Vulnerability Series: Body

This morning I had the privilege to read a guest post on my friend Susan’s blog discussing body image.  I have touched before on my issues dealing with self esteem and negative body image, but I don’t know if I have ever intimately shared with my readers how these issues began.  I still don’t know exactly how they began, but I would say it had something to do with hitting puberty at the ripe old age of…10.

I was the first girl in my group of friends to menstruate, grow a set of boobs, notice hair growing in odd places, and finding out (embarrassingly – by a fellow student telling me I basically stank) that I needed to begin using deodorant.  It was a rough time for me.  None of my other friends were going through these changes, and I was awkward.  I was always a bit of a tomboy with short hair, wanting to play boy’s games, and getting messy.  The boys began picking on me, to the point where I even had to request parent teacher conferences.  I wore things that made me a target for bullying, and I remember spending many nights crying on my Mom’s shoulder.

Middle school was no better, but I grew my hair out, began wearing makeup, and took to more girlier fashions.  Boys entered the picture not as the bullies, but as guys that could potentially offer me their affections.  Dating wasn’t yet allowed for me, but that didn’t stop me from seeking out boys attention, in the wrong way.  By then, the other gals had caught up with me, which meant we were ALL moody, menstrual, and pining after the same boys.  It was a nightmare.  I gained some good friends, said many wrong things to other friends, and continued the awkwardness.

By high school, my hair was again short, but my circle of friends became closer as I became more involved with church (crushing on the good church boys instead of the annoying middle school boys) and I found solace in my band geek buddies.  While being a freshman was no charm, I grew into my skin.  Before I turned 16, I lost some of my chubbiness and developed into a more graceful LOOKING (I’ve always been klutzy) woman.  I began dating, and my body image relied a lot on what guys thought of me.

When I was 16, I also experienced a big change in my body: developing of ovarian cysts.  I was at work when I first experienced the pain of a cyst bursting in my abdomen.  It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and after the first one burst, and then pains continued monthly, I went on birth control to prevent cysts from ever forming.  Whether it be change in diet, activity, or the fact that I went on birth control, I gained 100 pounds over the next 6 years.  This did nothing for my body image.

Since I was 16, I have battled hard with being an overweight woman.  I have yo-yoed between 50 pound increments, and whenever I lose a few pounds, life happens, I eat to feel better, and I gain it back.  The bulges that are now my body are unwelcome to me, and most days, I feel pretty damn uncomfortable in my own skin.

While I have come to love my personality and the woman INSIDE that I have become, I still struggle with how I look and feel on the outside, and how this affects my overall health: physically, mentally, spiritually.  I want to love this person, however I change and morph.  It’s difficult to love something you have loathed for so long.

It’s hard for me to understand my weight: I love to eat, and I don’t always eat well.  But I know that there are other circumstances that have led to my weight issues, things that are out of my control.  What do I do about those?

My body image issues were of no help to me after Kevin died, the “one” man on this earth who really loved me for all of me, lumps and all!  Now I know it’s not just him who can love me, now I have another man who loves me for me.  But this isn’t what matters.  I need to love me for me, despite what comes and goes in my life, and that’s really really difficult.

Today, I continue on with medication, and despite my efforts to wean off and live comfortably without them, my cysts have not let that happen.  I have to deal with what my body is giving me, and the challenges it gives me.  Taking care of myself helps me love myself more, so that’s where I need to begin.

Whether awkward girl:

Freshman Year of High School-Braces & Short Hair

Or “New” Woman: Photo Shoot - April '11

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Comments 2

  1. Ohmygosh, I had a very similar haircut!

  2. Oh Brenda, this post touched me so much. I can identify with your background; I too began developing around ages 9 and 10. I was the only 4th/5th grader getting her period, boobs, etc. I wasn’t teased so much, but I was made the subject of much unwanted sexual attention by males both young and old. It is something that has deeply affected me and still has its influences on my sexuality and self-esteem to this day.

    As a widow, it is already a struggle to redefine ourselves and our personal image in the wake of tragedy. We lose part of our identity when we lose our spouse, and along with having to recreate our personal identity also comes the all-to-familiar personal issues we have always struggled with.

    While I know it is a personal battle to fight within, I hope this will help in some small way: you are beautiful, inside AND outside. Your passion and liveliness radiate from you, and with that and your gorgeous smile, how could you NOT be beautiful? I hope that, with time, what you see looking back at you in the mirror will begin to match what others see: an amazing woman.

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