On Accepting Myself
This has always been my mom’s loving way of saying that I’m built. Solid. Strong. Unshakeable. I’m not going to lie. I can’t really tell you exactly what a brick shithouse is, or if I’d want to be in one. But where I’m from it’s a good thing.
I come from a family of short, squatty German women who have the same stubby legs and tiny hands. It probably could’ve been different: my late grandmother was a dainty little lady, but my grandfather is built like a refrigerator. Together, they made…minifridges. I proudly carry on that tradition.
Of course, I wasn’t always so proud about it.
Every little girl has one of those fragile looking friends who looks like she might crack or fall apart if you look at her the wrong way or if the wind blows just so. That girl was not me. I was made for falling down, getting bruised up, and then doing it all again the next day. Even though the main goal in life when you’re a kid is to play all day and not pay bills or worry about anything but having fun, you always know when you’re different. I knew that I wasn’t the tiny elfin girl of my group of friends in school. I also knew that I didn’t want to sit and eat carrot sticks and celery for lunch, because that didn’t do much to satisfy my hunger. I didn’t understand why, at eight years old, my friends were eating diet food, drinking diet sodas, being concerned about their weight and pointing out that I wasn’t as thin as they were.
During the summers when I was little, I swam all the time. I never took lessons or anything. My mom just kind of threw me into the water one day, and off I went. I would never use the ladder to get out of the pool, instead opting to be a mini badass and pull myself up from the side wall. Day after day of this, plus the swimming gave me tiny girl biceps which was some kind of anomaly, because people used to point them out all the time. Another time, I remember quite vividly shopping with my mom and a woman stopping us out of nowhere and saying “LOOK AT THOSE THIGHS!” (Um, what?) She asked my mom if I was a dancer and my mom said that I wasn’t, but that I was a swimmer. The woman said that she was a dance instructor and that I had gorgeous muscle tone and I should be proud of myself because some women work forever to achieve “thighs like that.”
I didn’t get it at the time. My mom gave me the big SEE, THERE? HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT? face, but I remember still feeling shitty. I was a fourth grader who was curvy and getting boobs and hips and wasn’t willowy and knobby-kneed like the rest of the girls. I failed to see what an amazing compliment I’d just been given.
Getting to a point in my life where I’m okay with myself and my body has always been a struggle. There was a time in my early twenties when I was up every morning at 5:30 to run five miles and I stuck to a rigid weightlifting schedule. I watched very closely to what I ate and drank, and it all paid off. I looked amazing (I still lovingly refer to that time as when I “had it going on,” because I think it sounds awesome). Yet, I was actively fighting what my body wanted to be because I didn’t think it was good enough, and instead wanted the ideal body that we all see in magazines. Though I was well on my way to that goal, I was also depriving myself of what I wanted in life, not letting myself be truly happy, and not loving myself for who I was.
As I got older and started into my career, I magically gained weight. I don’t know how much of it was magical or just that I didn’t have time (or the interest and energy) for five mile runs every morning when I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 for work, but it’s up for debate. The interesting thing is that even though I fought so hard to keep from gaining weight when I was younger, when it did happen, it wasn’t such a big deal to me. In fact, it seemed to be more of an issue to other people than it was to me. I actually developed a sort of confidence that I didn’t have before–I know that I can throw a good, solid punch and hold my own if I’m messed with. Are these my finest moments? Of course not, but when I’m out and someone touches me and I’ve asked them not to, I know I’ve got my own back. That’s an awesome feeling. I appreciate my body way more now than I ever did when I was being so militant about everything I did.
Fitting into the mold of perfection is so far from a priority for me now. I know my acceptance of myself isn’t going to ring true for everyone, as evidenced by the billions of “THIS IS HOTTER THAN THIS” pictures I see on Facebook and the #bikinibody hashtags and discussions of diets and calorie counts that light up my Twitter feed on an hourly basis.
Once we get started on the comparison game of what’s hotter than what and who and how, things have the potential to get ugly. What it does is make us feel as though one body type or figure is better than another, when it’s really not. It’s so counterproductive–we should be celebrating our differences and lifting up the women who aren’t in a good place and taking care of one another. Women have been fighting for equality since the beginning of time and this is what we do: we’re cutting ourselves short and cutting each other down.
We all have something to offer this world, no matter what our body type or what we look like. I’d love to think that, eventually, we’d get sick of the competitive petty bullshit scene that’s been handed to us by society and realize that we’re better than all of it, because we’re all beautiful.
By Emily Hipsher
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