I once knew a young girl who was happy and carefree, who loved to do cartwheels in her front yard, ride her bicycle to the park, make up dance routines to her favourite songs, and swim in her neighbour’s pool. She loved herself, and didn’t think twice about her body. Her body could do whatever it wanted.
I once knew a girl who, by age 13, detested how her body was maturing and changing. She was terrified that if she did make the school cheer-leading squad she would have to wear a short skirt that showed her thick legs. (She did not make the cut.) She was embarrassed when her best friend asked if she too had a thigh gap. (She did not.) She stopped taking the tap dancing lessons she loved because the bodysuit was so tight and revealing and stopped swimming because swimsuits and change rooms were mortifying. Convinced her legs were just not thin enough, she wore pants all summer, sweating every June through August. She didn’t seem to look like any of the tall, pretty girls in Seventeen Magazine. Her body made her feel ashamed.
I once knew a woman who was smart and funny, and had wonderful friends who loved her. She could spend hours dancing in a crowded bar, setting her body free to every beat and rhythm. But in broad daylight, she felt like a prisoner in her own skin. She hung stick-thin models cut from magazines in her closet to remind her of how she should strive to look. She obsessively compared herself to every thinner woman around her, believing she would be so much happier if she too could wear size 4 pants. It was all she could think about some days. Her body was never going to be good enough.
I once knew a woman who gave birth to two beautiful babies, each time tapping into a strength she never knew existed, yet she never felt beautiful herself. Her body was now dedicated to feeding, carrying, and rocking her babies, and while these were wonderful things for her body to do, it was exhausting. She began to lose sight of her own dreams and abilities and her body suffered for it.
One day, while pushing a stroller, she saw her reflection in a store window and did not recognize the woman staring back. She was tired of hating that body, tired of feeling powerless in her own happiness. So, so tired. She realized, then and there, that this was HER body and no one else in this entire world could change it but her. She had the power within her to figure this out. Her body could change.
Instead of hating her body, she decided to see what her body was capable of. She turned to strength training to try to tap back into that strength she had seen glimmers of before. In the gym, she gained confidence in her body, tested its abilities, and, more than anything, had fun. It wasn’t overnight, but it did happen. She realized that her self-worth was not in any way related to the size printed on the tag in her jeans or the number on the scale. She found power and happiness in her what her body could accomplish, not how it looked. She began to believe, once again, that her body could do whatever it wanted.
I now know a woman who is coming to peace with her body, who is so much more comfortable in her own skin. I know her and love her and am her. I only wish I had arrived here sooner.
Does this story feel familiar to anyone else? This might be your own story, or your sister’s, or your daughter’s. Why do so many of us fight our bodies, feel ashamed in them, hate them? Why do we chase a body perfection that doesn’t even exist? And how can we stop wasting our mental energy on some media-defined ideal appearance when our bodies are capable of doing so many amazing things and our lives hold so much more potential?
I, for one, am done obsessing and crying about what my body isn’t. There is so much more to life and this body is excited to get out there to and do it! And I hope to inspire a few of you to do the same.