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A truly strong man does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep. -Vernon Howard

I’m leaving to visit my hometown in a few days. The friends I have there have known me for over a decade. They love me for the inner me, with all my sarcasm, bluntness, and screw-ups. They have hung on with me as I have changed mates, political views, and religions. Yet I find myself dreading packing for this trip, because I have so few nice things to wear. I have so few things that fit.

Two months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, and robust baby boy. My grand finale, as my obstetrician says.me&jack

My weight has stopped falling off like dripping shower water. It has stagnated like rain in an overturned children’s toy. I am 2 pant sizes larger. The skin on my stomach has not become taunt yet. My cheekbones don’t stick out without me sucking them in. But why should I care? Obviously, they all know I “just had a baby” as my husband points out. Surely, they don’t even care. Probably, they won’t even notice that I weigh as much as I do, due to my genetics thankfully dispersing fat well.

But I notice.

This is just one of the areas of my life that I desperately want the approval of others. I want them to gush over how thin I am after just having a baby. I want them to tell me I look just like I did the last time they saw me 2, 6, 10 years ago. But that’s not all.

I want my daughter to think I am the best grown-up in her life.

I want my husband to think I’m just as captivating as when he fell in love with me.

I want my family to find me charming, witty, and a wonderful storyteller.

I want my friends to admire my worldly knowledge and consult me on everything.

What unfortunately happens is there are days my daughter gets mad at me and tells me grandma does it better, my husband would rather play a video game, my family gets weary of my talkativeness, and my friends think I’m a know-it-all. I let these instances slice into my self-worth. I compare myself to someone who garners more praise, is skinnier, or knows more about topics than I do. Instead of accepting who I am, I dig my heels in. I assert my intellectual superiority. I test people’s devotion. I puff out my chest and act like I am the baddest bitch. If all else fails, I flat out fish for compliments.

I wish I could accept who I am fully, without apology, without excuse. I wish I could convey how sensitive I am without feeling vulnerable. I wish I could reign in my extremes.

Perhaps one day, my own approval will be enough for me. But if there is anything I know, I have to allow myself to. I have to stop casting judgement on myself for the wording I didn’t get right, the obscure songs I like, the way I raise my children. And each decision I make to not deny myself, the closer I am to being the me I like.