Body Shame & Grace
by guest blogger, Emilie Harris
When I was in middle school my best friend was the prettiest girl in my grade. She was blonde and beautiful, and it was the first time I had ever looked at my own body in the mirror and been vaguely repulsed by what I saw. I have always been thin, but standing next to her, I felt disgusting – my hip bones sticking out, my chicken ankles attached to too big feet, my barely there chest concealed by a bikini top that had been on sale.
I’ve been grappling with the right word now, even typing this, for about 15 minutes. What did I feel about my body when I was younger? It wasn’t “ugly” per se, but I stopped looking too closely in mirrors. I stopped believing people when they told me I looked nice. I think the word is “shame.” Those quiet days after school where I would peel out of my dance clothes and wonder why I always looked like all my limbs were a little too long for my body.
I think parts of those memories stay with you and become you. I’m an intelligent, kind, funny woman, but I would never really describe myself as beautiful, even though I know I’m supposed to. Even though Chrissy Teigen has stretch marks, and there are models who look like me in magazines. But the really nitty gritty truth that no magazine will write about feeling beautiful is it comes with ghosts. The ghost of my mom trying on swimsuits in front of me when I was 9 and calling herself “hippy.” The ghost of the girl who sat beside me in class and called me anorexic that whole year.
Our bodies are sacred. That’s what they teach you in yoga. They teach you to be grateful for what it can do, but also to understand that each day is different, so you have to give yourself a little grace. That’s what I try to do nowadays. I know I’m supposed to tell you that I feel gorgeous every day of my life and I’ve mastered the art of body positivity and I don’t care that my hands are huge.
But that would be a lie, and I’m not in the business of pretending anymore. Instead I feel a bigger obligation to myself to appreciate the things I do actually love. I think I have a nice smile – that’s what my boyfriend says. I’ve always liked the color of my eyes because they remind me of my mom. I have nice, long legs. And I try to forget about the things I don’t like so much.
I made promises to myself years ago and I’ve stuck to them. I stopped squeezing the skin on my body between my fingers. I stopped looking so closely at the Target 360 mirrors when I tried on bikinis. I stopped blowing off compliments, instead harboring them in a safe place in my heart where one day I might be strong enough to believe them.
Maybe you’re like me and your beauty has ghosts too. If so, I’m sorry, because I know how hard that is. But also, I’m glad that you’re reading this, so you can know that you’re not alone and that it’s not limited to body types or personalities. We all have to stretch into ourselves and sometimes it’s a painful thing to do. Maybe one day I’ll get there and maybe I won’t, but I think I’ll have some fries while I try.
Emilie Harris is a marketing expert, lover of Diet Coke, and contributing writer to the iGoPink blog.