It is with great joy that I share this guest post in the on going series on body image. Kristin is a very dear, long-time friend and colleague with whom I have shared many a body image frustration. It is definitely common ground for us! Please enjoy her words!
I both love and hate my body. Actually no it’s not really my body I love. I love myself and I am completely confident that I am loved. My mother made sure of the latter. She hated her body. As a polio survivor, when she saw her body she only ever saw the literal scars from the multiple surgeries she had between the ages of 4 and 13. She saw the isolation of months spent laying in iron lungs and hospital beds. She saw the loneliness of not being able to go outside and play with her siblings or do any of the normal things that children would do. She saw the limitations of the things her body could not do.
There was one limitation that my mother never accepted – having a child. Her parents and countless doctors told her it would be impossible. She didn’t listen. The pregnancy was hard and she knew there would only be one. But my mother often told me I was the one thing she was proudest of in her life. She may not have liked her body, but she wanted me to like mine. She wanted me to have the confidence she rarely felt or in my opinion never gave herself credit for. She told me I was beautiful and that I was loved. She told me often. I believed her.
As I grew up though my body did not look like the Barbie ideal. I have the wide hips and large bust common on my father’s side of the family but the shorter height of my mother’s side. My mother told me I was beautiful, my classmates teased me mercilessly. My mother dried my tears and in her eyes I saw her own pain but I also saw her love. I never doubted whether I mattered. I never doubted that I was loved. And I loved her. It’s hard not to love someone who loves you so unconditionally. And it is hard not to believe her. That is part of the reason why I have always loved my body because I love myself.
But I also hate my body. I have always struggled with weight. I have never liked the bra cup size that requires special ordering, the fact that I cannot buy regular pants without dealing with hemming them. And bad habits, like comforting myself with food, die hard. I still have a ways to go before I will ever be able to say I like my body.
When I see pictures of myself that show more than just my face, I don’t often like what I see. That’s when I see the flaws. That’s when I see what others see when they look at my body. But when I look in the mirror I see me. And I see my Mom. And I see a cross on my forehead that says I am a child of God. And that image I love. I don’t know if I will ever like the me I see in pictures, but I pray I will always love the me I see in the mirror and be confident that I am loved.
This is the third post in a series on body image. If you have a story or wish to write an essay about your own experience with body image to post on this blog, please contact me. I would love to read it!