Nothing I write in this post will be spectacularly new or different from how I think many women out there feel, but it’s been something that I’ve wanted to write about for a while. Only recently I’ve felt able to communicate unashamedly what I have been carrying, because I’ve noticed a spike in others doing the same.
So let’s do it.
Recently my daughter asked me some questions about photography and why everyone in photos always look perfect.
“Great!” I thought…
Here was the perfect set up for having the talk about photoshop, airbrushing, unrealistic expectations and unhealthy body image!
The poor girl didn’t know what hit her…
We ended up having a very long and involved conversation about how all these industries are fuelled by making money off our unhappiness. I explained how they know what we’re interested in because they track what we search and read, and then put the ads in front of us that match what we’re looking for. My 7 year old chimed in his contribution on the latest trend on ‘faceapp’ - and how this helped us to prepare for our impending old age!
It made me laugh for a minute, but then it made me sad.
By my daughters age (10), I was already highly aware that my body was not the preferable shape to those around me. I’d experienced my leg circumferences being measured in the school yard, and compared to the most popular girls measurements, and having my body measurements circulated around the kids at my school, like they were the newest candy trend that everyone wanted a piece of. I’d been laughed at and called ‘thunder thighs’ and ‘tree trunk legs’, and been told I had ‘cankles’ and a million other stinging comments before puberty even hit. It’s no wonder I grew up to have an unhealthy relationship with my own body.
I have been open about sharing my journey of realising the idol that my weight, size and fitness levels have been but recently it occurred to me that while I have successfully removed those idols from the throne of my heart, I’ve never actually worked on learning to actually love the skin I’m in.
Yes, I’ve learned not to run to food for comfort. Yes, I’ve learned not to obsessively work out and I’ve learned my triggers for unhealthy thought patterns and how to avoid them. Yes, I’ve learned a lot about my health, my build, and my abilities, but have I ever actually learned to love the body that God has given me to inhabit for my earthly days?
I don’t think I have.
I’ve done a great job of explaining all the theory to my daughter, and even an ‘ok’ job of setting an example of healthy living to my kids, with regular exercise and thoughtful eating. But have I shown her how to embrace the body she’s been given, unconditionally?
I’m not so sure..
One thing to get clear here - I’m not into this ‘self-love’ movement, or even the ‘self care’ idea., which I know is controversial! I fundamentally disagree with this idea and mindset as I see it as an excuse for basically anything. It’s a valid explanation to get us off the hook of any form of gluttony and idolatry. I like what I recently read by Kate Eskuri - “The self - love movement needs a dose of self-accountability”.
I would agree.
Self care puts all the responsibility on taking care of ourselves on us and our earthly fixes, but very rarely does my soul need a whole tub of ice cream, or a binge session of Netflix. What my soul needs is God, space, time.
I even hear people saying that they need to adjust their diet because they can’t think straight.
But you can’t get clarity from a carrot.
We need space, time, and listening ears.
And that’s all.
I can see where this movement has come from, and often that is a good place. Many people do need to learn to look after themselves better and rearrange their priorities, but I see the results of this mind-set can be very self focussed, self indulgent and a place that removes God from the equation and puts all the responsibility of being taken care of on ourselves. I don’t buy it.
That being said, I am realising that I have punished my body for failing to be something it can never be - skinny.
I have an athletic build, I am strong and dense. I am not fat. I am not overweight.
I will never have a petit, slight frame, I’ll never be light, and I’ll always be prone to weight gain.
And that needs to be ok.
I need to learn to embrace the body I’ve been entrusted with, and not expect my ocean liner to behave like a jet ski. My body has a different calling and a different function, one isn’t better than the other, much as with all of the God ordained roles that he’s put in place. I fear that I’ve failed to learn this foundational truth, and am now on a fast track course to catch up, even if just for the sake of my daughter.
With so many things in my life, I’m here at 36 realising I’ve only just figured this out.
Oh to have been a teen with pinterest - my hair diaries would have been SO different! My fashion choices, my make up, my wedding, my baby stories, my homes… Millennials don’t know how good they’ve got it to have all the information on how to best cope with curly hair at their fingertips when they need it! Being a 90’s teen with curly hair was a disaster zone!
But I guess the important thing is that I’m showing up and learning, I’m seeing where I’ve gone wrong, and I’m self correcting rather than sticking in a rut of unhappiness.
Maybe there is something I can learn by embracing the parts of me that the world consistently tells me are ‘wrong’?
Maybe those ‘anti wrinkle’ and cellulite correction ads that keep showing up can be a reminder to love those laughter lines, because they represent memories and family fun?
Maybe I need to show my daughter (who will probably never have to deal with any of the above!) that I can be happy with the casing that God has given my soul, without photoshop, airbrushing or diet pills.
Maybe I need to stop assuming that God made a mistake when he made my earthly body, and stop pleading with him to make it something he clearly never intended it to be.
This week I went to the beach, something I have historically hated to do, because I spend the entire time adjusting my posture to make sure I’m not creating rolls or am in the most flattering position.
This time I very intentionally didn’t care.
I was there to have fun with my kid, to muck about, surf and be a fun parent to him. It was the most liberating thing I’ve done in a very long time, and I think, the beginning of this journey to self acceptance, peace over the shape of this creation, and letting of disappointment and despair over what I can never be.
My daughter has come out of it understanding that according to the ads on her YouTube channel - I need a new vacuum.
Maybe I’ll listen to that ad…