NOTE: I started this post in September 2015 but when I went through a few major changes in my life I stopped writing and am just now getting around to posting it… It still stands. Thank you for reading.
I participated in GIsHWheS this year (they make us spell it like that).
If you’d like more information on GIsHWheS, please see my previous post So That Happened…from when I participated for the first time last year. If you don’t feel like checking the link, in short: GIsHWheS is the “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen” in which the participants create teams of 15, complete creative, fun, weird, crazy, and charitable acts in 7 days and the team with the most points wins.
One of the items for this year’s hunt was to submit a photo of something that “you find beautiful that most would deem ugly.”
Well, it just so happens that I had also been brainstorming a project centered around something right up this alley but had been dragging my feet about getting it started because, well.. it involves me being extremely vulnerable and that’s something I don’t like to do, even within my own art it seems.
We gravitate toward artistic expression and creating art as a means to communicate our vulnerability and expose ourselves in order to satisfy the need to be understood. Some of us won’t admit to it, but for the most passionate and most beautiful art that’s what it is. Expression of pain, passion, and the need to connect. And I can dig deep and write brutally honest lyrics and sing my heart out to strangers, but when it comes to this particular part of me… I’m afraid. I’m afraid to share it even when I feel joy and gratitude when others share it with me.
I’m afraid of opening up even when I see pieces like it and feel nothing but understanding and encouragement.
So I began to look at my own body in a different way. Or I tried to, anyway. I wanted to start. I mean, for years I’ve tried to change it. Ever since I was a little girl. My tummy always had a pouch. My nose was always too straight. My eyes always had bags under them. I could go on and on. I tried to morph my body by doing silly things like pushing my nose up (hoping for that cute upturned button nose like Mary Poppins) and holding it there every night to try and force it. Things like that. But those of you who have read my posts in the past know that I’ve struggled with body image issues such as body dysmorphia and I’ve dealt with teenage anorexia. That’s nothing new.
What’s new is that in the last year or so I’ve been trying to force myself to change again. I’ve been trying to force myself to see my body for what it is:
A beautiful, hard working, fearfully and wonderfully made machine that’s earned every single scar and every single “flaw” on it.
Lke “tiger stripes”, wrinkles, and that scar on my wrist that wasn’t caused by an attempted suicide but by my dog when she tried to open the window so I could pet her. That scar on my rib from when I was a kid and I made a too-sharp turn on my scooter. Stretch marks from growing too fast or losing a lot of weight. Grey hairs.
I started to look in the mirror during the day and instead of criticizing every inch of my body, thinking about what the muscles there do. How I use that part. What it’s gone through. I started to feel better. But I wasn’t ready to show it off.
That being said, I will never post nude photos or rock a bikini on instagram as a way of “empowering” myself by posing in a sexually provocative manner. I don’t see that as empowering for myself. But that’s a whole other post. But I have no qualms about tasteful artistic nudes for a purpose, or classical art in that way. I have no problem with bare midriffs and photos to show off workout progress (so long as they’re not overtly sexual just for attention).. and I’ve always wanted to not have to worry about what my mid-section looked like, especially come time for weigh ins when I finally get my first kickboxing match.
Rewinding a little bit, remember that project I mentioned?
Now that you’ve caught up (kind of) on my body image issues and how people with body dysmorphia have trouble seeing themselves, I’ll let you know what I shared for “Something you find beautiful that others would deem ugly”. I’ll show you, even.
Here is the photo I submitted:
It’s still hard for me to look at but I am making a conscious effort to change my thinking.
Perhaps as a society we should do the same. Why should a woman feel ashamed or feel that they need to hide the scars on their bodies that they received because they carried and gave birth to a human life? Or if they’ve gone through some life changing surgery or accident? Human beings are so hard on each other.. especially other women.
Since this picture was taken I’ve even gained some of the weight back because the past year has been full of stress and change and eating right and exercise were the last things on my mind. That should be okay. It should be okay for someone to not have to track every meal and work out every day when they’re taking care of a dying loved one or when they’re displaced. We should give ourselves grace when we are struggling. Forgive ourselves for falling behind or making mistakes. And we should look at weight loss and fitness as something we GET to do and not HAVE to do. Exercise is not a punishment, it’s a reward for being healthy enough to get up and move.
The natural human body is a beautiful thing even though it can be totally disgusting sometimes (like when you’re really… really sick!). When we realize all of the beautiful things that we are capable of… what our bodies are created for and what they can do – what they can withstand.. and how vulnerable we are to them… that extra few pounds.. those stretch marks.. those scars… They’re beautiful.
Look at us all. Aren’t we beautiful?