Stop judging the woman in the mirror, or in my case the window.
The woman who stretched those spandex over a body that feels foreign to even herself, who showed up despite feeling like packing it in.
Stop judging the journey when it’s just the beginning, the middle, or some super awkward time when you thought you had a rhythm and now it’s all messed up.
We all do it, don’t we.
I mean, you’ve been there before. Maybe you mustered up the courage to hit the group fitness class at your local recreation centre or joined your girlfriend on a run, and all of a sudden you are Judgy Judith.
At first, you start to pick apart the other ladies in the room. Mentally sizing them up as the competition.
Will she push harder than you.
Does she seem more coordinated as you.
Will that one even break a sweat. I mean, come on Samantha, this is a WORKOUT not happy hour.
You start your routine by sizing up everyone else there to bolster your confidence.
You’ve made it to the class, you’ve put on the shoes, you even secured yourself a spot in the mid-back of the room so that you still have a good view but you are not front and centre. The sweet spot that allows you to still look like a rockstar but not have to high punch and jump kick just because you know all eyes are on you.
You are in the zone of greatest comfort in a situation that seems foreign.
But now it is seriously go time. You are supposed to start the workout and now all eyes are on the instructor and on the mirror.
That massive, wall filling, floor to ceiling mirror that shows you everything.
Every giggle. Every dimple. Every single step that you messed up, the beat you lost causing your two once coordinated feet to become two left feet without a clue.
You’re no longer judging everyone around you and their perfectly coordinated outfits, designers kicks and Swell water bottle.
You’re looking at yourself.
Judging. Criticizing. Insulting.
Why on earth did you think you could even do this. You’re tired and you’re not five minutes into the warm-up. For heaven’s sake woman, stop sweating!
You pick apart every flaw of this now ugly body and you think, “Jeeze, it’s going to take a miracle to get to a place where I am happy again.”
As the class continues, you contemplate faking an injury just so you can get out of there with a shred of dignity. I mean, how hard could it be to look like you rolled your ankle. Nothing they would have to stop the class for but enough that you should rest it.
You could escape, pack in all your harsh words for the women who belong there and wallow in the shame that is your self loathing.
What were you even thinking?
What happens when you didn’t leave the house for a class?
What happens when the ONLY person in the room is you.
It’s just you and the computer screen, or television, or the dumbbells you bought last year with the greatest of intentions but that sit as a paper weight in the corner of the room.
That voice in your head didn’t get the opportunity to pick apart the other women in the room. It went straight to you.
Straight to the soft spots, the weak spots, the places you wanted no one to see which is why you stayed home to workout in the first place.
What happens then?
Sister, that was me.
^^ all of that.
And Sunday, after a week of neglecting my workouts and grabbing at excuses like life rafts, I decided that I would not accept a 25% on my goal to workout 4 times this week, and so I planned to go for a run.
A great plan.
A run meant that I could get out of the house (needed), I could put on my explicit lyric jams and lose myself for 20 minutes (desperately needed).
A run meant that I would be able to exercise without mirrors. No judgment allowed when you are running. Just your feet and the pavement. Your playlist and your lungs.
Oh the burn in your lungs as you round out your first 2 km in almost as many years.
But my running idea … well that was shattered when my husband needed to take a work call and the evening light quickly faded and it was too dark to safely run our country roads.
I thought, I could pack it in. I tried after all, to workout.
But no, I decided to push harder.
So when my husbands work call ended I told him I was going to do my home workout in the office and that I would see him in 30 or so minutes (love the home workouts).
Girl, if I told you that the enemy was DESPERATE to break me that night, I would mean DESPERATE. Like I would say it to you with all the emphasis in the world. DESPERATE to break me.
My run was cancelled, no problem I had an alternative. I loaded my workouts and they weren’t working. The account frozen. No videos.
Again, I thought I could just pack it in. I had now tried TWO things and neither were successful. Good effort, save the workout for another day.
But no, I decided to YouTube a Zumba workout.
YouTube is oh so fun. You can find a million and one hits in a matter of seconds and can get FLOODED with ideas, options and nonsense. It didn’t take long for the voice to start whispering.
Now, because the enemy obviously couldn’t stop me from pressing play and moving in someway, he took it to a whole new level.
DEFEAT was the goal.
As I pushed play the whispers took over.
I could see my reflection now in one mirror, but two windows. Two windows not directly in front of me so that all I can see if my twisted expression as I attempt to interpret the moves. No.
Two windows in the corner of the room, displaying my movements, my mom-bod, from both super awkward 45 degree angle view. It was like a twisted experience while shopping for a swimsuit.
Now, instead of picking apart others, instead of seeing how silly I looked from one angle (and a semi-flattering one, if it can be called that) I could see myself in almost surround vision.
Every wonky, messed up, stretched, over stuffed, dimpling and flailing part of me.
And he had it. The enemy had his ammunition and was locked and loaded on my heart.
It was a downright blitzkrieg on my being.
I thought everything every self help book tells you not to think.
The narrative in my mind was something out of a horror movie. One where the overbearing and verbally abusive mothers annihilates her daughter because she isn’t pretty enough, coordinated enough, smiling enough, fast enough, smart enough, happy enough. She didn’t bounce back well enough, her body is ruined, she will never amount to anything.
I stoped every minute to catch my breath, to quiet my thoughts, to take each lie captive and surrender this workout, these fears, to Christ.
I moved my body for 30 minutes despite three failed attempts at finding a workout, and for 30 minutes I obliterated the woman in the mirror. I tore her confidence and self worth to shreds and I begged for help.
And here was the problem.
Every time I would stop. Every time I would beg for silence and attempt to push though. I would inevitably look back at the woman in the mirror.
I would look at the arms that have held five new born babies and cringe. How flabby, how wide, how much they have stretched. I wouldn’t see the beauty and would instantly allow the whispers back in.
I would try to deflect the enemy and focus on the workout and would look again at the woman in the mirror.
I would see the face, focused and fearful. Why can’t I smile during a workout, just let go Cassandra, you look tired, defeated, this is never going to work. Why bother.
You see, the whole time I judged the woman in the mirror I took my eyes off God and focused them on myself. And each time I did that, I forgot who I was and allowed the whispers to take over.
Girl, I almost packed it in five times during my workout. FIVE TIMES! In a 30 minute workout.
I had to stop every minute because I was gassed. Because I was overwhelmed by the hate I was heaping on my own shoulders.
I victimized myself because I refused to surrender.
Surrender to His love for those stretched and saggy arms, arms He crafted to care for my family not to lift a tractor tire in this season.
Surrender to the truth that my body has been through it’s own very real battlefield, bring forth 5 amazing little people. An experience like that is like war. And it takes time to recover from a war.
Surrender to the notion that, while our God is bigger and greater, that while He can move mountains, that this is not a mountain I need moved overnight. This is a lesson that will take time to learn. This is about defeating the enemy because he has no hold over me.
It’s about leaning into God’s word every time the enemy whispers and reminding myself not to judge the mom in the mirror but to focus on Him. He is good. He loves me. He made me beautiful and has no regrets.
I need you to hear that.
Stop judging the mom in the mirror. Stop looking at all the things that the world tells you need fixing. The stretch marks, the saggy skin, the dimple in your thigh that is currently unexplained. Stop focusing on yourself and remember that every good thing takes work.
The enemy will grasp at every single strand you leave exposed, he will pull and twist, filling you with hate until he has succeeded in blinding you to who God made you to be. You are beautiful, you are strong, you are made for a time such as this. And, while it may take an artist with a solid chisel to work you way out of this postpartum slump, you have a creator who is ready to form you as the potters clay.
Work hard with eternity in mind, not just this swimsuit season.
Do not quit for in time you will reap that good and plentiful harvest. Fill your mind with His truth about who you are and stop, for goodness sake, judging the mom in the mirror.