I’ve been putting this off for such a long time because I tell myself I’m above such a superficial issue. A good reminder of my ego; once again, we’re all just human! No one gets to escape the occasional trivial fixation. It’s time for me to fess up.
The truth is, I’m still not that okay with my body. There, I said it, it’s not such a big deal, right?
But it is and continues to be, even despite the fact that my first publication was a body image workbook. A Look in the Mirror; Freeing Yourself from the Body Image Blues was published in 2004 by the Child Welfare League of America. It was designed to be a preventative resource for tween and teenage girls living in American culture. This culture, our culture, pummels our youth with messages about the impossible-to-attain idealized image of beauty for women. It hurts us all big time. Boys, too, are taught that the value of a girl/woman lies in her appearance and, further, to expect an airbrushed version of a person. As one of my great teachers, Jean Kilbourne often states, objectifying a person is the first step towards committing a violent act against them. This social norm can have long lasting and devastating affects.
My teenage years were over long ago, still, I often avoid having my pictures “posted” for fear that some boy I once kissed will see it and grimace. Sure, I say it’s for security reasons and there is some truth in that. But, more often, I’m not comfortable having my picture floating out there in cyberspace where someone I used to know might see that I’ve gained 25 pounds. The reality is, NO ONE REALLY CARES what I look like.
Photographer and Blogger Teresa Porter writes, “… news flash you DID. YOU GAINED WEIGHT…The truth is you’ve gained a lot of other things too (a career, a family, some kids, …)…We fixate on our flaws to the point we shirk at any documentation that our round faces and curvy bodies ever walked the earth. No pictures to show how we LOVE, how we laugh, how we are treasured by our families.”
My “new” body has been in existence for nine years yet still, I deny it as a temporary fluke. That is insanity and not at all a reflection of how I perceive any one else I know–overweight or otherwise. In denying what has come to be a fairly consistent feature of my body, I deny a sacred part of myself.
My post-childbearing, post-trauma recovery, post a-time-in-my-life-when-I-wasn’t-really-that-happy-anyway body is nothing to reject. It’s generally healthy, it has sexy dance moves, does a pristine proud warrior yoga pose, can easily climb to the top of a rock wall, creates beautiful art, sings like a bird and moves fluidly–accept for that time I almost pulled a muscle while twisting to turn down my office space heater–‘shout out’ to client X (you-know-who-you-are).
My body brings comfort and pleasure to my family and friends, it has allowed me to complete 10K’s, triathlons (okay, triathlon–singular), and survive a 90-hour natural labor resulting in a live baby; that was 90, as in 9-0 (a lot went wrong that week hence the pending memoir The Boy who Birthed Me). All this is true and yet I still struggle to let go of the notion that the thickness of my middle downgrades me somehow, is an embarrassment, something better off hidden. I bent down in this photo to the left, not just to be closer to my son, but because someone told me this stance hides the stomach better. And this was right after completing Irongirl!
Our inherent worth as human beings is not reflected in a physical characteristic. The fact that I hesitate in front of the mirror for even a moment to scrutinize my tummy is, to me, intolerable. I know I’m supposed to be lovingly present to my feelings. I could “practice what I preach” and stop writing off my shame as “foolish” or “self-centered.” But that means I have to then notice the feelings that lie underneath; my own vulnerability, my own fear, my sadness, disappointment and frustration. Masking the more challenging emotions with words like, “ludicrous” or “shallow” is just a temporary fix. In order to come to a place of richer self-acceptance I first need to notice what exists between me and greater peace.
The bottom line is that I worry that being overweight will lead to various forms of rejection; further that, if I were unwanted my access to support and safety would disappear. Fears around support and safety are part of an old childhood wound that simply continues to beckon to me during times of vulnerability. It is not, nor has been, a part of my reality for many years. Shame and fear around my body are not present because I have anything of which to be ashamed or afraid. They are just indications that I am a part of an endless process of unfolding, of continuous healing. These feelings are an indication of what I share with every other person on this planet; a journey, a story, a common humanity.
In this way, my belly offers me tremendous opportunity. By noticing my discomfort from a place of compassion, I am reminded of the struggles and hardships represented by its softness. Pain is an inherent part of the human condition and therefore a direct line of connection to all people and to all living things. May my excess fat be a beacon of tenderness for myself and others (oh, what?…did I just go overboard?)
NONETHELESS, HERE I AM,
compassionate healer, modern dancer, writer, singer, poet, artist, beloved family member, dedicated friend,
…belly and all.
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