I write. I pause. I write. I erase. Not sure if I will have the courage to actually post this or not… but I continue to write. I know many of you are recently new readers here, so I’m hesitant to bare my soul in such a way… although this story is actually easier to share with strangers than those who actually know me, I suppose.
This will definitely be my most vulnerable post to date – and again isn’t anything specifically faith or specifically fitness focused, but impacts how and why we care for our bodies.
If you’ve read any of my earliest posts, you will know how passionate I am about positive body image. I was absolutely blessed to have parents who supported my desire to be active and never once gave me cause to critique or even consider the look or shape of my body. I may be a little biased, but I’m pretty sure I have the best mom ever – and, yes, I’ve told her that too. (And, I’m super lucky because my parents are visiting us from Illinois this week to celebrate Christmas a little early here!)
She’s super bright, an amazingly hard worker, helpful, caring, etc. etc. But most importantly, she’s about as low maintenance as they come. (Yes – low!) She’s easy-going, rolls with the punches without worry, and just is who she is without apology.
Makeup (as in a cream rouge and the same lipstick she’s had since before I can remember) was worn on special events and the occasional Sunday to church. And – ready? – she has a gold front tooth. I don’t even notice it because she’s had it since a playground accident when she was in the fourth grade! But I think it speaks volumes that my mom, who has the means and the opportunity to replace it with an enameled-version false tooth, chooses not to simply because that’s who she is.
I share all of this because I’m sure that influence has something to do with the fact that I was blissfully unaware of the struggles and criticisms the majority of girls deal with in terms of body image and self esteem growing up.
Now here’s an important distinction (that I think may have been misconstrued during my high school years especially) – I really was unaware.
Almost everyday of elementary school, I wore some sort of matching sweatshirt and sweat pants (I needed to be able to pull those pants up past my knees when I got too hot from playing kickball or running around on the playground!)
In high school, on days when we had 5am basketball practice, I would wear pajama pants and T-shirts to class.
Even into college, I honestly was not aware of any concept involving “dress to impress,” as evidenced by the fact that the first time I met my future inlaws at a football game, I wore Adidas windpants, a sweatshirt, and a baseball hat.
Perhaps some of these poor wardrobe choices stemmed from my frugal nature. You see, my parents were great about teaching me how to manage my money from an early age and we were responsible for buying most of our clothes during high school. I simply couldn’t rationalize spending my money on “frivolous” things like clothes.
Unfortunately, this combination of frugality and honest ignorance regarding how clothes were supposed to fit led to one of the most hurtful things I’ve experienced regarding my body.
In our very small high school, there was a tradition where the seniors would “will” things to underclassmen upon their graduation. Some genuinely sincere, some humorous, the collection of written wills were published and distributed to the entire school to read. As a sophomore, I remember being surprised but honored that a senior was bequeathing something to me… And then I read what it said…She was giving me “paint thinner, so that I could remove the jeans that I obviously had to paint on in the mornings.” Apparently, I wore jeans that were too tight. I honestly didn’t know. I wasn’t wearing them to purposely attract attention. I probably just kept wearing the same pair so that I wouldn’t have to pay for new pants. But needless to say, I was mortified.
Whew. All of this to say that obviously I am not immune to hurtful comments made about my body. Here I am blogging about accepting yourself and having a positive body image, but this is all about being real. I know these things hurt. But I want us to recognize that this quest towards health should not just be about what our bodies look like (or how we clothe them, for that matter…)
It’s totally Eve’s fault. Many times (usually with quizzical responses), I’ve commented that I wish we lived in a society where naked was normal. No worries, I’m not off to live in a nudist community. But can you imagine how much less stress there would be if no one cared or commented or criticized others’ bodies or clothing choices? Do you realize how much time you could have back in your day?! Take out the shopping, the deciding what to wear, the laundry, the trying on, the ironing, the looking in the mirror… We could reclaim YEARS!
We had that once in the Garden of Eden. But then Eve had to take a bite of that darned fruit… And then enters the shame, the judging, the hurting. With all of that in the world, I want to be so much more like my mom. So comfortable in her own skin. Living each day just as she is, and loving it. Perhaps with a little practice, we can all do that too.
If you have a story you’d like to share – or a role model in your life who demonstrates beautiful body image – I’d love to hear it!