She’s mean. Sometimes, she’s super-crazy mean. She can cut you to the quick and devastate your feelings in a heartbeat. She can take your deepest secrets or your darkest fears and force them to swim up into the very forefront of your consciousness. If left to her own devices, she can make you feel utterly, ruthlessly worthless. If it were anyone else, you’d have washed your hands clean of her long ago and good riddance, too.
She’s the Little Voice Inside Your Head. And she can be a bitch on wheels.
Maybe your Little Voice says you’re boring or ugly or strange or ungraceful. Maybe she calls you stupid or thinks you’re too short or too tall or makes fun of your acne or thinks you have a mustache or weird boobs.
When my Little Voice gets loud, she calls me fat.
I’ve always been chubby. I took to food as comfort at a very young age. Childhood trauma taught me that in world that was sometimes inexplicably cruel, the constancy of chocolate’s deliciousness (for example) was incredibly soothing. Thus was born the emotional-eating monkey that would cling to my back for the rest of my life.
One of Little Voice’s favorite and most fecund stomping ground is in photographs. How many times have I seen a picture of myself and heard Little Voice scream, “Look how fat you are! Double chin! Flabby arms! Thunder thighs! You’re so groooooooooooss!!” This is probably the reason why I became such avid picture taker. I don’t have to be in the picture if I’m the one taking it. This has been a pattern for my entire life. See a picture that makes Little Voice kvetch? Just tear it up (I’m dating myself here) or delete it. Feeling particularly large on a given day? Avoid the camera completely. Stand in the back. Make sure you’re at a lower angle than the lens, don’t get shot from behind. I know all the rules. And I adhere to them like they are commandments.
Then I had a baby. Now I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been and things are…um…droopy in a way they never were before. Now I’ve got perma-circles under my eyes and my hair is rarely clean, let alone brushed. My clothes are always covered in barf. And did I mention that I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been? Besides which, I’ve got the cutest baby in the entire world, so why bother even being in pictures when I’ve got such a beautiful subject and Little Voice doesn’t get mean about him?
And then it occurred to me. In giving Little Voice the microphone, I am at risk of digitally deleting myself from the documentation of my son’s childhood.
When he looks through the pictures of this time, I want my boy to know that I was there. I want him to look back at the pictures of his childhood and say, “There’s Mommy!” not “Where’s Mommy?” I want him to know how much time we spent together, that I took him on walks and tickled his toes and fed the ducks and read Brown Bear a hundred thousand times and sat under big beautiful trees and marveled at the beauty of autumn. I want him to have photographic evidence of his homemade baby food, his ridiculously adorable outfits, his penchant for slobbery, double-handed face mushes. I want him to leaf through photos of times he was too young to remember and realize that for his entire childhood, I was never far from him. I was there, I took part, I was vitally present and involved in this very important time.
If I kowtow to Little Voice, then I risk losing all of that. Plus, if I let Little Voice do the decision making, then I run the risk of teaching my son that a woman who could stand to lose a few isn’t worthy of attention, respect, or love. If I don’t actively and demonstratively love myself, just as I am, then I am setting a dangerous example for him follow. I want my son to love and respect himself, just as he is. And I want him to love and respect women, just as they are. I can hardly expect that of him when I don’t expect that of myself.
So, shut your face, Little Voice. My son doesn’t care what I look like. My son cares what I smell like. He doesn’t care if I have a double chin, he nuzzles his face right in it. He doesn’t think my curves are too curvy. He thinks they make for the comfiest snuggle spot in all the land. I think I’ll hand the mic over to him for a spell. I could learn a thing or two.