I couldn’t help but smile as I stirred the pot of chili simmering on the stove, filling my kitchen with warmth and enticing aromas. My mom was right, “Nothing beats the doldrums like a bowl of chili, and it fills the tummy and soothes the soul.”
As I continued to stir the chili, I felt a deep sense of well-being, and many of Mom’s other words of wisdom came to mind, followed by flurries of emotions and memories of how she made every effort for me to be confident with my self-image.
Growing up, I was often teased about my size. I was too tall, too fat, and too different. My mom’s words of encouragement still linger with me: “It’s the size of your heart that matters, not the size of your clothes.” I have tried to live my life by that philosophy, but it hasn’t been easy.
I was ten years old when I experienced my first sleepless night and tear-stained pillow from agonizing over the realization that I was different.
It happened during Christmas break. My best friend and I were playing a game in my bedroom, while our mothers were in the kitchen having coffee and sharing sewing tips, ideas, patterns, and fabrics. “I know it’s easier for me to make a skirt for my petite daughter, but here’s a skirt pattern I think our daughters will love,” my friend’s mother said. “Look at this lovely soft, navy blue wool remnant I bought on sale. Since your daughter is taller and big-boned, do you think there’s enough fabric to make each girl a skirt?”
“Adjusting a pattern for my beautiful daughter isn’t difficult,” Mom replied. “All I have to do is add an inch or two here and there. There’s definitely enough material to make them matching skirts.”
After hearing every hurtful word, my eyes welled with tears, as I surmised being tall, big-boned, and beautiful wasn’t a good thing.
“Don’t cry,” my friend said, “I don’t think you’re fat.”
From that day forward, I was grateful for my mom’s support as I struggled to fit in as the tall, big-boned girl with the pretty face.
All through school, Mom was my champion. She insisted I ignore those who taunted me about my size. Eventually, I learned to do that, which helped build my confidence to participate in many school activities. I became editor of the school newspaper, joined the glee club, performed in several school plays, and concentrated on getting good grades. I no longer dwelled on my image in the mirror every day. Neither did any of my classmates.
Once I left the nest and was launched into adulthood, I chose a career in the corporate world of financial management. However, during the interview process, there were five other applicants seated with me in the front lobby. We were all seeking the same position. I wanted to get up and leave… all five applicants were attractive, petite women. How could I possibly be considered for the job? Suddenly, a sense of shame washed over me for having such negative thoughts. Quickly, I pushed them aside and one of Mom’s pep talks came to mind, “Take a deep breath. You’re smart, you’ve got this.”
Because of that nudge to bolster my self-esteem, I aced the interview. Not only did I land the job, but six months later I met my husband-to-be.
Even though many years have passed since then, I often hear myself sounding just like my mom, sharing her words of wisdom.