I’ve used it. The #bodypositive hashtag. It had been a good, but emotionally tough weekend, and when I dolled myself up one night when my husband and I were out of town, I felt pretty. I felt good about myself and my physical presence which is something I have struggled with embracing my entire life. But it did require the “dolling up” part which means I haven’t really figured out anything when it comes to accepting my body.
The thing I’ve noticed about the #bodypositive mantra is that I typically see Moms using it most. In fact, of my personal acquaintances who have used it, I can’t think of any who aren’t Moms…and this is where the separation begins. Because according to most women I have encountered using the body positive mantra, they’ve earned their body – specifically through childbirth. The stretch marks only first came with children. The saggy boobs came from feeding their children. The baby pouch came from holding their children in their womb.
Yet I have all of those, and have had them for years, but I have never birthed a child.
Again, I’m left to feel like the odd ball out, something I have struggled with embracing my entire life (see the pattern yet?).
I remember noticing stretch marks on my inner thighs when I first developed as a woman – when I was 10. I can clearly remember sitting on my pink bedroom carpet in front of my full length mirror, hanging on the back of my door, applying concealer to hide my stretch marks. I feel pain at remembering that time in my life when I was so awkward and self-loathing that I felt the need to cover up all of my imperfections.
I developed body odor, armpit hair, boobs and a menstrual cycle before any of my friends. I carried a belly-laden figure that made the guys in elementary school call me fat until I slimmed into a more feminine shape in middle school. And then I didn’t know how to deal with my boobs or hips around older guys who thought I was older and not my 13 year old self. I was so vulnerable, naive, and had no clue what to do. I was raised fairly conservative compared to my friends and attended church regularly, so sex, desire, and my understanding of it was pretty limited.
Being chubby has always been a part of my life but has rolled up and down and up down and, well, you see the pattern again. I slimmed out to a size 8 before I was 16 with regular walking and packing a regulated lunch simply because I wanted to be skinnier and more attractive in order to date. By the time I entered college I gained more than a freshman 15, probably a freshman 30, and the next thing I remember was being a size 18 in my early 20s, a time when I can first acknowledge that I was probably dealing with depression but didn’t know about it, and suddenly raging red stretch marks began to cover my expanding lower belly. Not from pregnancy. From stress. From depression. From overeating to feed my loneliness.
Since that time, I have worked up and down the scale to my now highest weight. The stretch marks are still evident but are now the least of my problems. I can see my life patterns now that I’m older and relate my excessive eating and comfort foods to times of depression. And now that I treat my depression with medication, I am at my highest weight ever. And no, it’s not just because of the meds. I don’t eat like a champ. But I don’t eat like what society tries to label obese people as – I’m not lazy. I go on walks, I take care of our yard and garden and housework, I eat fast food, but not every day, and I don’t eat tons of red meat anymore. But yet, the weight continues.
And so now that women are embracing their bodies, particularly at heavier weights and curvier figures, I thought to myself “YES, I’ve found the fight against my awkward self-loathing.” But again, I don’t fit in.
Because I’m not a mom. My stretch marks come from times when I have fed my depression. My large lower belly came with loneliness. These most recent extra 30 pounds came from a bad onset of depression, followed by a miscarriage, followed by feeding my depression, and then medication. My arm flab and newly discovered arm stretch marks come from that extra weight and not working out with weights. Blame, blame, blame.
Yet I desperately want to love myself. I want to love myself enough to say “NO, I’m not going to go out for Mexican, or ice cream, or any of my favorite foods.” But that’s not love to me. Eating those things are a reward even though I’ve been taught it’s wrong to reward myself with food. I have always celebrated life with food. And depression, but mostly happy times come with my eating. And happiness is something I need and crave. But happiness also comes to me when I’m walking in nature with my husband or my dogs or by myself. It comes from the satisfaction of ripping out weeds from my overgrown gardens even when I’m itching with the bug bites that follow that work. Happiness comes from writing, from creating, from seeking to find myself and create myself.
I don’t sit and binge watch TV 24/7 eating bon-bons. I do that sometimes, probably too much, but I’m a pretty active person. So, shouldn’t my #bodypositive story be about fighting depression, about self loathing, about earning this body through life struggle? Can’t I fit into this image without being a mom?
I’d like to think I can. So I have posted my #bodypositive image here on this blog. Sans makeup. Oil mattifying moisturizer applied. Dry shampoo in my 2 day post-curled hair. Blotchy redness always shining through. Double chin evident because I didn’t do the camera-angle-above-my-face selfie – I did take the picture straight on, much like how I approach my life and topics that are tough to discuss.
I don’t fit in. I’ve never been OK with that. Yet I have always loved standing out. Body positivism isn’t about earning something. Body positivism is a mentality about embracing who you are, where you come from, what you’ve been through, what you look like, what you stand for, right here and right now. And for me, that’s a body that has been shamed by myself for 23 years. That’s a long time to be disappointed in oneself. For every day I can find love in this body, in this soul, in this heart and mind, for every day of loving myself I will celebrate that I’m here on this earth in spite of my struggle. So yeah, I guess I have earned this body.