No Body Is Perfect

Something occurred to me the other day as I was watching a movie on Netflix. There was one particular scene that made me wish I could go back to my late teens, early 20’s. The girl was trying on some clothes and admiring herself in the mirror. And it was that comfort that she felt in looking at her reflection that gave me pause.

I cannot recall ever looking at myself with such confidence. Ever. To be honest, it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Watching her made me sad. And I’ll tell you why.

If I go back and look at pictures of myself around the same age as her, I now see a young woman, that should have felt more confident, more at ease in her body. Not because I was all that, but because I would soon be past those days of youth, and regret that I didn’t embrace them, embrace myself more than I did. My low self-esteem held me back from so many things.

I hated how I looked and felt that if I looked different the world would open up for me. So, I became anorexic in high school. I didn’t set out with anorexia as my goal, but it seemed the smaller I became, the more people noticed me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being ignored prior to that, but I wasn’t exactly being “seen” either. Losing weight got me compliments. Losing weight made me feel better about myself.

The pictures from those days paint a different reality. I was sick. Not only mentally, but physically. There are so many things I would do differently if I could go back. I imagine that if I had projected more confidence (real, or imagined) I would have had the life that I so desperately wanted.

In some ways I feel like that girl now – just decades older.Wanting to fit in the pages of the magazines, but finding that I’m exhausted from decades of trying to fit a mold that was invented by an industry that constantly set me up for failure – then and now.

Over the years I’ve seen the standards being tested by different body types. But it still bothers me that women are being categorized by body type at all. Plus-sized, full-figured, skinny – all these define women by shape. We are bombarded with headlines about losing weight. Flooded with photos of beautiful, happy, people who just happen to have the perfect body.

I’ve been fed, and have been “eating” these images since I was in 7th grade. And even though I know there is no one size fits all, and that photos are altered, it has never stopped me from second-guessing how I look.

My body isn’t perfect in any way. It doesn’t look the way I wish it did. And I’m not sure that it ever will after a lifetime of being brainwashed.

But at the age of 51, what I’m trying to focus on is not what my body looks like, but what my body has done:

  1. brought two beautiful souls into this world
  2. survived heart surgery
  3. run a 1/2 marathon
  4. survived a suicide attempt
  5. overcome an eating disorder

I encourage all of you to give a shout-out to the body that has gotten them this far. After all, you wouldn’t be here without it. 🙂

Lesson Learned

I promised myself with this site that I wouldn’t commit to a certain schedule of postings. Instead, I write when the muse hits. And I write about whatever I’m compelled to write about.

Tonight I feel like writing about high school. Or at least a certain aspect, for me, about high school.

I went to an all girl Catholic high school. My husband thinks that sounds very Britney Spears-Baby-One-More-Time-plaid-skirt-knee-socks and all that.

Thank God he didn’t know me then. I was more Mary Katherine Gallagher from SNL.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t smell my hands after shoving them in my armpits or anything like that, but I wasn’t exactly oozing sexiness either.

I graduated in 1985 – the year of “We Are the World”, New Coke, and Back to the Future. I had my group of friends that I hung out with – a mixture of my BFF’s from school and my theater friends.

An interesting side note – in my school we were segregated from the get-go by our “intelligence”, which was determined by a test we took in 8th grade. We were divided into A1 and A2, B, C, and D groups. Yes, those letters represented our grades. Looking back I realize how horrible this system was.

I was in the A1 group and spent most of my time worrying about getting “demoted” to A2 or worse. And being put into preselected groups like that allowed certain assumptions to be made. People in A1 were supposed to be super smart. People in D group were the party girls. Now I’m not saying I had any specific thoughts one way or the other, but any type of separation tends to promote stereotypical thinking.

High school is cliquey enough on its own. I think most of the cliques just happen naturally, as a result of interests and bonds made pre-high school. Whatever the case may be, I remember making assumptions about people based on outward appearance, the way they handled themselves, where they lived etc. All unfair, but natural for most.

The cheerleaders had it all. Confidence? Check. Good looks? Check. Boyfriend? Check. Life was perfect for them. Or so it seemed to me. No one was dealing with problems like me. I lived in a bubble filled with low self-esteem, an eating disorder, a parent who was dying, and ongoing financial problems (I drove a Gremlin for God’s sake!).

I remember going to our 20 year class reunion and talking with everyone. Of course by this time we were all older, and I remember thinking how cool it was that people from the “popular” group were talking with me. Then I had a good laugh at myself.

In talking with the girls, however, I began to realize that I had more in common with them than I thought. Most of the girls that I saw as perfect because they were pretty and popular, had just about as much self-esteem as I did back then. They were just a lot better at faking it than I was. And many had some pretty heavy things going on that I was completely oblivious to.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and get to know the ones that seemed “out of my league”. I think of all the friendships I missed out on because of the high school mentality we must all find our way through.

I’ve gotten to know several of these girls from high school through social media, and I am very grateful for that.Now, more than ever, I am aware of the fact that all of the drama is a part of growing up and finding your way to the truth that we aren’t really all that different from each other. We are all cut from the same cloth. And I truly believe that the sooner we recognize that as a race, the sooner we can make this planet the beautiful home it is meant to be.

This post is dedicated to all my Saint Vincent Academy sisters, especially to those I never got to know.