I remember when my self-body-shaming began. I was about 10 years old and suddenly it dawned on me: I have thighs. At nine, I had legs. Like everyone else on the planet, male, female, adult, child. But now, at 10, the same age I developed my first crush on a boy, I realized I didn’t have legs. I had thighs. And I didn’t like them. Add into the mix that with puberty came body hair, and now my thighs were not only too big, they were too hairy, and I, an introvert who very easily falls prey to shame, was doomed. I hid my thighs, I hid my spirit—and so began my teenage years.
"I hid my thighs, I hid my spirit—and so began my teenage years."
From that point on, subtly hating my body started impacting my decisions. When I started a new school in ninth grade, I was given an option: dance or PE. Even though I loved music and dance was intriguing, one small fact got in the way: dance required wearing a leotard, which required exposing said thighs. I said no, and chose PE, and followed that up with a few years of basketball, which I hated and was terrible at. All because I didn’t want my thighs to see the light of day.
And the micro decisions continued. Choosing a one piece instead of a bikini. Slouching forward instead of standing straight. Avoiding being photographed from certain angles to hide my weak chin. Wearing a low-cut blouse because my boobs were amazing to distract from other parts of my body. Did my friends and family know I didn’t love myself? No way. Most reading this will probably be surprised to hear I felt this way at all. Because it wasn’t overt. It was subtle. And as a result, this pattern of feeling less than dangerously continued, undetected for weeks and years and decades.
The thing is, my thighs were never a problem for the outside world.
My own subjective self-judgment was enough to condemn myself to 25 years of feeling unworthy, unwanted, unlovable. And we all know where the unlovable go to seek out love: in precisely all the wrong places.
"And we all know where the unlovable go to seek out love: in precisely all the wrong places."
After having twin girls in 2012, I came to realize just how beautiful my body had been back then. In my twenties, I was 25 pounds thinner, my thighs svelte, my stomach flat, my lean, strong, and flexible body able to fit in a size 2 or 4, no problem. But back then, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have the elusive thigh gap, there was always someone around who was thinner, and I never, not for one moment, paused to relish my healthy, profoundly graceful, and covet-worthy body.
So while having my daughters helped me appreciate the body I had, getting pregnant again and having my son five years later finally helped me appreciate the body I have. And this time, it was about so much more than what it looked like.
It was during my second c-section that I felt intense pain for the first time in my life. They say you don’t feel anything, thanks to the epidural and drugs they pump you with before operating, but that was not my experience. It was excruciating. I screamed in pain until they gave me morphine to get me through. It took me months to be able to walk again without pain. And yet, here I am, eighteen months later: no pain, no leftover baby weight, no lingering issues after being pulled apart and put back together like a raggedy Ann doll.
"I’ve learned that loving my body has nothing to do with what it looks like, and everything to do with what it is: absolute magic."
So now, I’ve learned that loving my body has nothing to do with what it looks like, and everything to do with what it is: absolute magic. My body is strong. My body is healthy. My body has recovered from being pushed to the brink in so many different ways. I love my body for its forgiveness. For its resilience. For its absolute splendor as it carries me from moment to moment, feeling to feeling, place to place. My love comes from a place of intense awareness and profound gratitude. My eyes are finally open - not only to the flaws that guided my adolescence - but to the assets that have defined my adulthood. A trillion cells working in perfect harmony so I can write this to you. What’s not to love? It's not that I don't see the parts of my body that have always bothered me. I do. I just see them through a different lens.
And so now, with two daughters and a son to raise, I’m faced with a decision: Do I continue to hate aspects of my body and pass on to my children a legacy of self-loathing? Or do I have gratitude for it - all of it?
"Do I love every inch, so that they will love every inch, regardless of how many inches it is we’re talking about?"
Do I love every inch, so that they will love every inch, regardless of how many inches it is we’re talking about?
Yes. From head to toe, from skin to soul, yes. While none of it is perfect, all of it is mine. And I love it. I only wish I learned to love it sooner.
Picture: me while pregnant with Teddy in 2018... when I finally realized my profile isn't that bad after all.