May 8, 2010

on self acceptance...

body love.
Lately, there has been a genuine shift in my body image. It's almost as though I'm finally able to clearly see what was always there, waiting to be loved. Which is, of course, the body I'm lucky enough to have. Every inch of skin, every curve of my belly, every freckle across my shoulders.

What is incredible to me, is the fact that every single female I've ever talked to about body image feels the same exact way. We feel so much pressure of this idea of perfection that is shoved in our faces constantly. But, really, all we want is to be given permission to love ourselves. We want to know that it's okay to not be at our ideal weight. We want to know that it's okay to have a tummy that has a roll or two when we are curled up on the couch. We want to know that it's okay if we don't have the body of a teenager once we're halfway through our twenties. We want, most of all, to be reassured.

And I guess that I just want to reassure anyone who may be reading this. Because I know that is what I've needed to hear more often in my life - and truly believe it.

I've noticed that these days, the bodies that I look at and admire are the ones who are real, and not on the pages of a magazine. I absolutely adore the women I see who have curves that they own. The people who remind me of the way women used to be represented - back when we weren't obsessed with having stomachs flat beyond all reason and arms that don't jiggle when we wave "goodbye". I truly believe that a woman's body is meant to be soft. That's not to say that the girls who are naturally tiny aren't feminine or beautiful - of course they are. And I'm not also saying that you should eat yourself silly and not give it another thought. But I think that much of our culture has lost the ability to look at the female body and see it realistically.

A few months ago, I received an Urban Outfitters catalog in the mail, and I literally gasped when I saw the cover. The girl in the photo is completely emaciated. I think that at that moment, the cover of that catalog represented everything I was trying to fight when it comes to negative body image. I was so taken aback that I almost wanted to cry. The extremely tiny size of the model was so in your face that I honestly have no idea how anyone was able to look at that cover and not notice it right away - at least subconsciously.

This is what a popular clothing company is sending out to thousands upon thousands of girls and women? I absolutely can't stand it. If I was so affected by it, I can only imagine what a more impressionable fifteen year old girl would feel when seeing it. And that breaks my heart.

Since that moment, I've been trying my absolute best to look at and love anything that is a better representation of the reality most of us wake up with in the morning. Which is, of course, a bit of fluff here and there. Thighs that touch, hips that curve beautifully, a chin that may double when we laugh. As I look around at the real people in my life, I see so much real, honest beauty. I've stopped looking at the super-thin models or actresses and wishing I could wake up one morning and magically be a size zero. Instead, I take time every single day to look at myself in the mirror and compliment the things that might otherwise make me fret.

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I definitely don't have the curves of Beyonce or Christina Hendricks, but I can still prance around and feel feminine and beautiful. I may not be as thin and in shape as Jennifer Aniston or anyone on the cast of The Hills, but can appreciate the glow I have after running a few miles and love the fact that I have pretty great legs. I think that I really lost that appreciation for myself when I hit my 20s. There was so much pressure that I put on myself, and for a while I couldn't just love myself for being imperfect.

When, really, that's all any of us really are. Imperfect. Beautifully so.

I definitely have days where I struggle with loving myself completely - that's just how life is, I guess. I have moments where I'll be standing in a dressing room, stuck in a dress at Forever 21 and unable to pry it from my body. I'll stand there for a few minutes, size-small-dress stuck over my shoulders, hating my life and fighting the urge to cry. But then I'll realize that I'm perhaps a little too old to be trying to squeeze myself into a dress that was obviously not flattering to my figure anyway. I try to laugh it off. I go home and remind myself of the things I do adore about myself. I resolve to go out and find something that fits me perfectly, regardless of the size.

When it comes down to it, I want to just love myself. I want to not worry about what someone else thinks about my body. I want my younger sisters to grow up and know that they are absolutely beautiful, learning to adore the bodies they've been blessed with. I want my daughters (if I happen to have them) to grow up feeling comfortable in their skin - every single bit.

So, here I am. For the first time in a while, feeling okay with my imperfections. Knowing that my husband could care less if I gain or lose another ten pounds - and finds me incredibly beautiful just the same. Knowing that if I embrace the shape of my body, that perhaps there is another girl who will start to look at herself in a new light. Knowing that so much of contentment comes from not allowing yourself to pick yourself apart, but instead comes from praising the things that you used to think needed to change.

Because the good news is that you don't have to change it all to be beautiful.

As simple as that statement is, it's sometimes so hard to believe. And now? I can say that I do believe it. Completely and entirely. And I wish that the world we live in would show us this more often.
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After receiving a bit of feedback on this post, I wanted to add a few more words. Please read that post here regarding some further thoughts!

46 comments :

  1. I love love love this post. I want to read it to my students, because I have a class of 17, 14-year old girls, many of whom refuse to eat breakfast or lunch. They have such a warped view of what they should be, and they don't see how ridiculously beautiful they all are.

    I definitely feel like I'm getting to this place where I can look at myself and be truly satisfied with what I see, not because I'm a size zero, but because I have beauty that comes from being happy with who I am and where I am. I'm so happy that you seem to have that too :)

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  2. Beautifuly said. Thank you.

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  3. Great post! You ARE beautiful and perfect just the way God made you :)

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  4. Beautiful post! I think it is the middle-teens and the twenties where everyone starts to doubt themselves; SO many people I know need to read this and realize their own beauty, no matter their shape or size. Bookmarking this to refer back to.

    Have a fantastic weekend btw. :)

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  5. I think this is such a great message Kerri. And though I'm a fashion magazine lover myself, I've definitely had to come to the realization that not ever style/trend will look on me like it does on the models. And honestly, a "real" body can make some clothes look WAY better than they would on a praying mantis-like model.:)

    Here's to an extra five pounds, a burger every now and then and a little junk in the trunk!:)

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  6. I'm going to link to this post, because you were able to put into words my exact thoughts - only so much better! It's so sad that we feel outcasted, not good enough, and almost (dare I say, for the lack of a better word) freakish for being "normal." Our bodies are more beautiful with a little chub, a little bounce, a little roll. It's a representation of experience. That we're not afraid to indulge in just one more cookie. It shows we are human.

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  7. These photos are beautiful, and your realization is amazing! I'm so happy for you!! <3

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  8. I like girls with curves. Feel bad for the skinny girls. Probably pretty unpleasant when they get pregnant.

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  9. What an excellent post/revelation.

    My friend just started a blog called Nourishing the Soul ( http://nourishing-the-soul.com/ ) and it's all about healthy body image and self-acceptance. I think it's so great, this movement to recapture our self-image. I hope young girls and women embrace it like you have. :)

    (I have good days and bad days, you know?)

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  10. You worded so, so well what I've been going through the last year and where I've finally come to rest on the matter that I am amazed. So amazed, that I am sitting here trying not to cry. Thank you for the voice of reassurance/just simply being honest & open. I knew I must have been onto something with the "giving up" of trying to strive for the impossible.

    It really is so hard to understand why we can't be loved for who we are by the world, but it is even brighter to know that we can change ourselves to forget those ideals and love ourselves & those around us an extra lot. That, in my opinion, is a much better use of our energy and talents than trying to lose "X amount" of weight...xo

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  11. A beautiful post, Kerri. I'm so happy you've begun to feel this way, to really embrace & own it. I'm still trying to get there. I don't need to be thin, but I do want to be the best version of myself that I can be. I want to feel like my body is at a place that's comfortable, that's healthy, that's natural. I want to feel like I'm empowered to be NOT thin, as long as I'm also healthy.

    Thanks for writing this. <3

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  12. This was such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing. It's exactly the thing I needed to be reminded of.

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  13. This post is so lovely. YOU are lovely. That cover from Urban Outfitters? IS SO NOT.

    You truly have a heart of gold and your words empower me to keep remembering that I AM ideal...Maybe not Vogue's ideal, but that doesn't matter.

    *hugs*

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  14. you are such a great writer Kerri, and this post was very well-put. i can agree that subtle messages of 'thin' is what society seems to always put out there. it definitely makes me want to strive for that 'perfection' at times but i appreciate what i have. i'd rather be the way i am now than an emaciated model, that's for sure!

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  15. Wonderfully said. This is why I love your blog.

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  16. I am so very on board with this.
    That cover represents the ridiculousness that our culture has created. I am a "soft" woman. Very soft at a size 16. I am finding that I am having more days where I find myself captivating and beautiful than days where I want to curl up and die in an empty donut box.
    When I get honest with myself, late at night when my head is on my pillow, I wonder if any man could ever love me at a size 16. Maybe if I went down to a 10 or something, that would be acceptable.
    NO. I do not need to change. What matters is being healthy, eating the right foods and trying to get exercise in.
    My pastor at church this morning talked about women and how men should not pressure them into being these cookie cutter magazine girls, because its a false creation.

    We need to win back good body image. No more hating ourselves.

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  17. This is a great post. I tell myself these very things everyday...now I just have to believe them.

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  18. I just stumbled upon your blog and this, the first post I read? AMAZING! I love it....
    Off to read more! I'm your newest follower!

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  19. I wish I could package this blog post up and just implant it into teenage girls' minds. It is SO difficult to maintain a healthy body image when the media is constantly holding up really tiny, beautiful girls as the norm (even when those girls probably don't look anything like their photos due to Photoshop and such).

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  20. Sing it sister! I am going to link to this for sure! Whenever I hear "if you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?", I think...I would change the feeling of wanting to change anything about myself. I think we need to get back to just being good people, loving ourselves and loving one another.
    Mad LoVe ladies!!

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  21. Kerri Kerri Kerri.

    I think you're just absolutely amazing.

    This was SUCH a pleasure to read.

    Thank you for sharing this. I am so, so happy for you.

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  22. Love this post! I was just thinking about something like this earlier today because my Mom kept on saying she's fat and she is definitely not, she's way skinny! It's hard when we see all these models and photoshopped pictures of them.

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  23. I always enjoy reading your posts about body image. I am small and curvy -- large chest, large hips, large thighs. When I hit 20 I became obsessed with losing weight and trying to look like all the other college girls around me. I am still not at a point where I love my body every day, but I feel good about myself. And you know what really boosts my self esteem? For every guy who might find that model attractive, there are 10 who find my imperfect butt just as nice. :)

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  24. I just took a really long time to compose a meaningful comment, but I think my computer ate it. Suffice to say, this post was lovely. :)

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  25. Thank you, I really need this at the moment.

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  26. wow Kerry, this post really touched my heart, you are a wise beautiful woman, and its true...I think that when we reject our body, we are telling God that he made something ugly . We are all beutiful just because God created us, and a stupid magazine has no power to change that.

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  27. I remember seeing the cover of the Urban Outfitters (and a few catalogs past) and being absolutely AMAZED at how young the girls looked (or really are).

    The models they use aren't women they're children!

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  28. I LOVE this! Great job!! :)

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  29. I LOVE THIS POST! Thank you.

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  30. This is such an incredible post. Wow. You've said it so perfectly. It feels like everyone around me is feeling the same way these days--embracing ourselves instead of fighting it. It's been a long journey for me but I finally do love myself!! And I can say that and mean it. All the hangups I used to have have (for the most part) melted away and been replaced with a security in my own body. I've been exercising a lot more lately and eating healthy, but because I want to FEEL good and it's not so much about "looks." Because, I also don't WANT to be a stick. I enjoy the parts of me that are soft. I think it's natural and like you said, "Women are meant to be soft." I think it's part of what makes us beautiful. I love it. Wonderful, wonderful post! <3

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  31. I adore this post. I would kiss it on the mouth if I could. Thank you for writing this.

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  32. Great post, so happy for you to feel more at peace and content with your own body. I have done the same, trying to ignore the images from the media, or laugh at them. It's hard to really convince yourself that you are ok, you are beautiful just as you are. You have to continue to tell yourself these things. you ARE beautiful!

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  33. That is a fantastic and encouraging post! I hope the many who happen upon it will leave feeling like I do about it.

    The media needs to get with the program.

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  34. Love it. Isn't it a great feeling when you finally look at yourself with love in your eyes?
    I think the collarbone is the most beautiful part of a woman. To me is seems so graceful. Weird I know.

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  35. What an amazing post!!!! Fabulous job!

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  36. Your such a piece!Nice writings plus nice pose/pictures=great blog!
    I like you so much!
    =)

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  37. This is a great post with beautiful writing. I just read it after seeing your follow up post. While we curvy women might envy those slimmer bodies, we often forget that those slimmer bodies might want a little curve. And then again, they might be completely happy with themselves. My dear friend told me the other day "Even at my lowest weight I felt crappy about myself, so clearly it's not the weight." So true. We've got to work on the inside to make the outside shine. And i'm guilty of neglecting the work myself.

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  38. Such beautiful and important words! Thank you so much for this reminder to appreciate our bodies for what they are, and not beat ourselves up over a few extra pounds or a blemish on our faces.

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  39. I love your blog and I like this post.

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  40. Hi! I posted in the forum at 20s Bloggers and your blog was suggested to me and I'm so glad! The journey to body acceptance is such a tough and long one, women like you and me are lucky to have reached the place we are at our age! I look forward to reading more of your blog!!

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  41. I love this - so honest and beautiful! I couldn't agree more. :)

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  42. This post is a godsend. I am seventeen and I cant explain the complexities of my mind when it comes to taking in my body. I was recently trying to draw the female figure and I realized how much more beautiful it is when the curviness is embraced on the page. The curviness that is on my very bones. I want so much to love myself and marvel in my skin. Its small steps but I so so so much appreciate your words.

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  43. I am happy and thankful that I stumbled onto your blog after seeing you mentioned on "Oh, Hello, Friend."
    I'm 17 years old, and I have struggled with insecurities about my body since the beginning of junior high. I've cried in frustration more times than I'd like at the appearance of my body, and how it seemed to never look the way I wanted it to, no matter how many diet plans I tried and exercising I did.
    However, I've decided that this year would be the year I work on accepting myself and the way I look. This was something I just needed to read to give me the extra motivation to do so.
    I hope that you don't mind that I copied this post down as a daily reminder to myself to love myself no matter what.

    So, thank you so, so, so much for this. =)

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  44. this post is both beautiful and powerful. i am so happy to have read it. like you, i am working on self-acceptance, day by day. some days are much easier than others, but i'm moving in the right direction.

    thank you for your insight. thank you for sharing.

    all the best,
    cailen

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  45. I'm glad you've found peace with your body. I really am - that's a powerful accomplishment. However, this is one of the first posts I've read on your blog and I need to speak up for women like me. I'm tired of everyone, mainly in the comments here, that has made some assumption that every "skinny girl" is anorexic or has some sort of poor diet.

    As much as some people cannot accept it, I am naturally thin. I'm 5'8" and 120 lbs not matter what I eat, although I do have a healthy diet and I exercise. I look quite a bit like that "emaciated" model on the cover. I love my body and I'm in excellent health.

    This message could go on and on, but I just felt that I needed to spread a message of a more universal acceptance of bodies. They truly come in every shape/size, so don't forget that thinner women have their own feelings, issues and insecurities.

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