Love Your Naked
Confidence. That word holds so much power. It can make or break a day, a week a month. Actually, it can define your life without you ever realizing.
Lack of confidence is a disease in women. Not one you'll find in a medical journal but it is ravaging and wreaking havoc on entire generations nonetheless. There are so many components that go into having a secure confidence in yourself and so many outside sources can damage it; growing up with a lack of empowering and strong female role models, abusive relationships, gaining weight, losing weight, accidents that keep you from doing what you want in life, job loss, financial insecurity, grief, loneliness, abandonment, lack of positive male role models, your size, your friends... the list is never ending.
However, the biggest lesson I've learned is that I'm responsible for and capable of creating that confidence within myself. It's constant work. It's hard work. But it is necessary work for me to exist in this world in a positive and affirming way. To step into ourselves, we sometimes have to build the stairway first.
Like so many women I found myself watching my confidence slip through my fingers as I navigated that journey from wife to mother and combining the two. My body changed, I gained weight, exercise took a back seat, my focus was on keeping my children alive and fed and clean and all the other things that we must do as moms. I was so centrally focused on being the best homemaker and caregiver that I stopped even looking at myself as my own person. MY identity was tied to other people and the things I provided for them.
We talk a lot about self care these days... but 10 years ago we weren't. I believed the lies the media and print ads and diet culture sold me about what I was supposed to look like, about the clothes I was supposed to wear, the look I was supposed to embody, realized I never could and started hating my body that has done so much for me.
Our bodies are amazing. Full stop. This body of mine, helped create life, grew babies, birthed them. It has held me through unimaginable grief. Walked me through beautiful cities and carried me through forests, canyons, up mountains, across beaches, both the physical and the theoretical. MY body has held friends and children while they hurt, celebrated the highs with them, mourned the lows. This stunning body of mine has loved me even when I haven't been capable of loving it back.
I just stopped seeing all of the amazing things this pile of bones and flesh has done, could do. I only saw the molds it no longer fit into. For years now I've stopped seeing the love it provides to me and and my family and friends and have only focused on its size.
SIZE. The ultimate of four letter words. For so many years I've given over my valuable power to a number. I've let it define me and shape me. I've hated and accepted it all at the same time. Much like weight, instead of seeing it as a fact, a measuring tool, I've defined my self and my story by numbers. Numbers that are arbitrary and change depending on the garment, don't exist depending on the designer or changes based on time of the month or emotional state. Our size and our weight, they fluctuate. They change. And change can be hard.
I'm the worst when it comes to changes. I fight. I want everything to stay the same and I want everything to be different all at once.But you can't have both and that is where the work comes in.
My mother died in 2019. And for all of the things she did right, she also taught me to hate my body. She didn't mean to, she didn't know any better, she hated her body too. Born in 1947, the ultimate of the baby boomer years, she grew up in the 50's and 60's. Stick thin frames and bikinis dominated magazines and television and she was raised by a woman who subscribed to every housewife stereotype including your worth being directly correlated to your beauty and thinness. MY mother constantly made comments about her weight, was on and off every fad diet there was, Slim Fast was a constant in our home and I remember to the day the first time she made a comment that made me look at myself differently.
I was 16, it was July, I was getting ready to go to the pool, and I was standing in front of the full length mirror in her room in a turquoise and white Swiss dot bikini from Victoria's Secret. I loved that bikini, I felt fun and sexy in it. She walked in, took one look at me and said, "Your thighs are getting a little fat, we're going to need to watch that." And with one sentence, she changed my life.
For the next 18 years there were more comments, she'd worry over my weight, never thought I bounced back after pregnancy, and send me books and workout videos, offer to pay for Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, praise me for losing 5 lbs, look at me with pity when I put the weight back on, ad nauseam. The psychological damage of having the most influential woman in your life put your weight on an unattainable pedestal is lasting to say the least.
The thing is though, she isn't here anymore and the work remains mine to do. That's the crappiest part about being hurt, by anyone, the work of mending the inside, of healing the wound, that's personal work and no one can do it for you.
So the big question is: HOW? How do we rebuild our self confidence? Many of us buy into the trope that if we just lose weight it will fix our issues. My friends, it will not! I could wake up tomorrow 50 lbs lighter and I will still have the same problems, because no matter my size when I look in a mirror I truly only see the "problems", I don't see myself as I truly am, or maybe I see myself only through the lens of my body being consumed by others. I see the cellulite, the wrinkles, the hanging belly, the sagging boobs, the dimpled rear end, the stretch marks, the scars, the discoloration, the pale skin, the dent in my thigh from the golf ball that hit me during a tournament... oh. my. god. Make it stop!
When I was a teenager I got dressed every morning, did my makeup, fixed my hair, in shorts and a bra. I constantly looked at my body but I didn't really see it, it was just the vessel to my self starting my day. My body changed so much after my first child that I couldn't stop seeing the changes, could no longer just get dressed without being distracted by the new folds and stretch marks and larger size that I started wearing clothes to get ready in the mornings. I covered it up so I didn't have to confront the changes. And I kept covering it up.
I was always a little more showy in my personal style, I liked tight jeans and low cut shirts, revealing dresses, skimpy bikinis. I liked my body for the most part. I liked showing it off. I was comfortable in my own skin and my style expressed that. But after kids, I started wearing longer shorts, loose fitting tops, baggy sweaters, anything to cover it up. And we all know that when the clothes don't fit, you look even larger. So now my body has changed and I don't recognize myself and my personal style has changed so I don't recognize myself and my brain has completely rewired itself for this new person who I don't recognize AT ALL! I was hiding from myself and I didn't even know it. I'd get out if the shower, I'd put on my lotions and creams and get dressed immediately, avoiding mirrors completely. Even if it was just putting on more pj's. anything to not look at my body.
It had to stop. So what did I do?
I started getting naked. Completely naked. And staying naked. And that's harder than it sounds.
It takes a tremendous amount of will power to stay naked and force yourself to look at and respond with love. I started slow, standing naked in front of my mirror and reciting affirmations:
*My body gave me my children.
*My husband loves my curves.
*My breasts are full.
*My thighs are strong.
*I am tall.
Y'all it was slow going at first. I started with facts. Things I couldn't argue with or rationalize. I tried not to argue with or explain them away. Some days I succeeded and some days I failed. But I kept doing it, day after day, until I could start exploring affirmations that had at one time felt wrong.
*I love my curves, they are sexy.
*I am strong.
*I am beautiful.
*I don't owe the world thinness.
*My body deserves to be loved.
I started treating my body like a friend. A friend I love.I pretended, I faked it, until I loved her again. And I do. I love this body of mine. But beyond affirmations, beyond the words I gave her, I started taking a naked picture of myself every day. Not to track changes, or log differences, not to hate her. Because hate NEVER begets love. To learn to look at her with, at first indifference, and then finally to love her.
There is power in looking at your body and just being still. No judgement, no wishes for change, no anger. Just looking and owning her as yours, and you as hers. A symbiotic relationship that can flourish when you take all of the restrictions off and allow her existence to just be.
Are there still things I'd like to change? Yep. But I want to change them for the right reasons now. I want to hike in Hawaii this summer... that will require me to move my body more so that I am fit enough to accomplish that. I want to workout with my husband because it strengthens our relationship, that requires food that fuels workouts and sticking to our schedules. I want to tap dance again, so I have sign up for the classes. I want to move because it feels good, gives me energy, sparks creativity, creates spontaneity, allows me to be vulnerable because I trust this mind body relationship I've created. The strength in the words "I created" is palpable. We get to create the life we want to live. And our bodies should not stop us.
So my last hurdle, or let's say my current hurdle, because life is ever-changing as we've discussed, is owning all of this out in the world. I still feel like I owe the world my beauty and my thinness... and I DO NOT. Today, I shared a photo with the hashtag #loveyournaked A photo where I feel powerful and confident. A photo where you can see my dimples and my rolls, where I embrace her and love her and know she is loved. This is my body, as she is right now. She is sexy and beautiful and strong and she has a life to live. A family who loves her, she is the embodiment of my soul and my soul resided in her, comfortably after years of fighting each other they are once again, friends.
And my challenge to you is this: take a naked photo of yourself every day. I know. I know, it's hard. Maybe you start in your underwear. Maybe put on your favorite oversized sweatshirt and focus on your stunning legs first. Maybe just the waist up. Whatever it is, just take the photo, own your naked body and share it with #loveyournaked I want to see all of you gorgeous women, loving your bodies and focusing on healing and getting to the root of the problems and I promise that learning to accept my body as she is and where she is helped me more than anything I've ever done.
Stare at those photos. Look at them, be still with them. Own that body. Learn indifference if you have to until you can learn to love your gorgeous, naked body. Take notes, mark up the photo, draw hearts and words of affirmation. Stare until you are comfortable. Then switch it up, stand in front of the mirror every day, naked, and do it some more. Get so comfortable with your body that your nakedness become a part of you and you don't think about it ever again. Because the body isn't what's important.
That's what I learned. In doing the work to love my body I re-discovered my soul. It's my heart and my soul and they were trapped behind hatred for their vessel. My zest for life, my curiosity, my love, were suffocating under the pain of hating myself. It was all consuming. And it had to stop. And it all started with a picture.