When’s the last time you looked at old pictures? Recently I’ve run across some. I remember when those pictures were taken thinking I was really fat. I remember that as my body changed throughout high school that I was getting more and more gross. My breasts came in like a tsunami, all waves and ripples and the bra I had to get fitted for was huge and all I could think of was how fat it all made me look.
I’ve always felt that way. I’ve always wanted to approve my photographs, and ideally I want them to be taken head and shoulders only. I still feel just kind of okay with my body, and even then only on certain days, in certain lighting, and around certain people. I don’t want to stand out. I want to be pleasant to look at.
Pregnancy is permission to be beautiful
As I grew out of my teens, that self-conscious body image never left. I was first pregnant at 21. Pregnancy was freeing because I was supposed to look that way. In pregnancy I discovered a new beauty in my body. I found respect for it. I was never ashamed of my body while I was pregnant. I loved feeling my babies move around, and I remain proud and impressed that my body was made so magnificently that I built human beings inside it, and then delivered them to the world. Having children invited me to appreciate my breasts. I turned from wanting to strap those bulbous things down that I hated having touched into someone proud of my breasts, familiar with touch, encouraged by my children’s search for them. I now share my husband’s admiration of them. I have held on to that, but I wish I had held on to more.
I realize that instead of being ashamed of my body, I’ve evolved into someone who subjects herself to something I call body terrorism. This is a perpetual fear of being seen as fat, ugly, poorly put together – all these things and more. It’s judging yourself all. the. time, being scared of what the answers might be, and letting it all direct your behavior. Body terrorism holds you back.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m no expert on psychology, but I’ve self-identified some of the things I associate with body terrorism:
1. Comparing yourself to others and asking your kids or spouse, “is my butt bigger than hers?” as you walk around the mall.
2. Stopping yourself from doing something you’ll probably enjoy because you’re worried how you might look doing it – like swimming at the beach with your kids.
3. Taking all the photographs of the family while you’re on holidays, simply because if you are behind the camera, you can’t be in them, and it’s easy to look good when you’re not in the picture.
Sound familiar? This is the thing – this fear is not something that’s a result of truth. We’ve all had bad pictures taken of ourselves, and those are the ones we hold onto as ‘proof’ to reinforce our ongoing fear. Nobody is all-ugly, all the time. They’re just not. But we fear it and it stops us from living our life authentically. Living in fear sucks. We suspect our own body is our worst nightmare.
Being at BlogHer 2013 last week was inspiring on so many levels. As usual, I came back encouraged, supported and strong. I met lots of fantastic women, heard lots of stories, shared some fabulous experiences. There were thousands of us, different shapes and sizes, backgrounds, lives and orientations. But you know what? I didn’t see a single person that I thought needed a makeover. Nobody. In fact, I’d hate for anyone at BlogHer to think they need a makeover. Those women are power houses. They are all beautiful in so many ways. Their diversity adds to our understanding of what beauty is. I loved being counted as one of them.
If I look back and think this, then, why is it that the only person in those thousands of women I would ever recommend for a makeover might be myself?
If I don’t see a dress size when I talk to someone, why am I so fixated on my own?
I am tired of being depressed when I shop. I’m tired of knowing I have a range of sizes in my wardrobe, and I’ll squeeze my ass like sausage meat into the skin of the smaller size rather than admit to myself age is catching up, I’m not exercising as much as I used to be and things are not as they were. I’m tired of it all. Body terrorism is tiring.
I like who I am inside. It’s time to like who I am on the outside too. I’m saying no to makeovers. I’m going to try and overcome my self-inflicted body terrorism. As long as I’m healthy and fit enough to do the things I want to do, that’s all I need.