Think about being a child, care free in your appearance. How free that must feel. I watch my stepson and grandchildren. They will put on some goofy thing and know they look good. Body image is such a struggle for so many today. How can we heal this within ourselves?
My own struggles with body image started very young. I can remember being in elementary school and thinking I was fat. I am not sure where the initial problem started from. Was it my grandmother saying I should wear dark colors because they were slenderizing? Was it the kid on the play ground who called me a 2000 pound Tyrannosaurus rex? Could it have been noticing that clothes did not look on me the way they looked on my Barbie Dolls? Whatever the reason, from a young age, my body image sucked! It started a vicious cycle of dieting and binging that carried on until my late 30’s when eventually I had gastric bypass surgery. I lost 113.5 as a result of the surgery. I looked amazing, at least with my clothes on. Without them my skin hung and sagged. Without the fat I had way more skin than I needed. Stretch marks from years of weight gain made a map across my body. My breasts hung, more than a little, lower than were they belonged. I still felt disgusting. I consulted with a plastic surgeon to have skin pealed off of my body so that other skin could be pulled up and the folds would be decreased. Even after the surgery my body would not resemble those molded plastic fashion dolls of my youth. At least my body would be a little less gross. I scheduled the surgery.
At that time I was doing online dating. It struck me sometime before the plastic surgery that this was not the correct option for me. I needed to learn to love myself as is, otherwise how could anyone else love me? The kind of man I was looking for was the kind who could look past people faults and love the beautiful soul inside. I canceled surgery and decided any man who wanted me would have to be able to love this body with all of its mileage. I started working on loving myself. I started working on improving my feelings about my body.
I started small. Noticing aspects of my body that I did like was a way to begin. My toes are cute. I have strong legs. Parts of me that were easy to love paved the way to loving all of me. I found a great hair stylist. Which taught me my frizzy, out of control hair was actually full of really fun curls. Then the shopping began. The jeans and t-shirts were pushed to the back of the closet. Dresses now hung in the front. Pretty girly things that made me feel like a woman. I embraced my femininity. Changing my dating profile from “a few extra pounds” to “curvy” really helped me embrace my body as sexy, even if I still felt it was imperfect.
I did find a man who loves me as is. He is a beautiful and kind soul. The year we were married, Emy and I were planning our annual BWCA (Boundary Water Canoe Area) trip. These trips have morphed from fun adventures into an opportunity to work on wellness and self improvement. We still have lots of fun but they are now so much more. In the bags I included a pack of metallic pastel colored pertinent markers. “A fun activity for our trip, awaits in the bags”, I told Emy. Letting the anticipation of surprise speak to the little girl in her. All the while the little girl in me was relishing this idea.
As we sat on our private island in the BWCA, near our campfire, drinking tea, and watching the sun glisten off the lake, I produced the markers. “We are going to write message of love to our body”. She lit up. We set to work covering our bodies in words of appreciation and things we wanted to manifest for ourselves. When we were done the metallic ink sparked in the afternoon sun. Words such a strength, love, beauty, temperance, feminine, courage, and support adorned our bodies amidst peace symbols, flowers, vines, hearts, and other symbolic drawings. It was a transformative experience.
I am more comfortable with my body now than I have been since I was a very young child. I still have moments, but for the most part, I love my body. I love every line and fold. Even that parts that don’t sit as high as they once did, receive appreciation and loving kindness from me.
What struggles do you have with your body image? Do you have helpful tricks you can share with others?
Thank you for reading my blog today. May you have loving kindness for your body!
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The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, like so many beautiful areas, may be at risk from exploitation. If you feel so moved please sign the petition below to save this amazing natural resource!