Shop the fall collection ➔

It was a single picture of me that did it.

I looked at it on my screen and saw “me” all over it. My spirit. My joy. My contentment. My true self. It was such a different look on me than I had seen in pictures in the past images that had a fake smile that hid sadness, anxiety, fear, and isolation.

These last several years for me have been about mental and spiritual growth.

Learning how to maintain my sense of self in the midst of motherhood. Getting used to being vulnerable with my struggles. Shedding the need to people-please and gaining the strength to speak my truth. Loving who I am and giving myself grace when I misstep. Looking anxiety in the face and vowing to give myself the tools to battle it.

It was an unsteady climb, but the true spirit emanating from that picture was worth every tear, anxiety attack and tough look in the mirror. I can confidently say my spirit is the most authentic it’s been in my adult life.

But as I moved my eyes down the image my heart sank.

Because the body that’s carrying all that authenticity doesn’t look the same anymore. For months I’ve been trying to pretend that it didn’t matter, but seeing myself in that picture struck lightning energy into my negative self-talk voice.

Because before authenticity I was skinny… and always thought it was just my “genes” because I really didn’t work out that often.

But it wasn’t about that at all.

It was about stress. It was about being so busy I’d forget to eat. It was about worrying so much I didn’t even have an appetite.

But now that I’ve got a better control on my mental health, the pounds that anxiety held off for YEARS have stampeded through the gate—17 of them to be exact—just a few pounds shy of how many I gained with my third baby.

It leaves me in a strange place. I’m grateful for my happiness, but at times feel bitter that it comes at the price of living in a bigger body in which I feel uncomfortable.

So I decided to change that, and nine days ago I started a new workout program.

Nine days ago I was thinking about fitting into jeans, and not having to squeeze my sides into them. I was thinking about smaller numbers on a scale and on my pants sizes.

But in a short amount of time, I have already realized that’s not what this is about at all.

This is one more step in showing anxiety that it doesn’t control me OR my body anymore.

Because while anxiety was the one that stood like armed guards against jailed pounds, now I’m the one standing guard . . . and it’s anxiety that’s locked up.

And this is one more lock I can put on its cell . . . and I want that.

Because this is me saying I care about taking care of my body the right way. I care about mental toughness. I care about having more energy. I care about feeling stronger. I care about setting an example for my kids. I care about my mental health AND my physical health.

I care about choosing me.

So to those extra 17 pounds, thank you for that gift.

I know the discomfort you put me in was meant to push me even more in my journey to my true self. I know you are a symbol of victory, in a sense . . . that I finally set you free from the unhealthy way I was holding you back.

But while I appreciate you transforming me… my friends, it’s time to transform YOU.

Into strength. Into self-love. Into mental toughness.

Into (the real) authentic me.

Originally published on The Thinking Branch

Brea Schmidt

Brea Schmidt is a writer, speaker and photographer who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch. Through her work, she aims to empower people to overcome their fears and insecurities and live their truth. She and her husband raise their three children in Pittsburgh, PA.

My Daughter is Almost the Age I Was When My Grandfather First Molested Me

In: Living, Motherhood
Back of little girl's head with braid and ribbon

Trigger Warning: Child Abuse My daughter is swinging, head tilted up to the sky, pondering the shape of the cloud—is it a puppy or a tiger? Or maybe a dragon? She picks a flowering weed from the yard and brings it to me, so proud of her gift for Mama. She sits down and draws one of her imaginary kitty superheroes and the tale of how it saves the day—her lips pursed, then open, then pursed again—concentrating as though it’s the most important story she’ll write in her life. I pull her close, breathe in all of her joy and...

Keep Reading

When Storms Come: How To Help During Hurricane Ian

In: Living
When Waters Rise, You’ll Struggle to Put One Foot in Front of the Other. You’ll Do it Anyway. www.herviewfromhome.com

When waters rise and spirits fall, you’ll listen anxiously to weather reports from your neighborhood. You’ll watch angry waves swirling on the sacred ground of familiar streets. You’ll feel a sickening, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You’ll try to grasp fleeting thoughts of hope that maybe, just maybe, they’re all wrong. Surely it won’t be as bad, as devastating as they say. You’ll try to overpower Mother Nature by sheer force of will. But she is a determined and destructive houseguest. You’ll understand futility.  You’ll go through motions, completing necessary tasks in response to catastrophe. You’ll cry,...

Keep Reading

Things I Wish My Therapist Would Say

In: Living
Little girl looking out window

Things I wish my therapist would say . . .  Welcome. Sit down, have a tea or a big coffee. The latest studies say caffeine does wonders for your anxiety. Now, tell me everything . . .  You’re not crazy. But if you are it’s okay, all the best women in history were crazy. You don’t need medication. But if you do, it’s okay—I can get you some right now. You don’t have to call a thousand pharmacies or drive or wait, here it is. It will work right away and has zero side effects. You don’t have to change...

Keep Reading

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…Jupiter?

In: Living
Boy looking through telescope

It’s a great week to gather the kids and train your eyes on the night sky—the planet Jupiter is bigger and better than ever! Well, at least it’ll look that way this week.   Jupiter reaches what’s termed “opposition” during the final week of September this year, and that makes for some fun stargazing conditions. Quick science lesson time: “opposition” is when a planet is directly opposite the Sun in the sky. And all those orbits out there in space have the Earth sandwiched between Jupiter and the Sun right now too, meaning our Solar System’s gasseous giant is closer to...

Keep Reading

I’ll Find Her Again One Day

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother holding baby at night

It happened again. Took 15 months this time. But I found myself in the same spot I said I’d never be in. Lost, drowning, on the brink of a mental breakdown—however you want to put it. I was gone in motherhood. With the diapers piling up around me, I was getting mad at my husband for nothing, screaming at my oldest son, crying along with the babies, and in a fog. RELATED: To the Woman Who’s Lost Herself in Motherhood I couldn’t do anything—literally—I couldn’t even pee without hearing a demand. When my children were quiet, my house billowed with...

Keep Reading

I Want Friends Who Grow Old with Me

In: Friendship, Living
Friends laughing

When I grow older, I want my friends to come with me. I want us to sit on porches sipping tea and watching the young walk by. I want us to scoot around on our scooters or on golf carts because none of us want to walk back home from the beach. I want us to sit in restaurants and order whatever we want because life has become too short and we know it, so cheesecake it is. RELATE: Life is Too Short for Fake Cheese and Fake Friends I want morning strolls together to get the willies out, and...

Keep Reading

To the Mom In the Trenches: Make Room For Yourself

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and daughter on beach black and white photo

“I need to make room for myself,” I think quietly as I shove toys aside with my foot and toss the dog-hair-covered blankets onto the couch behind me. This endless carousel of shuffling clutter weighs on me, but I try not to dwell on that fact right now. Clearing a space for a quick strength class between Zoom calls requires almost as much effort as the class itself. Plastic play food and melodic baby toys lay strewn about the room (the whole house, really). Scattered LEGOs and Hot Wheels wait to attack unsuspecting bare feet at any moment. To say...

Keep Reading

“Old” Seems Less Old the Older I Get

In: Living
Mother and teen daughter smiling

Growing up, my grandparents hosted birthday parties that involved all of my dad’s aunts and uncles gathering around the kitchen table with a deck of pinochle cards dealt among them. After a few games, a “lunch” of sandwiches, cake, and hot cups of coffee would be served.  I remember looking at the people gathered around that table—wrinkled fingers raking in cards, deep, scratchy voices calling out bids and naming trump, laughter mingled with German words I didn’t understand. The kids were never invited to the table, only allowed to watch from the outskirts.  We were too young. And they were...

Keep Reading

I Love Being a Mom, But I Miss That Party Girl Sometimes

In: Living, Motherhood
Girl at bar in black tank top

It’s 7 p.m. on a Saturday night. Freshly showered and ready to take on whatever the night brings. I’ve just gotten dressed and am finishing up my makeup when the phone rings. “Hey, I’m about to leave in half an hour. Do you want to meet around 8 p.m.?” “Sure! I’m almost ready. I’ll be there at 8!” I say excitedly. I finish my makeup and start working on my hair when a text comes through. “Hey, Ash! Just wanted to let you know we’ll be there around 9 but we’re definitely going to make it! I can’t wait to...

Keep Reading

Christmas + ’90s TV Nostalgia? Yes, Please!

In: Living
Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber Full House friends at wedding

Why is it that the older I get, the more nostalgic I become about the ’90s?  Maybe it’s because it was a simpler time: No social media. The only cell phones we’d ever seen belonged to Zack Morris from Saved By the Bell and Macaulay Caulkin in Richie Rich. The height of cool was owning a hair crimper and that clear corded phone (bonus points if it was connected to a dedicated teen line). And you knew it was going to be a great day when you started the tape recorder in time to get all of MmmBop! on your...

Keep Reading