Whenever my mom and I talk on the phone, she always asks me the same question: “Have you lost weight?”
The answer is always the same: “I’m working on it, Mom.”
As a 29-year-old woman, I’ve approached my battle with my body image every way possible. I’ve started and stopped diets. I’ve started working out. I’ve caved in and bought my favorite pair of jeans in a larger size. I’ve cried about it, and I’ve lashed out to others due to my own insecurities.
My body issues didn’t begin with my weight gain after I turned 24. When I hit puberty, my mom suggested that we begin bleaching my arm hairs because no one would like a girl with hairy arms. She had fine, light hairs you can’t even tell are there. I was blessed with the gift of darker hair from my dad’s side of the family. There were days I would look down and see a gorilla arm where mine should be. These were the days I was almost tempted to, but never actually followed my mom’s advice. Let’s not even talk about the hairs on my chiny-chin-chin. Look — I’m Turkish. It happens.
Then there was the acne.
Oh, the acne that plagued me until I was 25. I still cringe looking at some of my pictures from high school and early 20s. My senior prom and homecoming pictures present a girl that doesn’t even look like me, hiding under a layer of makeup to hide the glaring pimples I hated so much. My hair was too thick and short; my skin was never smooth and as a girl from my gym class pointed out in 9th grade, I had a big booty.
I love my smile — except when I smile too wide, or I’m laughing because I have big gums.
My hair has to be perfectly straight. If I have it up in a ponytail, it has to be slicked back. It can’t be loose. No one can see me first thing in the morning. I can’t step out of the house without looking 100% perfect. Oh god, the cellulite. Wait, are those dark circles? Is my hair thinning? My bangs aren’t perfect. Do I have too many moles on my arms? Is that a zit? Ugh — the scars on my face. Am I getting wrinkles?
The insecurities never stopped. When I became sexually active, there were fleeting moments of feeling attractive, but for the most part, I was fairly uncomfortable with my body. These days, about 30 lbs overweight, I feel uncomfortable when other people take pictures of me. When I hang out with friends, I spend a good amount of my time being conscious of how I’m sitting, which angle is the best to hide the extra curves, and whether or not anyone has their camera out.
All I saw — all I still see sometimes are imperfections. Flaws. Abnormalities.
That’s no way to live.
I’m going to be getting my first tattoo soon. I’m still working on the design, and while I’ve started thinking about that — I began thinking of my body as a canvas. Where can I put each piece to display in the best way possible?
Then it hit me.
My body is a canvas, and all the scars, imperfections, and wrinkles are just brushstrokes of a life full of beauty, laughter, struggles, pain, and survival.
The moles and hair that I was born with are gifts from my parents. They’re brushstrokes, like my eyes or smile, and the dimple I got from my mom.
The wrinkles are laugh lines. They’re stress lines. They’re brushstrokes marking every tear, every smile, and every emotion in between.
The extra pounds I carry around with me are the physical representation of the depression I battled. It’s for every time I was bullied, or torn apart verbally. They’re evidence of the nights I found myself at the bottom of a bottle, drowning in insecurities and loneliness. Every curve is a battle wound.
Just like the tattoos I’m going to get to add to the canvas that is my body, it’s time I take a good look at the canvas that stopped being blank the day I was born. I need to appreciate the brushstrokes, and the scratches — the good, the ugly, the confused, the broad, the absolute, the angry, the hopeful— for what they are.
I’m a walking canvas, full of brushstrokes called experience, with plenty of white space to fill by living.
It’s time to stop looking at our imperfections as failures and see them as elements of a masterpiece.
This post was originally published on HelloGiggles.
17 thoughts on “My Body Image Epiphany”
I deal with this issue, too. I finally told my dad to quit asking or I’d hang up the phone. It worked! 🙂 My body is mine. I can do great things in it and I’m happy with it, most of the time. I’m lucky enough to be married to someone who likes how I look no matter what that is. I hope that you come to enjoy your canvas as much as I have learned to enjoy mine. *hugs*
I’m glad to hear that you’ve come to enjoy your canvas as well!
Here from Kyla’s blog comment crawl! I have to say I could relate to so much of your post. I’ve dealt with the hairy arm issue forever as well (got it from my Dad’s side of the family too! Scottish though, not Turkish). I strongly considered getting electrolysis done last year because I hated the thought of having super dark arm hair in our wedding photos, but I decided at the end of the day, my husband loves me regardless, and there’s always Photoshop 😉 I struggle with the body image issue as well, due to some inexplicable medical issue causing me major swelling/bloating only in my abdomen, which frequently results in awkard “I didn’t know you were pregnant!”…. “I’m not.” conversations. If you’re comfortable with you, that’s all that matters. People are always going to have their opinions, but it sure would be nice if they could learn to keep them to themselves!
It’s always other people who tend to make it worse, isn’t it? It’s a challenge sometimes but try to focus on the positive! I hope you didn’t get your wedding pictures photoshopped! Like you said, your husband loves you so why would you change a thing? I hope that your medical issues get resolved soon!
I feel like I could have written this post, Berrak. In fact, after reading I had to sit for a minute before commenting; it definitely brought up some feelings that aren’t ever far from the surface. I’m still struggling with my own personal acceptance, but I’m so glad you’ve found some. Makes me feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I look forward to my own epiphany (even if I have to work for it!).
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Mandy. To be honest, the feelings aren’t far from the surface for me either! I hope that you will find your own light at the end of the tunnel!
Blog crawler here too. This is very very challenging – I didn’t getting over it until I got pregnant and watched my body create a miracle! I could not be angry at a body that made my sons. Funny enough, it probably looks worse than before kids, and I care less.
I don’t have advice – just know that you are not alone. Even people who are outwardly gorgeous have some insecurities.
We all have insecurities! One of my favorite things I’ve seen online is how a mother referred to her stretch marks as tiger stripes when her daughter asked. That’s empowerment and passing on the right kind of message to the next generation! I’m sure your sons are very lucky to have your positive attitude as a guiding light.
Aw, thank you for being so honest – and for being so kind to yourself! This feels like you’ve evolved to a much more kind, loving way of relating to yourself. It’s taken me a long time to realize that my body is a fact. It doesn’t have to feel like a hostage negotiation over the extra pounds we’re harboring or the food we’re about to eat! If you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend this TEDx talk by Kristen Neff highly enough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtZBUSplr4 It’s about self compassion, and it’s been a game changer for me.
I’m working a lot on self-compassion as well – and truth be told, I still have bad days when I am so down on myself but this epiphany has given me a better reference point when I need to get rid of those feelings.
I have so many feels for this post, especially now that I’m bigger than I’ve ever been after having my son (and being lazy). I am so glad you are being kind to your body and I definitely can take a note from your attitude. Thank you!
Laura, it took me a *really* long time to get to this point and I actually still struggle with it every day. It’s about baby steps and something that really helped me was remembering that numbers don’t matter – how I feel when I look at myself matters.
I loved this so much. And you. <3
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You have of the best quotes, you should make business! Like wallpapers or even picture frames!