For as long as I can remember, there has been at least one part of my body which 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.
Last week, I watched a repeat broadcast of an episode of “The Tonight Show.” This episode featured a plus-sized model named Ashley Graham (click here to see a clip). The reason she was a guest on the show centered on ABC’s refusal to air her Lane Bryant ad during an episode of “Dancing with the Stars” on the grounds that it was too revealing (see New York Post article on this). Jay Leno had heard this story and felt the ABC decision was ridiculous, especially in light of the numerous Victoria’s Secret ads which are aired during many television broadcasts. Leno wanted to increase awareness of the issue of discrimination toward plus-sized models, so he invited this young model to appear on his show.
Watching Ashley Graham on “The Tonight Show” elicited a strong and unexpected reaction in me, which is why I’ve chosen to write about her in this post. When Jay Leno introduced her, Ashley glided out on the stage dressed entirely in spandex. While she is a very beautiful woman, she is definitely much curvier and voluptuous than most of the models we see in magazines and on the runway. I didn’t feel that the spandex ensemble was the most flattering thing she could have worn (spandex isn’t the most flattering thing for anyone, in my humble opinion), but that isn’t at all what most struck me when I saw this lovely woman.
What I noticed first and foremost was her abundance of … confidence. She carried herself with pride and poise and looked every bit as statuesque, sexy, and elegant as any movie star who might walk onto the Tonight Show stage. I was mesmerized by her magnetism and her evident self-love.
I love clothes… and I hate clothes. Whether I love or hate clothes at any given point in time is very closely aligned with my body image.
If I’m feeling okay (I almost wrote “good,” but sadly “okay” is about as good as it gets for me…) about my body, I embrace the clothes in my closet and the process of shopping for new clothes. Conversely, if I am feeling fat and unattractive, I don’t even want to wear anything besides the workout clothes I wear when working from home each day.
Searching for a Feeling
I have a closet full of clothes, yet I generally only wear a small fraction of them. I have a tendency to be a compulsive shopper (see my post titled “Overspending” in my sister blog, “The Healing Project”) and I’ve come to decipher the reasons why I shop for articles of clothing I don’t even need. I’ve learned that I’m searching more for a feeling than for a pair of pants or a blouse. Subconsciously, I believe that if I can find the “right” pair of pants, I will magically be able to relax and stop hating my thighs so much.
Last weekend, my husband and I went on an overnight trip to Catalina Island. This place holds special meaning for us, as it’s where we were married almost 9 years ago. The island is just a short trip from where we live in San Diego, yet it feels like a world away. We generally try to visit Catalina at least a few times per year, sometimes on short notice when we feel the need to get away.
We were lucky to be greeted with warm and beautiful weather for our short getaway. This was fortuitous given that June tends to be cool and overcast in the coastal Southern California areas (hence the term “June gloom” which is used by locals). Warm weather inevitably brings out young women in bikinis, working on their tans and strutting their stuff along the beaches.
Needless to say, I am not one of these women in bikinis. While I have worn a bikini a few times in my life, those occasions have been extremely rare and punctuated by intense self-consciousness. Nowadays, it is a major breakthrough for me to even wear a bathing suit at all. The usual occurrence is about once or twice a year and I haven’t purchased a new swimsuit in close to ten years. I generally try to avoid occasions which call for swimsuits like the plague, although I once was a competitive swimmer and someone who loved being in the water.