make room for what is important to us, and I would figure out a way to exercise if it really was a priority for me. And then I get angry at myself for speaking the truth to my reflection. After less than a minute, I engage in some pretty harsh self-talk. It spirals quickly in those quiet dressing room moments, let me tell you.
This brings me to my second reason for my Manhattan meltdown. I go through periods when I have trouble justifying buying new clothes. Or doing much of anything (i.e. going to the gym) for myself really. Even if I find a dress that I love (and even think is flattering on me), I still may put it back on the rack. Because, well — mortgage and Christmas and shouldn’t I have a little bit of savings in case of an emergency? In fact, I waited in a long line at one store that fine New York day to purchase a soft, cozy sweater that I adored. But then I told the cashier to keep it once I discovered the piece did not have as much of a clearance markdown as I had thought. I decided I just could not justify spending the money.
There have been times when I’ve felt guilty as I get a massage or buy sushi for lunch or pick out a few new books. I know that I am only one of countless moms who can relate. One of the many who puts herself at or near the bottom of the list. As I stood in that dressing room knowing that I would not allow myself to indulge, even during a rare trip to New York City, and therefore convinced myself nothing looked good, I got emotionally hostile with that pecking order.
The truth? We do deserve to look in those mirrors and be confident in the image we see looking back at us. And we deserve to make ourselves a priority if the person we see could be healthier or stronger. We should not feel guilty for wanting to feel beautiful and confident each time we step out our front doors. We are women setting important examples for our sons and daughters about how to love ourselves and always be worthy. So, as shallow and simple as the question may seem, how do we get past those dressing room setbacks?
I possess no answers today. I offer no advice. Instead, I wonder how many of you find yourself in my position at some point? Do you stand in the quiet glare of a dressing room and indulge in too much criticism or self doubt?