Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important. And THAT Makes You Beautiful.

As women, we are raised in a world full of unrealistic expectations pertaining to our bodies to think we are fat. No matter how thin, how fit, how athletic, how shapely, how curvy we are, if someone asks us about our bodies, we refer to it as fat. We're programmed that way, and it's truly sad.

I follow a Facebook page called A Mighty Girl, where I read tons of blogs and posts about how we can change the story, how we as women can stop feeding into how little girls are raised in a world where they can't focus on anything but being skinny; it's an uphill battle, with the world against us, but I do believe it can happen. Especially when I watch my friends with daughters, not calling them pretty or cute, not decking them head to toe in pink or bows, bur telling them how smart and brave and special they are, by dressing them like superheros for Halloween, and by talking to them about strong, confident women - and most importantly, by being confident with their own bodies, in front of their daughters. My friend Ashley is an example that I find very inspiring. Her daughter is only a year old, but when Ashley & Oryan talk about her, they call her strong, they call her a warrior, they call her a tornado. They are raising a strong woman already, even in the precious pink packaging she's in now. And I love that.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the unrealistic weight loss plans women set for themselves, goals that we can never attain, that our bodies will never do. It was called How to Get a Thigh Gap and Take Over the World, and you can read it HERE.To reiterate the main focus of that blog: "getting a thigh gap" is unattainable for those of us who don't have one. A gap in your thighs is a genetic trait based on bone structure, not a milestone in your journey to being skinny. If you want to read the details, please do. It was a good one.

I started thinking about this over the weekend, while sorting through old photos of the past 15 years of my life. I was a cheerleader in high school. I was also on dance team. I also ate pizza almost every day. And I weighed 103 pounds. And at 103 pounds, I would pull on my size 2 cheerleading skirt every Friday night and look in the mirror, and without fail I would point out my fat thighs to someone getting ready in the mirror next to me. Sadly, what in reality was the body of a 15 year old athlete, with muscular thighs & calves, a flat belly curving from strong hips, and toned biceps & shoulders, in my eyes was thighs that touched each other, calves that looked like a boy's, muffin top & a chubby tummy, and flabby upper arms & undefined shoulders.

Looking at photos we took in high school, while I was in high school, I thought I looked fat in all of them. I hated having to wear my cheerleading skirt to school on game days and more often than not, wore my squad sweats under my skirt and blamed it on being cold (we all did). Looking at photos we took in high school, now, I realize I had a perfectly normal body. I wasn't too skinny, but I was in no way fat, or even chubby. I was athletic. My muscles were visible. I had a body that I would kill to have today. I was in shape, I was toned, I was petite to toss up in the air and could stand on someone's hands in front of a crowd, but I was strong enough to do back handsprings and also to hold someone else standing on my thighs.

And yet, because my muscles were showing instead of my bones, I was unhappy. Because in magazines, nobody's muscles are showing. Nobody's curves are showing. In magazines, bones are what show. Bones are what you think means you're beautiful. Because bones are what is sexy everywhere you look. In high school, and even into college, I remember measuring myself not by pounds or by jeans sizes, but rather by how much my collar bone protruded from my chest, and by whether or not my middle finger & thumb touched each other if I encircled my wrist with them. What. The. Fuck. Kinda shit is that?!

This picture: 

This picture is as vivid to me today as it was the day it was taken. I looked at this photo when I got it developed (you know, because we used to have to do that with film), and I was horrified by how fat I looked. What?! I was 18 years old when this photo was taken. When I look at it now, I see a normal teenage body, and actually, I am jealous of it. When I looked at it at 18, I was mortified. In fact, I am surprised I didn't tear it up and throw it away. I remember looking at it with my girlfriend and telling her that I had belly rolls and that my boobs were saggy. Umm...no. Hey 18 year old self, you idiot...everyone's tummy does that when they're sitting down. And you have awesome boobs. Just wait til your 30 and your best friend tells you that even 4 cup sizes larger than in this photo, they defy gravity. Sincerely, 30 year old self.

And this picture:

This was taken at my boyfriend's senior prom, when I was a freshman in college. I was so nervous about wearing this dress, that I almost bought a new one. Because I thought I had back fat. Umm. No, 19 year old version of myself, that's not back fat, that's muscle definition. You're gonna eat these words someday. You know what I saw in this photo? Nothing but my belly. You know what's funny about that? That's a pooch in the dress, it isn't even belly. You know what everyone else who ever looked at this photo saw (and still sees)? My toned, curvy, not flat, cheerleader-slash-dancer ASS.

The funny thing is, when I look at these photos now, I am envious of my own body. Envious of my high school tummy and my cheerleader ass and shoulders. And I think, God I was so stupid to not appreciate that little body when I had it! I hated my high school body when it was my high school body. Now that I am in my adult body, I appreciate my high school body. My high school body was just fine.

Women need to be more appreciative of the bodies we have. Is it important to be healthy? Of course. But is it healthy to measure results by how many of your ribs you can see? Absolutely not! Somewhere, ingrained in the female psyche is something about how fat we are, and something about how our bodies should look. The reality is, just because you see it in a magazine, doesn't make it real.

I will never have a thigh gap. I will also never be 6 feet tall. But chasing a thigh gap may as well be chasing that extra 11 inches in height that I will never get. Most of you will never have a thigh gap, just as most of you will never be 6 feet tall. Women rarely have thigh gaps, despite what you see in Photo Shop.

What I will have, are nieces who know that they are kind, who know they are special, who know they are important. I will have little girls in my life who never hear me call myself fat, who watch me get dressed in the mirror or who come over for slumber parties where we don't have to wear pants or makeup, because it's ok to love your body just the way it is. I will have nephews who appreciate girls who are smart, who like girls who read books, and who compliment girls who are nice and funny and creative, not the girls who are "hot." I will have little boys in my life who know that all girls are beautiful and smart, and that if you are nice to them, they just may love you forever.

The next time you pick up a tiny baby girl and start to call her a pretty little princess, think of her at five years old, dressed as Batman instead of Catwoman for Halloween. Think of her at ten years old, dressed as Katniss Everdeen instead of Barbie Doll. Think of her at fifteen years old, not dressed as Sexy Witch, but instead as, literally anything without the word sexy in front of it. The next time you want to call a baby a pretty, pretty princess, call her a strong, smart little lady instead. We think it doesn't matter, but it does. As women, we are raised in a world full of unrealistic expectations pertaining to our bodies to think we are fat. Change the way our little women see themselves; make them strong, make them healthy, make them happy.