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My Harshest Critic

Text by: Julie Christensen

One evening, many, many years ago, I went to South Coast Plaza (a beautiful, very posh mall in Southern California) to pick up some last minute items before school started. I was only 20 at the time and still quite critical of my appearance. Although I'd always valued my inner self, I'd never quite enjoyed my outer.

As I walked back to my car, a pretty girl caught my eye. The mall was empty, and it was just she and I walking down a long hallway. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. She had long, straight hair styled just right. I wished my hair looked like that. Her figure was darling, adorned in the most complimentary outfit. She was also tall and thin, but her body seemed more feminine than mine. With better clothes, I thought, "I could look like that."

After a minute of carefully critiquing her, we neared the end of the hall, and I turned toward her at the exact moment she turned toward me. It was then I realized I'd been walking beside myself. I was startled to find the girl I had so admired was none other than my own reflection.

You see, the hall was lined in floor to ceiling mirrors, and having the poor eyesight that I have, I mistakenly took myself for another. I stopped and stared at the "pretty" girl in the mirror. She stared back. Me and her. Her and me. And somehow, now that she was me, I could not see her beauty.

I realized then what a trick I had played on myself. I was so aware of my own imperfections that I could not see my positives. It took seeing myself through someone else's eyes to appreciate what I'd been blessed with.

From then on, I saw myself differently. I paid more attention to the things I liked, like my legs. And paid less attention to the things I didn't like, like my nose. I became gentler on myself — more forgiving.

But lately, as my body has grown to accommodate this fifth little baby, I haven't been feeling so pretty. Actually, I've felt kind of ugly. Usually I feel beautiful when I'm expecting. But this time, I just feel BIG. Heavy. Large.

Last night, as I nursed my low self-esteem with a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, it hit me — the memory of the girl in the mirror — and suddenly, my woes over my backside subsided. My thighs were no longer my enemy. My face didn't look as worn. I forgave my body for being human. And I realized that most likely I was judging myself too harshly.

Today I wore the same outfit I'd tried on three times last week. And somehow, even after I ate that tub of ice-cream, it finally fit.