NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
For as long as I can remember, there has been at least one part of my body that I have found completely unacceptable. This hated body part hasn’t always been the same, but I can’t remember a time when I was not obsessing about some aspect of my body. It is extremely difficult for me to inhabit my body and not be roiling against some part of it. I do not feel fully comfortable in my own skin and this leads me to feel hopeless and despondent at times.
I can remember hating my hips, calves, tummy, butt, nose, and hair at different times over the years. While I am still not thrilled with any of those parts, I no longer obsess over them. At the present time (and for a number of years now), my most hated body part is my thighs. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t find myself cursing the size of my legs, wishing they could miraculously be smaller, and trying to find a way to camouflage what I consider to be their tremendous girth.
I feel like I’m trying to embody the spirit of Harry Houdini when I get dressed each day and I attempt to create the illusion of sleek limbs. Despite being 5’10” with hopelessly long legs, I still feel the need to wear heels and have my pants almost touch the ground. My thought is that if I can make my legs look longer, they will appear thinner as well. When it comes to skirts and dresses, I refuse to wear any hemlines above the knee, lest my most hated body part be viewed by others.
Other people tell me I’m crazy, that my thighs aren’t fat at all. They insist that I am distorting the image I see in the mirror and suggest that I suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder. While I agree that I am unnecessarily hard on myself, I can’t seem to overcome my dislike of my thighs and my hesitation to show their shape or – gasp – their actual flesh to others.
My obsession about the size of my thighs negatively impacts my life in various ways. When I go shopping for clothes, I refuse to even try on skinny jeans, leggings, or short skirts. Shorts and swimsuits are also out of the question. I haven’t purchased a new pair of shorts or a swimsuit for at least eight years at this point.
When I was invited to a party involving going in a hot-tub with a small group of women earlier this year, I pushed myself to go despite my anxiety. However, I wore an old and tired swimsuit instead of braving the horror that is known as swimsuit shopping. I do give myself props for facing my fear and going in the hot-tub anyway, but I could not fully relax and enjoy myself. I stayed submerged from the waist down and quickly dashed to my towel when it was time to get out.
A Big Problem – Or Not?
I tell myself I get by in life just fine despite my body distortion and issues with my thighs. I like the clothes I wear and I don’t care that much about wearing a swimsuit or shorts. After all, my complexion is very pale and I mostly burn instead of tan. I look younger than my age as a result of staying out of the sun, so is my hesitation to bare my thighs really such a big problem?
The truth is that I do get by okay, but I don’t like to be governed by fear in any aspect of my life. An unrelated example is relevant here… I know two women in their sixties who are divorced and do not date. While one of them dated quite a bit following her divorce and now no longer wishes to date, the other never dated and is basically afraid of dating. The end result is the same, not dating, but the underlying motivation is significant. My suspicion is that the first woman feels at peace with her decision, while the second woman likely feels fearful and dis-empowered for never getting “back in the game.”
In my situation, it would be fine if I just didn’t like to go swimming or to wear certain items of clothing. We all have preferences in terms of our activities and attire and we have a right to do and wear what we prefer. However, I do not feel the freedom within myself to wear skinny jeans or shorter skirts. My fear of exposing my thighs is governing my actions rather than my sartorial preferences. Knowing that fear is dictating some of my life choices places me at a decision point. Do I wish to continue to let my fears run me, or do I want to overcome these fears and live a more powerful and courageous life?
Powerful First Steps
For me, the choice is clear. I’ve always strived for self-awareness and to live my life from a space of freedom, courage, and empowerment, so it’s time for me to make some changes. I do my best to stay in shape and I am not overweight, so my changes need to be more in terms of my thoughts and emotions. I need to push myself to break through my fears and move powerfully forward.
To start, I will begin to try on clothing that goes against my self-imposed limitations. I will push the envelope and do my best to have fun in the process. Sometimes we just need a bit of a boost in order to break through ruts in life… Of course, I don’t have to buy anything that truly doesn’t suit me, but I could end up being pleasantly surprised by what is attractive and flattering on my body. I will also purchase a new swimsuit that is current and which highlights my best body attributes. I want to be ready if a swim or hot-tub occasion arises and not use my lack of a proper suit as an excuse to bow out.
Empowering Thoughts and Language
Most importantly, I will stop engaging in negative language or thoughts regarding my thighs. If I catch myself in the midst of such behavior, I will gently shift my thoughts or words onto something of a much more positive nature. I will remember that there are many aspects of my body that I do appreciate and love.
I may never sing the praises of my thighs, but I can and will end the war I’m engaged in against them. I can free myself from body hatred and live a free-spirited and happy life as someone who loves both herself and her body!