There are two piles of jeans on my bed, a stack of pants on the floor, a dresser drawer jutting out, and hangers left empty in the closet. There’s a part of me that is slightly frustrated, a feeling rising up that says, How are you still here? and Look how these don’t fit either.
As I write these words to you, I can put a name tag on each sentence. They sound like Shame and Condemnation. But in the moment, as I try on pair after pair of pants that no longer fit, it’s a little bit harder to remember what is true and kind when I look in the mirror.
At the beginning of the summer, I pulled out every pair of shorts I could find. Over time, I pushed several to the back of the drawer because they no longer fit. The labels may as well have read “Maybe one day.” But the truth is, if the labels could speak that sentence aloud, they wouldn’t use an encouraging, inspiring, or kind tone . . . no, those three words would be laced with judgment.
You might think I’m making much of jeans and linen shorts, and perhaps you’re right. But every morning as I dressed for the day, my clothes sent a message that I had become “too much.” And so on an afternoon in May, I tried on every single pair. I did my best not to look at the sizes but as the size of the stack grew, my throat tightened. It turns out, clearing out a drawer can be a fight.
I thought about the girl who once fit in those shorts but thought she needed to lose weight, the girl who later squeezed and sucked in, the girl who still considered keeping her favorite pair because maybe if she did a little more — ate better and worked out longer each day — she would be a little less.
Before I tried them all on, I made one rule — and it wasn’t that they needed to fit. Instead, it was simply this: Be kind to yourself.
Do you immediately think “I’m too much” or “I need to lose weight”? Do you have to squeeze or suck in? Are you uncomfortable? Is shame should-ing you? Do you feel like you need to be less?
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself.
I expected there to be difficult moments, but after the drawer was cleaned out and the unkind-to-myself shorts were donated, something arrived that I didn’t see coming: joy.
I felt . . . freedom.
All summer long, I knew that anything I reached for would fit the body that I have today. There were fewer options, but what was left didn’t say that I had to be less. What remained no longer shamed.
Fall is just now beginning to arrive here in Alabama, and so it’s time to tackle the jeans that have been tucked away. If I’m honest, as I pause to write these words to you while surrounded by jeans that will be donated tomorrow, I’m a little disappointed. There’s a small part of me that thought maybe they’d fit by October. But the seasons are changing, and I want to be kind to myself in this one too.
My body grew last year. I’m bigger now. But this body also carried me through an extremely difficult year. It sheltered-in-place and wept at funerals and adjusted to the new normal of continued loss. It was cut open through surgery and is still healing. It lost giving and receiving hugs. It gained laugh lines. It sang and danced. It walked trails and worked hard. It kept showing up.
It grew — in more ways than one. And so today I’m replying to the condemning question of “How are you still here?” with the beautiful truth that this is exactly where I want to be: still here, still choosing kindness no matter the season.
Colossians 3:12 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Paul, when closing his letter to the church in Philippi, wrote, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8).
I want to be a woman who walks out of her apartment clothed with compassion and kindness, who fills her mind with only what is gracious. But before I can do that, I must look in the mirror and begin there.
The drawer is half-full or half-empty, depending on how you look at it. But I can breathe when I open it, I can breathe in everything that remains, and where there once held a pile that said “You’ve become too much,” there’s space for grace and for whatever is to come.
Sure, it’s just a pile of pants. But somehow, it’s also a permission slip of freedom.
If I could look you in the eye today, friend, I’d say you don’t have to do more so that you can be less. You aren’t too much; you don’t need to shrink down or suck in. Your right-now body is already good.
Be kind to yourself.