I don’t remember ever being comfortable in my own skin. My body has always been a paradoxical thing that is both highly desired and fairly repulsive. I have no idea how I’ve wrapped my brain around this contradiction, but it’s something I’ve lived with for as long as I’ve been aware of my body.
Puberty and genetics apparently blessed me with big boobs, curvaceous hips and shapely legs that made women jealous and men libidinous. I was supposed to be proud of this and use it to my advantage as much as possible.
Part of the strategy of ‘using my physical form to my advantage’ meant that any ‘imperfections’ needed to be concealed. In the 90’s, when long maxi skirts were all the rage, I was told that I couldn’t wear them because they showed off my ‘saddlebags’ (newsflash, I did NOT have saddlebags). My arms looked okay when I was working out regularly, but when they were no longer muscle-toned and firm, they needed to be hidden away under long sleeves. Any part of me that wasn’t ‘perfect’ needed to have a properly fitting hiding place.
As I grew older, my weight and general romantic desirability were often the main topic of discussion in conversations with my mother, who desperately wanted grandchildren.
Other than a general feeling of annoyance, I didn’t really see a problem with any of this until I had my daughter.
As I’ve watched my daughter grow up completely comfortable in her own skin and unaware of the concept of self-consciousness, I find myself overwhelmed with the need to protect that innocence. I’ve never been afraid of anything, but I am terrified of seeing that magical self-confidence escape her.
I read an article about when a little girl learned that her mother was fat, ugly, and horrible, and had a revelation. All of the ‘imperfections’ my mother tried to teach me to hide came from her own insecurities. And the reason she hated getting older and ‘looking more and more like her mother’ was because her mother did the same to her. How many generations of self-loathing have we passed from mother to daughter? Too goddamned many!
I’m determined to break the cycle of self-loathing. I want my daughter to enjoy growing up. To look forward to watching her body mature, and appreciate her body as it changes throughout her life. In order to do that, I have to do the same.
It’s impossibly hard.
Every time I see my not-flat stomach, or when I feel my arms and thighs jiggle when I move around, or when I accidentally open my camera in selfie mode (otherwise known as ‘how many chins can Abby squeeze into her face mode), I have to stop myself from groaning and announcing my own self-consciousness.
I have to accept compliments from others as truth and not assume that they’re “just being nice.” I have to enjoy each curve, whether it’s muscle or fat. I have to not be ashamed of my early-morning zombie face, but also enjoy wearing makeup and enhancing the beauty that’s already there.
I have to follow my 6-year-old’s example of unabashed self-love so that I can teach her to keep it.
She’s going to have enough trouble with insecure tweenagers trying to tear her down in a few years. I have a very short window to show her how to ignore the tear-downs and see her body for the piece of perfection that it is.
I only wish that I could see my body the same way.