Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why I'm Done With The "F" Word

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed.  And you are beautiful.  -Amy Bloom

People often say that ' beauty is in the eye of the beholder ,' and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.   -Salma Hayek

The older I get, the more dissatisfied I get with my body.  No matter how thin I am, I always feel like I should be thinner.  Or my hair should be longer.  Or shorter.  Or maybe I should be more tan.  Less pale.  I've never thought of myself as a superficial person, but when I think of my flaws, I certainly feel like there is so much of my physical self that I'm unhappy with.  I don't know why this is.  It seems to me that most women become more confident and less critical of their bodies as they age.  Not me.  After each of my children was born, I had a goal weight that I tried to get down to.  Breastfeeding helped me tremendously, and I always achieved my goal.  And it wasn't even hard.  And once I was there, at that magic number which I had arbitrarily chosen at some point along with way, I expected to feel a sense of accomplishment.  True happiness.  To feel complete.  Worthy.  Beautiful.  And each time I reached my magic number, I found myself just as unhappy with my body as I'd always been.  So I'd decide that if I just lost five more pounds, then I'd be happy with my body.  But I wasn't.  And I'm still not.

I have never really looked at my post-baby body with any feeling but dissatisfaction.  I don't see it as the amazing vessel that it is.  The body that grew from a little baby into a strong, healthy woman.  The body that carried me through a young marriage, a lonely divorce, and then led me into the arms of my soul mate. The body that conceived, carried, and gave birth to three marvelous little beings.  The body that fed each of those children all on its own for the first year of their lives.  The body that has given as much of itself as it can to those people ever since.  The body that survived those early years on little sleep.  The body that plays horsey, chases, flips, tickles, twists, and swings until their hearts are content.  The body that worries everyday over the impact of every decision.  The body that cuddles them, soothing every hurt.  The body that carries the burden of creating fulfilling lives for those children all upon itself.  The body that loves the people around me and lives to make them as happy as they can be.  The body has yet to fail me, no matter how much I ask of it.

Instead, I look at this body, and I tear it apart.  Every single day.  I see curves and lumps, where I want there to be muscle and bone.  I see wrinkles and sags where taut skin ought to be.  I see the stripes from carrying three large babies in a small frame.  I see the skin that has never quite gone back to the way it used to be.  I see the effects of nursing those children, how little of what I used to be is left.  When I sit, I feel my skin spill over my jeans in a way that it never did before I carried my children.  And with each flaw I pick out, I call my body the most hateful of words.  Usually just in my head.  But sometimes aloud.  Ugly.  Disgusting.  Fat.  Sometimes I spell it out, F-A-T, just so my girls won't know what I'm saying.  The way I talk about my body is not the way I would speak of anyone else's.  I teach my children that it's not nice to call people names, or to say someone is fat.  But I do it to myself every day.  

The people I love don't see me this way.  My husband loves the way my body looks.  My children often say I am cool, or pretty, or nuzzle up to me and tell me I'm soft.  They see me and my body, and they love what they see.  They don't see flaws;  they see a woman who loves them and gives herself to them and comforts them.  And they think that woman is just right the way she is.  I know in my heart that my body deserves more respect from me than I'm giving it.  My body is an incredible vehicle in which to experience my beautiful life.  And it is mine.  No one is going to respect it, if I don't respect it first.  I have to do it for myself,  and I've got to do it for my girls.  I know that they will treat their bodies the way they see me treat mine.  And I want them to like themselves, to love themselves.  Their whole selves.  Mind and body.  Today is a new start for me.  The day I start to see my body through a new set of eyes.  The eyes of my daughters.

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