The other day in the gym locker room, one of my friends from spin class was talking about her body. I just feel gross, she said. It’s like my stomach is ten times bigger. And then she caught herself, looking to me with a side-eyed glance. “But you never feel that way, right?”
Oh girl. I love you for saying that.
The fact that anyone would say that to me is almost laughable. Because years ago, that was ALL I could talk, think, or feel about.
You’ve gotten fat.
Your stomach poofs out.
Your legs are stumpy.
Your legs are so stumpy.
During those years, I was so insanely tied to the view I had in the mirror vs. what I saw when I looked down vs. how I’d look in photographs. I clung on to “good” pictures for dear life and scrutinized the rest of them looking for “off”-details. You know, the thing or things that were horribly wrong, the things I could notice and degrade before anyone else could hurt my feelings. I have these flaws, I thought. Better I find them myself before someone else does.
My “thing” has always been my legs. Well, my chest and my legs, but that’s another post for another day. My legs inhibit me, I’ve always felt. They’re the things that don’t belong – like one of those mix-and-match toys that existed in the late ’80s; the kinds where you could put the horse’s head on the lion’s body and give it dinosaur legs and an elephant tail.
I didn’t ever h*te them per se, but I was aware of the way they seemingly threw off my look, my long torso and my athletic curves (which also seemed oxymoronish, as most athletes and fitness pros I’d see were way more defined and narrow than I was).
And so I hid. I hid my legs under black leggings and dark denim, under maxi dresses and sweatpants, anything to draw the eyes up and detract from my stumpies. Dress Right For Your Type! the magazines would tell me. And yet it seemed like no type was my type; I wasn’t an extreme but wasn’t somewhere in between.
I did go through a brief phase of skipping around town in the shortest shorts I could find, a time in which I hadn’t yet hit that “second-puberty” (totally made up that phrase) most women I’ve talked to experience sometime around 25, when your body decides it’s really ready to become an adult. And then it hit, and my body started to change again – and I hid.
It’s usually way easier to pin our vague feelings of discontent/fear/distrust/anger/grief in life on something concrete that’s on our body, something external that we feel we “can’t” change. Because if we can’t change it, we’re eternally flawed, we’re eternally a victim. We’re eternally striving, eternally searching, eternally yearning for something we cannot have. Because who are we to have it all? If we pinpoint a part of our body to demean and bemoan, then we can’t. We never will. And that’s darkly comforting. It makes all the other loss a little easier.
Moving forward fearlessly past these self-imposed roadblocks takes an action step that’s hard to act on: consciously going against the grain you’ve set and literally baring it all, out in the open.
For you, maybe that means wearing a body-hugging dress or a shoulder-baring tank top. Maybe it means you let go of the bracelets that handcuff and hide your wrists. Maybe it means going makeup-free.
For me, it means shorts.
In the last couple years, I’ve integrated colored leggings into my wardrobe. After that came the prints – then the skinny jeans, then the white ones. One time, I even wore cutoffs.
And, finally, a couple months back, after years of hiding, I posted this on my Instagram, with this caption:
“In honor of the greatest love of all – #selflove – I did something kind of huge-for-me this weekend: I wore shorts. My legs have always been a self-conscious spot for me, ever since 5th grade when my body started to change. There WAS a time there for a split second that I wore them loud and proud. During that time, I would always wear shorts to work out, would bop down the street in cut-offs like it was no big thing.
But then sometime around my earlymid twenties, my legmorphia kicked back in full-force and I hid them under jeans, leggings, and dresses as to create illusions and disguise their shape. Thinking back on it, that’s the time I stopped going to the beach as much, playing in the sun, giving myself permission to lay by a pool and read – doing things in which showing your legs is just what you do. They became unfamiliar-looking appendages, “stumpy” (so mean, kt!!) limbs that were super strong and capable but just didn’t seem to fit the rest of my body.
Fast forward to this past year. I have reached a point of IMMENSE love for my legs, but still couldn’t bring myself to slip on a pair of short-shorts to take a run. A little part of fear lingered – what if that feeling of shame and loathing comes back? What if my confidence and pride is really misguided and I should really be “getting down to work” sculpting my body to fit some mold I should fit into by now? – I had separated myself from my legs so much that I didn’t even know how I’d react to them.
But when I put on the shorts, I realized I am no better or worse with them on. *They are just shorts.* I am still the person I am proud of, the body I inhabit with love…just with shorts on. I’ve gotten a lot of great work done this weekend. And yet this small-but-huge accomplishment is the thing I’m most proud of.
Ignorance is never bliss; self-knowledge is ALWAYS power. Make a vow to know your body. Give those self-consciousy parts some EXTRA love. They just want to love you back. Click To Tweet
Baring it all isn’t about getting validation from others or proving a point to the world. It’s about feeling the flutter of fear and doing it anyway. It’s about realizing that you are no better or worse for baring it all – you are just you.
It’s about taking the power away from the external perception and feeling okay with it all, even if sometimes you do feel not-so-good. It’s about knowing that that feeling will pass, because it’s passed before.
Because once you are able to feel powerful as all of who you are – not as some of who you are, or powerful under certain x-y-z conditions – that’s when you’re able to make the greatest strides in the rest of your life. Because you’re not clinging to self-imposed limitations anymore to set the tone for what you will and will not do.Because life is too short not to wear shorts. Click To Tweet
As we enter into the rest of this month, and the rest of this year, I urge you to try going a day, a week, maybe just an hour, and wear (or do) something that shows some love to those parts of yourself you’ve discombobulated in your brain. Wear the shorts. Lose the sleeves. Slip into sandals. Leave a comment and tell us how it goes. Post a pic on Instagram if you’d like to share, and use the hashtags #selfieempowerment and #WANTyourself. (<-there’s your WANT Yourself Action Plan for the week right there)
Ignorance is never bliss - self-knowledge is the greatest power. Click To Tweet
I still wear dark denim and black leggings but I’m not hiding anymore. No matter how many people you might look to for validation or an uplifting turn of phrase, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks if you don’t show yourself that kindness first and foremost.
Make a vow to get to know your body – every inch – and show those self-conscious, [fill-in-the-blank]-morphic parts some extra love. They won’t let you down and they won’t disappoint. They really just want to love you back.