I was in the heat of a hardcore workout on the arc trainer, determined to melt-away that jiggle in my middle region. I was panting, sweating, cursing the heavens and hating life, begging for Pandora to get it right with the next song when an infomercial caught my eye. The commercial was touting a spanx-like garment that claimed to make anyone, regardless of size, shape, age or level of cupcake consumption, slender and sexy. Ahh, two of the most prized ‘s’ words in a woman’s body image vocabulary: Slender. Sexy. This particular version of the 21st century spandex ‘girdle’ sounded and looked better than all the others; it went from the top down, cami-style, reaching down over your hips. I hadn’t tried one like that before! I had only fussed with the bottom-up variety, like a pair of bike shorts that reaches up under your armpits. I wanted it, had to have it. And if I hadn’t been short of my goal of burning 500 calories, I would have hopped off that arc trainer while dialing the 1-800 number, and had it overnighted.
A few weeks later, I was going through my beautification rigmarole, in preparation for an event. Naturally, I was wearing my spanx; it had become a staple over the last couple of years as I battled body image issues. As I rushed out the door, I decided I couldn’t tolerate the spanx apparatus any longer. I had actually become disgusted with the very thing I had come to rely so heavily on. Being long-bodied, I would find myself constantly tugging it up or trying to ignore the gap (and the bulging flesh) between the spanx and my bra line.
Determined to go “all natural” and, as my friend Lisa always says, “just own it!”, I hadn’t intended to give myself the quick glimpse-back in the full length mirror at the bottom of the stairs (this mirror has made me late on many occasions), but nonetheless my eyes habitually shot back over my shoulder to take a peek. I stopped right there, on that bottom landing in front of that full-length mirror. I blinked a few times because I really couldn’t believe my reflection. I actually looked better than I had in quite a while. I had a relaxed, I’ve got this, I’m going to own it, comfortable-in–my-own-skin-look. And it bewildered me. Images flicked through my mind of all the times I (and we, as women), stuff and contort and fuss and pick at ourselves, and otherwise look for ways to shape ourselves, inside and out, into something different.
There is a video circulating on social media boards portraying women describing themselves to artists, who, on the other side of a curtain, sketch the woman based on her description of herself. The video then switches gears, asking the women to describe one of the other women they had met in the green room. It is interesting to hear to the description differences. At the end, the two sketches for each woman are unveiled, side-by-side, to a heartbreaking difference, while the acquaintance-described portraits highlighted the beautiful attributes of the individual; the self-described portraits accentuated her self-perceived faults. The shocking difference between how we see ourselves, versus our true beauty and how we are perceived by those around us—strangers, lovers, family, colleagues, and friends—is cause for some reflection.
I always tell my kiddos to be kinder, to extend grace, courtesy and acceptance to themselves and to others… and it’s about time I start extending the same kindness, grace, acceptance, love and understanding to myself. I hope you can, too, because you’re amazing as you are, don’t forget it.