Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Body Image: For real!

Body Image:

Blah... I think from the moment in 7th grade when my crush looked up at me and said "Wow Cara, only in 7th grade and already have a double chin hu?" I have had a poor view of my body image. ... I shouldn't have let it affect me like that, but I did. It was just the beginning of realizing I didn't fit the "mold"
This is a hard post for me to write about... BUT- I know that we as women and even men struggle with this, So, I'll just put myself out there! "Take one for the team!" :)
The other day, I was getting ready to go to the store and I was frustrated with the way my clothes were fitting. Ben will be 7 months old soon and I still felt huge. I sucked in a bit and smoothed out my shirt as I did my usual subconscious nip and tuck in my mind.. when I realized what I was doing! I was staring at my body while comparing it to my body I had in high school! Now, I'm not saying it's not possible to loose the weight... but I'm certain that in high school, I did the same thing- looking in the mirror feeling huge and unattractive.
"What's the deal with that?  Why do I do this to myself??" I thought. I reminded myself that I have had 3 babies and that I hadn't been exercising, so this is what it is. It wasn't that I was trying to justify, it was just me being REAL with myself. I don't think I've been "REAL" to myself while looking in the mirror since age 12. (I know, sounds ridiculous, but true). Then I did something. It's simple and I'm pretty sure nothing novel, but I looked at myself in the mirror as if I was seeing someone else. I looked at myself as I would look at a stranger, and you know what? All of a sudden I didn't look so bad!
It was so L I B E R A T I N G!
I saw myself in a whole new light. I saw who I was instead of what I needed to do to get where I thought I needed to be. This may sound really strange, or  maybe you can relate.... but it was if I was looking at a different person! I hadn't seen ME in so long, I actually felt like someone else was in the mirror. It was a really eye opening experience... literally! I looked at my eyes, the ones that I always wished were larger and more catching... but I saw my small eyes with barely any sight of eyelid... and I actually liked them. I went through my features and I felt "OK" with myself for the first time in a really really long time! I vowed right then and there to accept myself for who I was. I didn't want to "hide" anymore. From myself, or anyone else. This was my body! I needed to love it, I needed to show my kids that so they wouldn't acquire my complexes. I felt so good.
Thennnnn..... I went to Saint George.
I love that place. It is like a 2nd home to me. My parents own a condo there and we have visited almost my entire life. It has a very retro feel to it, and thankfully for the condo, mirrors and coral colored everything seems to be back! :) The condo has an INSANE amount of  mirrors.
(This isn't the condo, but imagine this in every room, in the hallway, in the entry way and bathrooms.) 
Mirror closets, full mirror walls in the bathrooms and showers, mirrors for the door for the laundry room.. MIRRORS everywhere.
I quickly regressed and was sick with the way I looked.
I felt like hiding.
I quickly had a little pep talk with myself and I decided I obviously needed to loose weight and that I was not going to allow the goal to only be to "look good"... Appearances are important, but there was so much more to me then being pleasing to look at.
 I thought back to an experience my SIL shared with me about her 7 year old daughter who already started having body image issues....What she had said to her daughter turned on a light switch for me. It was a tender moment I didn't want to slaughter with trying to re-tell, so I asked her to type out the experience so I could share it here......

"A while back my super confident and bubbly daughter was having a rough day. After talking for a while, I finally got to the root of her problem. My beautiful, tall, gorgeous 7-year old daughter was worried that her thighs were too big. The moment I had been dreading as a mother of 3 girls had come...the moment when my girl started doubting herself and comparing herself to the worlds standard of beautiful. The worst part was...I could completely relate to what she was saying. I remember in kindergarten being teased about being fat...those things always stay with you. Even when I was fresh out of high school and wearing a size 0, I still always thought of myself as a "bigger" girl. Now my daughter was beginning to think about these things and compare herself to other girls, it nearly made me sick to my stomach. Thank goodness...I have learned a few things since those kindergarten days, and I felt impressed to
to share a few things that have helped me in my quest to appreciate this body that I have been blessed with. I told her to take a good look at my thighs. "Do you think I have really skinny legs?" I asked her. The answer was OBVIOUSLY no   Then I went on to say, "You are right! I do NOT have skinny legs. But you know what? These legs are STRONG. They are getting stronger every time that I go running, and my muscles are getting bigger, and I am getting closer and closer to achieving a goal that I have worked really hard towards. That is what I see when I look at these legs." Then we talked about my tummy. It's not a perfectly flat stomach...and lets face it, after 5 babies it probably never will be  But it is a stomach that safely carried 5 beautiful children until they were strong enough to come into this world. I am grateful now that we had that experience. It was not only a wonderful teaching moment for me and my daughter, but a wonderful reminder to ME of how blessed I am to have the body that I do. Throughout 4 of my 5 pregnancies I have spent significant amounts of time on bedrest, unable to do even the smallest of tasks for myself. Each time it happens, I am always reminded of what a tremendous blessing this jiggly, saggy body of mine is. I may not fit into those skinny jeans (YET!;) but I can play duck, duck goose with my kids. I may not be ready for swimsuit season, but I am getting closer and closer to running a half marathon in September. I may fall short of the worlds definition of beauty or skinny, but I want my kids to know every single pound, stretch mark and dimple was worth it!"

-Tonii Johnson "Blue Skies Ahead"

Isn't that wonderful? I love the concept of ability rather then looks. Being grateful for what our bodies have the capacity to DO rather then how we can appear to ourselves and others.
Outward beauty is just that - BEAUTIFUL. But beauty is a broad word because we are all different. Beautiful doesn't have to mean the same thing for everyone. I feel like focusing more on developing ourselves to our capacity will bring a confidence that will scream beauty.

This is a hard subject for me, but I don't want it to be. What are your thoughts and observations? How do we get our minds out of the habits of insecurity in our image? How do we allow ourselves to look how we REALLY look without always having a "project" for our various features to make them look they way "beautiful" has been defined in our culture? I want us all to get out of this never reaching mindset. I'd really love to know your thoughts on this! :)


Missy said...

I love this!!! Being pregnant and reading this has made me realize that i even look at myself different at this stage in my life because clothes and things are fitting different than the last time I was carrying a child. I have a way I would love to look in the future. If it happens great! If not I'll just have to deal with the results I get. I'm have curves and I think I have finally grown to accept such a thing. But 10 years ago I hated them. Thanks for sharing Cara & Tonii!!!

Nicole said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cara. And, I love the picture of the fruit! For a young women's activity next month I will be teaching about body image/health/self esteem/perspective/individual worth/eating disorder/healthy diets etc. I am trying to figure out how to cover all of this and not bore them. I feel a bit overwhelmed. I definitely think I want to use your fruit picture though!

Cara and Mike said...

Missy! I am so glad you liked this post, I actually typed it up almost a month ago but was nervous to post it, so I'm glad you like it :) Congratulations again on your pregnancy! :)
Nicole! I love that picture too! I found it through google images :). Good luck with your lesson, we all know how much youth (and adults.. and heck, even children) need to learn about it. It's like we already know, we just need to be reminded. Thanks for your comments! They mean so much to me :)

Adria said...

This is such a great post Cara! Thanks for sharing!