I am 33 years old. Depending on the scales and the day, I weigh between 125-130 pounds. I consistently wear a size four.
But I’m not happy with myself because my thighs touch.
I have wonderful parents, fabulous siblings, good friends.
But I fixate on the stretch marks across my back.
I’ve been married for seven years to a man I still love .
I love my in-laws. I have an amazing relationship with my mother.
But my waist isn’t as narrow as it used to be.
I have both a Bachelors and a Masters degree. Until recently, I was a successful high school English teacher and I loved my job.
But my work pants don’t fit as well as they used to.
I have an amazing two and a half year old son, and we hope to add one more little one to our family in the near future.
But what if I can’t lose the baby weight next time?
Once my children are in school, I fully expect to be a successful high school English teacher again. In the mean time, I’m lucky to be able to stay home with our son because my husband is able to provide for us through his education and career.
But, more frequently than I’d like to admit, I don’t count my blessings as often as I count the rolls on my stomach. Even though I know my value is not found in my thighs or my stomach and even though no one else scrutinizes my stretch marks and even though my body is a masterpiece in my Creator’s eyes, I still pick and obsess and put myself down.
You know that scene in Mean Girls, the one where each character complains about some hideous, arbitrary part of her body that doesn’t measure up? I used to teach that movie to my college level seniors (then I’d make them write an exploratory research paper on it; I told you I loved my job!). Every year, that scene was a favorite- everyone laughed and discussed society’s unhealthy expectations and body dysmorphia. But as the actual adult in the room, I knew something that my students didn’t ; these moments of criticism don’t go away when you graduate high school or even college. I live that scene at least three times a month; the only difference is that I’m the only one in the room. Maybe it’s society. I’d like to blame it on something. But I can’t remember hearing anyone say I needed to look like a cover model , or I needed to be a certain size in order to speak or hold value in public. I’ve never been taught that I would lose my friends if my thighs touched. My husband has never even hinted he’d love me more (or buy me cable ) if I had wash board abs. My son certainly doesn’t care, or even realize, that I am softer than I was three years ago. Instead of counting my body’s achievements, I made a PERSON! A living, breathing, crying person ; then, I fed that person – with my body, but I count my flaws. Instead of rejoicing that I have ample clothing and food , I scrutinize the way my hips look in certain pants and I fret over the fat in my pantry.
Again, I am loved. I love people. I have such a good life. But my thighs touch. My stomach folds over itself when I sit down. There are stretch marks on my back. Even as a (most of the time) rational adult, I have trouble focusing on what actually matters.
I know this is a popular topic right now, and pieces like this are easy to come by. That doesn’t make this one any less important.
I could resolve to love my body more and focus on the amazing feats my body accomplishes daily— and I’ll try. But realistically, I’ll still compare my legs to yours if we meet in person. I could vow to run or practice yoga daily, but again, realistically, I hate running, and my toddler sees yoga as an opportunity to “ride Mama horse” so that doesn’t always pan out. I could even swear I’ll stop eating ice cream, and I will – but only because we are out of it. I could be healthier and for the sake of my son, I’d like to show him a life where fitness is routine not drudgery. But for me, none of these vows work because the problem isn’t actually my body, the problem is how I see myself.
Here is my actual promise that I can keep: I can be honest. I can tell you that I struggle with this and it embarrasses me because I am supposed to be above the struggle for “thinness”. I can tell you that some days, even when it’s hot, I wear jeans because I can’t stand how I look in my shorts. I can even tell you that some days, getting dressed is discouraging enough that I want to crawl back into bed.
And you can do the same because women, especially, find strength in solidarity. And we can be gentle with each other, and encourage each other to see what actually matters. Every negative observation we make about ourselves, can be turned around to say, “Yes, but…..”
“Yes, but—your husband can’t keep his hands off you.”
“Yes, but—you just got that promotion.”
“Yes, but—look at how much your children love you.”
“Yes, but—you are my friend and I think you are perfect.”
“Yes, but…” could be our battle cry. “Yes, but…” could drown out the negative until the positive floats.