I spent the better part of my late teens and early twenties eating whatever the hell I wanted and asking for seconds. Between bites, I would chug glasses of weight-gainer and muscle-builder, beverages consisting of chalky powders, raw eggs and so much protein that the fumes they created could have been claimed by either end. I was tall and skinny—awkwardly so—and I wanted nothing more than to see my shoulders broaden, my biceps bulge and to wear my clothes like they actually fit me. It kept me up at night.
Of course, it was nothing new—the slender splendor of youth sprawling from corduroy shorts all points and angles—I had always been that boy; however, there is a line drawn for all of us where the things of a carefree childhood are suddenly considered through the lens of a more grown-up world. Suddenly "so skinny" became "too skinny" and what were lobbed as jokes landed a whole lot harder.
The jabs were never meant in malice but they left their mark. I found myself standing in the mirror and seeing what it was I thought the others saw. I judged myself accordingly. Hence the years of embarrassment and the masks I made to hide behind.
It took me a long time to realize that the view of myself was mine for the making, and what others saw was but a passing glance, lost as they were in the depths of their own reflection.
These days I have two boys, 9 and 12, both poetry in motion. They are stories being written. Their lines have not yet been drawn and while I cannot prevent those lines from occurring I can offer the tools they need to face them: erasers, hugs and something strong to swing upon.
My kids are healthy, confident and kind. They are full of empathy and quick with a smile. My job is to make sure they stay that way—that they treat others as they would like to be treated—finding value in themselves and celebrating it in others. Our goals are simple: love, laugh and learn. We meet them daily, and I hope we always will.
I now find comfort in my skin. I like it here. It is warm and worn with grace and ease. I can see my boys through the window, carefree and happy. Their line is in the distance, I know it. And I know it doesn't stand a chance.
This article is part of mom.me's collaboration with The Representation Project and their #buildconfidence campaign. Research shows that body image issues originate well before adolescence and that parents are pivotal in instilling confidence in their children. #BuildConfidence campaign celebrates and empowers parents, caregivers, and mentors who model positive self-esteem and body image. Share this article and tag #buildconfidence to help us spread the word!