I spent most of the week before last wearing little more than a bikini and, when necessary, daisy-dukes.
(I promise I’m not talking about this vacation to rub it in your face that I was frolicking on the beach while yall were slogging away in cubicles under florescent lighting. It just happened to be a very enlightening week.)
This isn’t going to be a discussion on the modesty, or lack thereof, of my wardrobe. Been there, done that, and I’d like to revisit the topic again soon…but not today. On one of the last days of our trip, I was sitting on my knees as I pawed through my suitcase for a pair of bikini bottoms. While I knelt there, I looked down at my legs and was struck with the memory of being 17 and working out with a personal trainer for the first time. I was thinner then than I am now, but I can clearly remember thinking that I was chubby. At one point, the trainer had me kneel on the floor, and I looked down at my thighs and was horrified and humiliated by how much they “squished out” when I was kneeling. (I’m sure all you women know what I’m talking about.)
I couldn’t help but shake my head at the difference six years has made. At 17, I was terrified of being “big” or otherwise imperfect, and the sight of my own legs looking less-than-skinny was disgusting. Today? I’m not bothered in the slightest.
I’m a grown-ass woman, with a grown-ass woman-body. And that’s pretty great.
Am I fat? Not by most standards.
Am I skinny? Not at all.
Should I be leaner? Debatable.
But should I be ashamed of any of that? Hell no.
Somewhere along the line as I was growing up, I was taught that there was something inherently shameful about a less-than-ideal female body. No one ever said this (too) explicitly, but it was certainly declared in each magazine I picked up and every commercial I saw. And more importantly, it was implied by most every adult female in my family. Between regular comments of self-disparagement and a general attitude of dissatisfaction with their appearance, the message was clear. No once during those growing-up years do I remember any of the women in my life saying positive things about their bodies. None of them ever expressed pride in their body or appreciation of their shape. Hell, none of them ever even just mentioned their body in a neutral way without some kind of complaint or attitude of shame. I think that’s pretty much the norm for most women, and even men, these days…And that’s pretty damn sad.
Sure, I’ve had my fair share of complaints about my body. It’s hard to remember a time that I wasn’t dissatisfied with my body. But finally, finally, finally I’ve come to appreciate that there is nothing wrong with being less-than-airbrushed. In recognizing that I have no reason to apologize or be ashamed for how I look, there’s incredible freedom. Will everyone think I’m beautiful? Of course not. But that’s neither a the goal nor relevant here. I don’t need to be perfect to be comfortable with myself, and being imperfect is not a reason to be ashamed of myself. How I wish every little girl and little boy could hear that before they started to second-guess and disparage and berate themselves for not living up to an arbitrary and impossible standard set for them by society. I guess that’s what this boils down to: The attitudes we adopt set a precedent for future generations. It breaks my heart to think that there are kids growing up who don’t have anyone modeling healthy self-esteem for them. And given our society’s preoccupation with beauty and appearances, that’s likely the case for so very many of them.
So I’m challenging us – you, me, this generation – to change that. Let’s stop hating ourselves. Of course this doesn’t mean we should stop challenging ourselves or seeking improvement (physical or otherwise). Everyone with a body is charged with stewarding it well. We just need to accept that we are indeed fallible humans and practice celebrating the bodies we’ve been given, for our own sake and for the sake of those who are watching for our example.
The imperfect body that you are blessed- yes, blessed– to inhabit? Stop apologizing for it.
That includes legs that sometimes “squish” when we kneel.
That includes breasts that shift when we lie down.
That includes an ass that has dimples, and hips that are wide, and thighs that touch, and arms that jiggle, and whatever other quirks your grown-ass woman-body (or grown-ass man body) may have.
Appreciate that body. Care for it. Enjoy it. Steward it well. Use it for good. And stop trying to find your worth in it.
Then grab some bikini bottoms (or not…I’m all for nudity), get your ass to the beach, and twerk like there’s no tomorrow.
(Actually, on second thought, skip the twerking. But you get the idea.)