I used to be paranoid about my body.
I was the person at the public pool who threw off their towel at the last second and dunked under the water before anyone could see them. I avoided getting dressed in front of the mirror, as I disliked the vision looking back at me. I wouldn’t even let my spouse see me without my clothes on.
To me, my body was the scene of wrinkles, sagging skin and too many flaws to count. I had my nose broken as a child, and I’ve lived my entire 41 years with it pointing to the left. I forget about it until I see pictures, and then am again reminded of another shameful part of myself. Because of this issue, I hate having pictures taken of me.
I was the child who quit participating in sports, as well as band and choir, for fear of having to be on stage in front of others. I always feared that people were looking at me and judging my every move—when in reality they were all just watching their own children happily carrying on normal teenaged activities.
When I raised my girls, I made sure to tell them how beautiful they were throughout the years. I saw them go through awkward stages and reassured them that they were perfect, no matter what others said. The problem? As I was coaxing them into believing that they were amazing women in the making, they were watching their mother suffer from her own insecurities. They could tell by my constant running and wearing baggy clothing that I was not happy with my reflection in the mirror.
It’s sad that we’re living in a world where television shows, movies and even commercials are filled with “perfectly-built” supermodels. It’s confusing for us “normal” individuals who are struggling to accept our imperfections.
After over 12 years of daily running, my thighs still don’t look like a swimsuit model’s—and never will. I could do squats and lunges for days in a row and would still have extra skin from the weight I gained during my three pregnancies.
One afternoon after going for a long run, I came to the conclusion that instead of constantly trying to keep up with the elite athletes and supermodels of the world, I needed to embrace my body for what it is.
Yes, like most women who have had children, I have a sagging lower stomach when I bend over. Instead of always covering it up—even when I’m alone getting dressed—I need to view that area as the place where I carried three beautiful girls. That’s the place where I loved and nourished their growing bodies before birth. That is also where I bear a huge scar from having gone through a hysterectomy after a cancer scare years later. Instead of seeing an ugly mark on my body, I need to recognize that I’m a survivor—and it’s a battle scar.
As for my laugh lines, I’ve stopped covering them with makeup before I go to the gym every morning in fear that the others will see my aging face. Those lines come from all of the laughs I’ve shared with friends and family over the years. So I don’t resemble a 20-year-old anymore. I don’t want to be that age, either. I’ve embraced my 40s, and I’m happier now than I’ve been in years—so why not show it off without fear or regret?
During this time of reflection and acceptance, I have also decided to compliment people more. I know that nothing makes me happier than receiving them, so lately I’ve been dishing out compliments to other women on a regular basis. Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face more than a few kind words.
I realized that I’m only one of millions of women struggling with body image, stuck trying to ward off aging when we should be embracing it.
Every scar, wrinkle and imperfection on my body has a story. It makes me who I am.
I challenge every woman to do this:
Really look at yourself in the mirror, and instead of worrying about the body parts that you used to dislike, try looking at them in a different sense. Once I started accepting the “true” me, I became a much happier person. I’ve always been proud of who I am on the inside, and now I can finally say that I’m just as at peace with my reflection in the mirror. I no longer shy away from looking at it.
I’m embracing my flaws now. They tell my life story—a story that may have been tough, but has made me the beautiful person I am today.
Author: Jill Carr
Photo: Author’s Own
Editor: Toby Israel