My husband and I were fortunate to spend two weeks in Spain for our honeymoon. We saw some amazing things, met some great people, and broadened our horizons.
But I’m going to stop right there.
Because I’m not here to share the social media-worthy parts of my honeymoon. I’m here to share the weirdest, most vulnerable parts that took place behind the Facebook pictures.
Truth is, I was more insecure than ever. And even though I’ve made some incredible strides since then, what I was REALLY thinking during this time is something I’m sure many women can relate to.
The honeymoon behind the Facebook pictures
In normal life, I have a hard time crying even when I want to. But on my honeymoon? I was absolutely bawling. On several occasions.
It wasn’t because I made the wrong decision to marry Joe and it wasn’t because I was jet lagged or had too much to drink (although that didn’t help).
The reason I cried so much on my honeymoon was simple: there were too many beautiful women everywhere we went. They were all smaller than me, had prettier skin than me, and had bigger boobs than me. I felt like this gigantic, jiggly-bellied, pale person with no boobs in a world of Sofia Vergaras.
And let’s not forget this was on my honeymoon, a time I am supposed to feel the most secure in my relationship and marriage. My husband picked me over every other woman. I should be feeling like a total bad ass.
But insecurities have a nasty way of twisting the truth. This was my husband’s first time out of the country, and I was terrified he was going to see all these beautiful women, realize they are so much better than the one he chose, and regret marrying me.
I let myself believe the lie that other people’s beauty, intelligence, humor, and culture left no space for my own.
Honeymoon rock bottom
Toward the end of our honeymoon, Joe and I went on a walking tour around the historic part of Madrid. And just my luck, there was a gorgeous woman (like, REALLY gorgeous) accompanying us and a dozen other people on the tour.
She had the biggest booty I’ve ever seen in real life. Her lips were full and her skin was perfect and she kept walking right in front of us! I couldn’t stop thinking how the massive iPhone Plus she had in her back pocket looked so tiny compared to how wide her caboose was. It just wasn’t right.
I put up with my husband and I following her around for a whole two and a half hours. It was exhausting but I held it together. Yay me.
The next day, we attended another walking tour and SHE WAS ON THAT ONE, TOO.
My god. Can I get a break?
Her presence made me so uncomfortable that I immediately activated my go-to defense mechanism: pretending like I don’t care. Even though I totally did care, I was determined not to.
So I made it obvious. I pointed to the phone in her back pocket and whispered to my husband, “That’s such a stupid thing to do. People could steal that so easily.” As if stealing would be on anybody’s mind with that kind of view.
My husband responded with an awkward glance that I took to mean, “I’m trying really hard to not stare too long at this woman’s perfect figure while I’m with you, so please don’t point it out. It’s bad enough I’m walking with you and not her so the least you can do is make it easier on me.”
Yep, I took one glance to mean all 46 of those words.
I’m not saying its fair. I’m saying its what happened.
Can any of you ladies relate to this??
Eventually, I began thinking, ‘Screw this. I’m pretty, too. And I am going to prove it.’
So I spent the rest of the tour secretly competing with this woman on who was the prettiest and who can flaunt it the best. I swayed my hips wider than normal as I walked and I stood in uncomfortable poses that made my butt and boobs look bigger than they were. I dedicated so much to this make believe competition that my back started cramping from standing and walking so unnaturally for so long.
I can imagine my poor husband trotting alongside me, absorbing the rich architecture and history lesson. All the while I’m desperately defending my dignity and getting back cramps.
As we gathered for the tour guide’s last remarks, I positioned myself just behind my husband but far enough away so I could see his eyes when I looked sideways at him. I was determined to judge just how much prettier he thought she was by how long he watched her walk away when the tour ended. I was going to catch him watching her and it was going to be proof that he truly did regret marrying me.
Lets check in here — are you tense after reading this? Me too. But hang on, because our story doesn’t stop here.
How did I get to the bottom? And why are there all these rocks?
I was completely consumed by my envy of this woman on our walking tour in Madrid.
More precisely, I was completely consumed by the shame I already had inside of me that this stranger’s beauty happened to trigger. I created my own feelings of envy (which is just a way shame expresses itself), because I was already shameful about the worthiness of my appearance. Which is also why I assumed those 46 words from my husband’s glance; they confirmed what I was already feeling.
The source of my shame was not this woman’s hourglass figure or even my jiggly belly and small boobs. These things on the outside of our bodies were only triggers that activated the shame I already had within myself.
The bottom line is: If I honestly believed I was beautiful enough, walking along with this woman on our tour would have been a non-issue.
But even though the root of my envy was the internal belief that I am not beautiful enough (my shame), what was my ultimate reaction when my shame became too painful to manage?
To compete! To prove on the outside that I am, in fact, the prettiest. Even though the competition was all in my head, it was about how I could make myself look better — an outward fix.
And where did that outward fix get me? In a sour mood and ten times more shameful than when the tour started.
This goes to show that cultivating outward changes is only empowering against shame when the hard work of transforming our outsides also transforms our insides.
I totally lost the competition I created with that woman on the walking tour in Madrid. Not because I was less pretty, but because I relied on the competition (an outward fix) in the first place. The real victory would have been to walk around that tour with that gorgeous woman all the while holding space for myself and my own beauty, and trusting my husband to do the same.
If we want to become less shameful and insecure people (a.k.a. more free and happy), we also need to do the work on the inside and practice loving ourselves even amidst our shame triggers.
How to practice loving ourselves is a massive topic for a different conversation, but the work of Brené Brown and Bez Stone and Tara Brach should be more than enough to point you in the right direction.
Even though I know the only way to truly heal my shame is to do the work on the inside, it is still going to take a lot of practice to work through my insecurities. I will probably never “arrive” somewhere, completely shame free and with zero triggers. And I’m not always going to handle situations when my shame is triggered in a healthy way, like on my honeymoon.
But I am still in the arena, rumbling with my shame, and becoming a freer person each time I get back up and try again.
Who’s with me?
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