What I wish I’d known Decades Ago about my Body.

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A post shared by ecofolks (@ecofolks) on

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
~ “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver

~

For decades, I loathed my body.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it started—my girlhood slide from embodiment to war.

It’s a stale story, familiar to many: the collection of small scraps of harsh words and the looming, omnipresent messages that swirled into a giant mass of you’re not good enough.

Your butt’s too big. Your boobs are too small. You should be taller, smaller, curvier, more muscular, and you shouldn’t stick your chin out. For years, I believed these lies. I believed the boy in history class who wrote me a note saying I was flat-chested. I believed the magazines, the models, the mothers and grandmothers. Mostly, I believed the mirror. I clutched these slivers of evidence, held them in a dark corner, and let them rain down on me constantly.

And I plotted my escape: I’d change the way I ate and exercise more. I’d cut out carbs or fats, dairy or bread. I’d run or do aerobics, lift weights or pedal the exercise bike to nowhere.

Then, inevitably, I’d fall into food. After the brief sliver of comfort, the cycle would begin again.

Eat, loathe, plot, and obsess. Rinse and repeat. This was my heartbeat, my faithful orbit, for years.

I also can’t nail down the moment the loathing ebbed. I don’t have the perfectly curated recipe to move from self-loathing to self-love—it sidled up to me.

Over time, my inner voices have softened and sweetened. Maybe it was the years of 12-step programs I attended for my food issues or the countless therapy sessions. Maybe it’s getting older, the message we change, we change, we change sinking its seething wisdom into my blood and bones. Or maybe it was becoming a mother, witnessing the life-giving power of my own body, the strength and force and creation. It was having a daughter, and wanting to spare her the pain of hating her own skin.

Whatever magic returned me to myself, I’m so grateful.

I still have slips, moments when I scowl at the mirror. But most days, my inner voice is soft and motherly. I take in the wild silver hairs that sprout from the crown of my head. The fine lines etched around my mouth, between my eyebrows, that gentle loosening of my neck.

How can I do anything but melt toward myself? Toward this body that has sparked and cradled and birthed and fed my two beautiful babies? That tastes and holds and hikes, that loves and lets go? This body that I’ve come to love and protect like a beloved child. This body that will grow older and die. How can I not meet my own impermanence with a wide and aching tenderness?

I refuse to collect any more years of regret. I refuse to not soak in my own beauty.

Life is hard enough without railing against our own skin—we are here to soften toward ourselves and to each other. We are here to learn that real life and love occur in the imperfections, in the cracks and messiness.

Sometimes I think of my younger self. Her skin so smooth and supple. She didn’t know how lovely she was. And I wish I could whisper this to her:

You are like a tree, growing into yourself. You’ll keep stretching; your perspective will shiver and shift. You are rough bark and leafy tendrils, you are beautiful because you exist—because just for now, you are here. Your life won’t start when you carve yourself into some smaller shape: it starts now, and now, and now.

 

author: Lynn Shattuck

Image: Ecofolks on Instagram

Image: Pixabay

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 9.8
Shares 8.6
Hearts 10
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 10
Total Ecosystem Rating 9.0
78 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.
6
3.5k
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Allison Banbury Feb 8, 2019 1:48pm

Wow…it’s like you’re inside my head. This is perfect, and something I particularly needed on this day. Thank you for your words.

Katie Schultz Feb 8, 2019 10:17am

This is beautiful, thank you <3

sonyaanneboo Feb 6, 2019 12:57am

Oh my gosh…..such a true from the heart writing…..I so so so relate to this????Thankyou Lynn

Amy Taylor Feb 5, 2019 8:18pm

This is beautiful, Lynn! It really resonates with me x

Jessica Ruff Feb 5, 2019 6:38am

Thank you for this, Lynn. I struggle with body image and the tyranny of the scale everyday and it helps me to remember that I am not alone in this struggle. I fantasize about a life where I don’t worry so much about how I appear to others, the size of my body, the amount of calories I eat, and the amount I burn in exercise. It’s a process and I think I’m getting better at accepting my body for what it is, even if it doesn’t look like the fitness models in the magazines. I think I’m slowly starting to let go of all the messages I absorbed as a child about what the female body is “supposed” to be. And reading your words today and remembering that there is a sisterhood of support helps tremendously, so thank you.

    Lynn Shattuck Feb 5, 2019 8:14am

    Thank you, Jessica. I’m sorry you’re dealing with these issues, but glad you realize you’re not alone. I hope these struggles ease for you as they have for me. <3

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Lynn Shattuck

Lynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. She blogs about parenting, imperfection, spirit, and truth telling—you can connect with her through her website or find her on Facebook.