This morning I woke up and felt my stomach. Not perfectly flat. Somewhat protruding. I should have gone to the gym at 6 a.m. even though I slept horribly. Maybe I would feel more confident if I had.
My stomach was my first thought—my before-I-have-to-pee thought. I would very much like to be the person who gets up in the morning with self love beaming from her heart, not giving a single thought to her body except to think of how bodaciously babelicious it is.
But that isn’t me. And I’m determined to find out why and how to bring more body positivity into my life and—if this sounds familiar—how to bring it into yours, too.
Welcome to “Body Love,” a monthly column where I will interview inspiring women active in the body positivity movement. They will help answer questions about why many of us we feel the way we do about our bodies, how we can change those feelings for the better and look at ourselves with more compassion, acceptance and love. While several of the stories here may pull at your heartstrings, the idea of this column is not to be negative, but to be honest.
I promise to inject my most vulnerable self into every installment, and encourage you to share your stories with me. But first, let me introduce myself.
22 and insecure
My feelings of body insecurity started in earnest at exactly 8:43 a.m. on Monday, April 19, 2004, as I crossed the intersection of Bush and Sansome Streets in San Francisco’s Financial District. Yes, I’d suffered from periods of self-consciousness before that, but I was lucky to be raised in a generally accepting home where body size wasn’t often discussed.
My confidence was turned on its head, though, that Monday in April. How do I remember such a random date and time? Because it wasn’t random at all—it was my first day at my first real job and I’d just moved to the Big City from small-town Michigan. I’d woken that morning and put on my best professional outfit—an Old Navy top and Banana Republic skirt with heels—the entire ensemble snagged for less than $15 at a garage sale before I left my hometown.
I was 22 and ready for corporate America, ready for the city lights and fast traffic and Starbucks-toting lawyers going into their fancy, window-lined offices with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. With heart-pounding excitement, I boarded my bus and headed downtown. I tucked into a Noah’s Bagels (I’m so adult, getting a bagel!) and walked outside to the corner of Bush and Sansome.
It was at that moment that I saw the most beautiful creature: a woman crossing the street in front of me in all black, wearing a perfectly tailored blazer, pencil skirt and stilettos. She looked very busy, very important…
…and very thin.
I looked down. My kickass outfit didn’t seem so kickass anymore. And my body size wasn’t nearly as fit as hers. I looked up and tried to swallow the unique brand of pain that only comparing oneself to another can inflict, and kept walking. Less than a block later, I saw another woman just like the first. And then another, and another. San Francisco was filled with these tiny, impeccably dressed women. And who was I? An average-sized intern wearing garage sale clothes? Where did I fit in? Would I fit in better if I were skinnier?
Fast-forward 12 years and here I am, still living in San Francisco and still seeing tiny women wearing pencil skirts at every turn. Those visions don’t bother me quite as much as they used to (they still do, though), but somehow there is still space in my heart for the pain of my 22-year-old self. In those 12 years, I’ve gone up and down in weight, seen friends suffer with eating disorders, had countless conversations (with women and men) about the struggle to lose just 10 more pounds, stared at billboards of tiny models and wondered if they were happy on the inside, watched dozens of “Project Runway” episodes while eating carrots and wishing I looked like those models, watched dozens of “Project Runway” episodes while eating Ben & Jerry’s and not giving a shit, and struggled with unending feelings of self-hatred after eating what I thought was “too much.”
I’m done feeding the robust societal machine that is the industry of body loathing and body shaming. I am starting a new journey, one of true body love, one that doesn’t involve feeling my stomach every morning. One of acceptance, positive feelings and community.
I hope you will join me. Please check back for monthly installments of interviews with the top minds in body positivity. With their guidance and wise words, I think we can all start to change our self-perceptions.
I’d also love to hear from you. Please feel free to share your stories (good, bad, ugly, sexy, scandalous, liberating—anything goes!) around body image with me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I may incorporate your story into a future column.
Welcome to “Body Love”!