Yesterday I stopped by my brother and sister-in-law's house. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and 75 degrees. Shortly after arriving I wondered upstairs to see what was going on, I found my three and a half year old nephew, one and a half year old niece, and sister-in-law hanging out in the back yard. My nephew was in their pool while my sister-in-law and niece were near him on the deck. I walked over, gave them some love, and started talking to my nephew as he floated with his water wings.
He looked up at me asked, "Auntie will you come swimming with me?"
I replied, "Will that make you a very happy boy?"
He replied quickly with a feverish nod and big grin.
"OK,” I said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes."
I went out to my car, grabbed my extra swimsuit, and quickly changed. I went into the backyard in my suit. The first thing my nephew said to me was, "That doesn't look like a swimsuit because I can see those."
I jokingly responded, "Are you talking about these," and shook my shoulders, "Or this," and then shook my butt at him. All three of them giggled.
In response to my shaking, my nephew said, "Auntie you jiggle!"
After laughing, I said, "Everybody Jiggles. Bodies are made to jiggle."
We spent the next 10 minutes figuring out all the different places that a body can jiggle. Although my nephew is pretty lean for his age, he managed to have fun with this exercise.
It occurred to me later that there was a time that my nephew's comment would have made me self-conscious. I am grateful for the healthy self-image I have developed in the last few years. I didn't realize how strong and positive my self-image had become until that moment by the pool.
While I am in pretty good shape (due to 15 years of working out and eating healthy), it took me a long time to actually accept my frame the way it was made to be. In my previous post, about self-love, I illustrated how my teenage years were pretty traumatic for when it came to physical changes. To summarize, my weight increased 60% and I grew an additional 3 inches in high school.
Body dysmorphia is extremely common in people who go through big physical changes; whether it be puberty, pregnancy, athletic event training, or health challenges.
In a society that idolizes youth, low body fat, and physical performance it can be hard to feel beautiful unless you have all three. The truth is that most of us won't ever have all three because youth is fleeting, low body fat is rarely naturally occurring, and physical performance has so many factors equated to it that it's impossible to standardize success.
No matter what you look like or where you come from, I think everyone can relate to the feeling of not feeling good enough. Typically, the hardest judgement comes from within ourselves. However, the only measure that actually matters is the one in our own head.
My favorite thing about the musical artist Lizzo is that she accepts herself exactly as she is, and encourages others to do the same. Other people may criticize her for not embodying the type of beauty that has been set by generations of unhealthy and unrealistic standards preached by our society.
I am not here to debate the amount of body fat is healthy or unhealthy. Those who that are delusional about their personal (health) risk factors have a different obstacle to overcome around ignorance, education and/or mental health. So that's that. What I am here to say is that self-acceptance is always healthy. Lizzo's empowering anthems about self- love and self-care resonate with so many people for a powerful reason. Self- acceptance feels good. Unhealthy criticism is painful and detrimental to well-being.
I believe our society over emphasizes the importance of external beauty, in general. This is detrimental for several reasons:.
1. Those who are considered conventionally beautiful get away with a lot. Bad behaviors take root when they go unchecked.
2. Those who are considered ugly, receive healing grace less often.
Value should never be determined by one factor; especially beauty since it is such an arbitrary and subjective factor.
I am very lucky to have been raised in a family where intelligence and kindness are considered far superior to anything physical beauty can offer. Therefore, my formative years were spent trying to figure out how I could bring value to my world and to the people that I care about. This meant that I spent my childhood and teen years trying to become the best person I could. In my twenties, I tried to figure out how I could be as physically attractive as possible. Now, in my thirties, I am grateful for the opportunity to show both sides of myself, practice humility and celebrate this one beautiful body I was blessed with. All the while knowing that beauty is fleeting and based on the beholder's paradigm.
Yesterday in the pool I was reminded that this/my body was made to move. There are areas that will always jiggle, there are areas that won’t. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change your appearance, especially if that goal is combined a focus on vitality.
However, I implore you to accept yourself as you are. I beg you to be kind to yourself through all of life’s inevitable changes. Always remember:
People develop wrinkles, eventually. That is if you're lucky enough to grow old!
We all get scars.
These days, I workout to feel good. The release of stress far outweighs the minute changes that happened during each session. Vitality and improved attitude are the results I'm looking for.
Be sure that your goal will serve your whole life; not just the scale or a tape measure.