I have a confession.
I hate my body.
Summer has arrived and we have cycled back through another wave of sticky heat, and I dread the clothing options that come with it. I have found myself looking at cute tanks online, flowy ones that are meant to flatter, but I cannot bring myself to spend money on them. We live in such a culture right now of body positivity, and I cheer for others that feel empowered and embrace said culture, allowing themselves the freedom to wear what they so choose unapologetically. But I cheer from the sidelines, then cover up as much as I can stand and retreat back into hiding.
I haven’t always felt this way, though most of what I can remember about my existence has been wrapped up in a merry-go-round of wishful thinking. There have been a few chunks of time where I felt beautiful in my own skin, however, those moments were usually accompanied by unhealthy habits. One time I had a stint where I was so overcome for months with anxiety about other major life changes that I could barely eat. During this time my mom took me aside one day along with my grandmother and aunt to tell me that I was looking “too thin” for my frame and they wanted to be sure I was okay. I laughed it off, but deep down I was proud my weight loss was so apparent. Where I am now though is so far from that woman I once was. My postpartum body has become unrecognizable to me. Once upon a time I worked very hard to be thin and enjoyed the way my hipbones stuck out slightly and my collarbone was apparent in every photo I was in. I have hips, but a smaller waist, and I reveled in hearing about how flattering my hourglass shape was. I fit just right into my husband when we were dating, and his height and build complimented mine in a way two puzzle pieces do, with grooves that are made just for each other. But once we had children, the grooves no longer complemented one another. He still holds me the same, but I am very aware of how different it is now. I know that I should appreciate my body and the gift of being able to bear children, but I really don’t. I know there are women who would give anything to have those white lines drawn across their abdomen or loose skin as visual proof that a child slept there in utero, but I don’t know how to love the parts of me that I avoid every time I glance in the mirror.
The other day I noticed a specific commercial for shapewear on replay. It begins with a woman in a dress, clearly far too small for her, and she hangs her head with shame as she stands in front of a mirror. With the snap of a finger, she has on the product, and lo and behold she looks 30 pounds thinner. I thought to myself how I had never seen a similar commercial for men. Ever. My husband may have parts of himself he isn’t super comfortable with, but never in a million years would he wear anything like shapewear. And yet, women do it daily. So much of our routines revolve around our looks: skincare, makeup, clothing, check, check, check. I’m not criticizing: I am full-blown hooked into all of it. I fell down that rabbit hole long ago, and will likely never be able to climb out even if I wanted to. The question stands though: how are we supposed to flaunt our “flaws” when everything we see or discuss is about us becoming prettier. Thinner. More acceptable? I wish I had some insight or explanation but I’m not even sure this is one.
I hope one day I can embrace the imperfections. It is an unpopular opinion to do otherwise, but just maybe there are more women in my shoes (or shapewear) than society collectively realizes. The tug of war is a struggle, and frankly, I just want to put down the rope and walk away….though I would prefer to do it wholeheartedly instead of a moment of triumph that is instantly regretted.