Accepting that I’m Never Going to Accept My Body

One of My Arty Farty Photos

I am never going to love my body just the way it is, and that’s OK.  Let me explain:

Yesterday, I read this post about a woman struggling with her post-baby body.  What struck me about the piece was that this struggle is new for her. She talks about how she never had body image issues until she had her second child.

Wow.

I cannot remember a time when I did not have body image issues. Well, maybe that’s not completely true – I distinctly remember a time in fourth grade when I was sashaying up the school steps in what I thought was a fashion-model way, when I realized to my horror that I wasn’t alone – my teacher, Mrs. Richardson was there watching. “You are quite the fashion plate!” she said. And while I had no idea what that meant, I knew it was good.  And I sashayed even more.

But that was it.  The last moment in memory when I wasn’t embarrassed by or self-conscious about my body.

Just yesterday morning I had breakfast with my high school boyfriend. When I carefully ordered a carb-free breakfast, he asked about it. “I just want to lose 10 pounds.” I said.

“Funny,” he answered.  “I remember having that same conversation with you in 1992. You’ve got to get over those body image issues.”

And that’s when it hit me.  I am not going to get over my body issues.  The last time I felt less awful (not good, mind you) about my body, was after I had swine flu and pneumonia two years ago.  I lost eight of the 10 pounds I’ve been trying to lose for 20 years, and gushed about the silver lining of having a potentially deadly illness.

It’s pathetic, I know.

I’ve tried to love my body the way it is.  I’ve read articles in women’s magazines that tout body acceptance on one page and photos of emaciated super-models on the next.  I’ve done that exercise when you look at yourself naked and pick one part of your body  you think is beautiful. (I picked my eyes. Not a body part, but it was the best I could do.) I even posed for artsy-fartsy naked photos a few years back in the hopes of feeling empowered and seeing the beauty in my own human form. It didn’t quite work out that way.  As photographs, they are lovely. As me, not so much. Those expensive pictures are hidden in a drawer somewhere waiting for the day my body is so old and decrepit that in the photos, it looks great by comparison.

So I’ve decided to try something new.  I’ve decided to accept that I’m never going to accept my body the way it is.  Quite frankly, it’s a relief.  Attempting the impossible has been exhausting.

It’s kind of like agreeing to disagree with a friend.  You’re not going to change your mind and suddenly decide that, why, yes, water-boarding is a great idea after all, but neither are you going to harp on it, or let it ruin your friendship.

The fact is, for more than 30 years I’ve felt uncomfortable – to varying degrees – with my looks. Why, now that age, gravity, and the inevitable crepe-i-fication of my skin has taken over, do I think that’s going to change?  It won’t. But I can accept that. Take my nose (please!). I don’t like my nose.  I’ve never like my nose.  But I’m not interested in surgery, and I don’t obsess about it.  It’s my nose. Move on.

I don’t see why that same tactic can’t work with my body image: I don’t like my body, but, 30 + years in, it’s clear that I don’t dislike it enough to starve myself/exercise hysterically/pay someone to surgically suck out the fat. So…move on.

I won’t quit railing against the male dominated media landscape that dictates women strive for an impossible physical ideal.  I won’t be happy that my daughter is growing up in a world where 11 year olds go on diets. I will try to instill in her a positive self image.  But for me – it’s just not gonna happen.  I’d like it to.  But there are a lot of things I’d like. I’d like Sarah Palin to do an Arianna Huffington, become a liberal, and use her inexplicable appeal to the masses for good instead of evil.  But that’s not going to happen either.

Maybe it’s defeatist.  Maybe I should figure out a way to love myself for who I am.  But,isn’t  that what I’m doing? Isn’t acceptance, after all, love?

I’m hopeful that this new approach to non-body acceptance will make the fact that I’ll still be unhappy with my body a non-issue. I’m hoping that it will turn out to be a road to not having that same conversation with my high school boyfriend 20 years hence.  Already, it’s liberating – like a weight has been lifted, even if no weight has been lost.

And if you don’t like my approach.  If you still think I should try to love my body, see its beauty, well, I can accept that.  And we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow! Thanks for writing this piece Nancy, an issue that so many of us women struggle with. I love the approach you are taking. I too have recently resolved to be kinder to my body- stop beating myself up about the flaws and just be happy that I am healthy 🙂 Plus, I love eating good food way too much to obssess about constantly losing weight- LOL!!

  2. elissapr says

    This may be one of your mot provocative posts yet: a new/realistic take on body image. You have made Being at peace with your body in a way that works for you.

    And? For the record..I think you look great!…even tho’ you don’t believe me!!

  3. says

    Ugh. I know what you mean. Although I wish I hated my body more. I feel like if I really totally detested it I would be motivated to change it. As it is, I’m just too accepting of my flab!

    But that picture of you really IS beautiful, and you looked fabulous last night. I know it’s hard to accept how other people see you, but it’s true from my end. 🙂

    • says

      Well, thank you. Actually, you were someone who inspired this post, too. When you said last week that you had gained weight – and you wished you cared more, I thought “She’s right. Why should she care?” You’re beautiful and smart and have a great family and friends. You’re super snarky. All things to be happy about. I found your lack of giving a crap refreshing and correct. I’m still working on it. I’m disgusted by the thought of how much time I’ve wasted trying to get over it. Now I just want to be over it.

  4. says

    Having an 11 year old daughter myself, it has really woken me up to the whole body image issue. I see things now through her eyes instead of my own tired 45 year old ones. I have never been thin. At my heaviest (during college) I was completely miserable. I know that I have a weight “range” that I can be happy in and I’m pretty good about staying within that range. But… I have pretty much given up on losing anything more. Dieting makes me crazy. I have to try extra hard not to impart my own body issues on my daughter. She is chubby and already complains about wanting to be thin and going on a diet. It makes me cringe. By me telling her that she is beautiful and perfect the way she is, it has made me come to the conclusion that I’m pretty okay just the way I am.

    • says

      I think that your giving up on being thin is good. I really do. Why kill ourselves striving for something that – let’s be frank – if we really, truly, wanted, we would probably have done something about long ago?
      I’m not willing to give up food. Or to kill myself in the gym. As long as I’m healthy…I’m not going to be happy about not being thin – I’m just going to be ok with it.

  5. says

    Honestly? I think this IS the first step toward accepting your body as it is. 😀 I talk a lot about releasing the “fantasy of being thin” because waiting to live my life until that day is a waste of my time. Sounds to me like you’re on the way there too. 😀

  6. says

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  7. says

    That scary comment above mine notwithstanding (smathews1976, really? Dude… not cool), I think not accepting is a kind of acceptance in and of itself. And just for the record, you’re gorgeous. And sure, I’ve never seen you naked (well, except for the photo up there), but we all obsess over things others never even notice. You are a beautiful woman, and more importantly, you have a beautiful brain and heart. xxoo

  8. says

    LOVE this acceptance of non-acceptance. One of the hidden perks of being an overcrazed working mother is that you have very little time to ponder your body! The more work I do, the less time I have to deal! That’s my m.o. For now, anyway. By the time I have time to worry about my body, I will probably be 90, by which point I won’t give a crap anyway. CHEERS! Let’s celebrate body non-love at BlogHer!

  9. says

    Such a true, genuine post. I’ve had body images my whole life – a flat chest and a big bottom. But I have realized over time that my body’s not changing, and I need to change internally and become accepting. Now I no longer fight my flaws. I do what I can, when I can. I don’t work out as much as I could and should, but that’s okay with me. It’s who I am. There are other things I would still like to change about myself but they aren’t connected to my weight. With time, maybe I’ll become as accepting of those flaws as I am about my weight.

  10. says

    This post just completely resonated with me, as i spent the bulk of my high school years being called “pulks” by loving family members. I am short- there is no where for the food to go except directly to every part of my body- and so I’ve decided unless Im ok with starving myself- Im much more ok with these pulks of mine:) xo

  11. says

    There are so many things in this post that hit me directly. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel bad about myself for eating something I shouldn’t have the day before. Unless, of course, that the day before was spent obsessively eating the right foods. I came to my own realization last year that in order for me to feel good in my body (with extra pounds or not), I have to be obsessive. Of course, this cannot be sustained, as there is always something bad that I just HAVE to eat. I have accepted that it will always be a battle, but I’ll be okay as long as I am trying to eat well.

    I also have an eleven year-old daughter, and one of the things that has always been of the utmost important to me is that she is completely unaware of my issues. We talk about being healthy, of getting some exercise each day, or eating (and doing everything) in moderation. She is beautiful, and self-confident, and I don’t want to be the one to teach her to not love herself. When I speak about eating well and exercising, I usually frame it around needing my body to be healthy, not about the way I look. So far it’s worked, she has no body issues, no eating issues, but I guess I’ll just have to see how it goes when she gets a little older.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post—I think it will benefit so many women to read it.

    • says

      Thanks, Erin. I, too, have tried to keep my daughter unaware of my constant battle. Unfortunately – I don’t know that I’ve succeeded. I’d like to think that her (very minor but still there) body issues come from her friends, and the media – but I have to admit – painful as it is – that a lot of it comes from me. Worrying about my body is just SUCH a ridiculous part of my life, that even though I tried, I don’t know that I succeeded in shielding her from it. I just hope that since I was never ever directly critical, she’ll handle whatever issues there are better than I.

  12. says

    Nancy – I just met you last week, so I am slowly exploring your site….and. I feel so fortunate to come across this post. I can relate to a forever journey of looking for a better body.
    Like you, I think the last time that I did not walk around with a negative body image was around the 4th grade. I have been aware ever since I was TALL. The other girls were short and petite, and to me – TALL meant fat.
    I have tried the better part of my life to be shorter (slumped shoulders) and despise being referred to as BIG.
    After realizing that my back and shoulders were a wreck, I became determined to stand up straight.
    I also ditched trying to be short, and now slap on huge heels making myself look even taller/bigger than I am.
    Thanks for sharing – Rachel

  13. says

    Man, how did I miss this the first time? Shari just shared it and it is so exactly what I needed to read! Fantastic. Although, I couldn’t disagree more with every one of your opinions (except the eyes, I agree you have amazing eyes) I’m not even gonna dispute you and instead just cheer the acceptance of non-acceptance!

    • nancyjrab says

      Thanks, Cristie. It’s an ongoing struggle. Sort of bums me out that I wrote this that long ago…and I STILL haven’t accepted my body. But I do think I’m getting better. And this is a good reminder. Maybe if someone told a national TV audience that I was “blessed with a bosom”…. oh, wait, that’s what they said about YOU on the TODAY show!!

  14. says

    Very glad you wrote this. Kind of feeling a bit better about being me right now, because you’re going through, or have been through, the same kind of things, and have come out the other side in what seems to be a relatively unscathed manner.

    Kudos to you 🙂

    • nancyjrab says

      Thanks for that. I wish I could say I really have accepted all this…still a work in progress, I’m sad to say…especially at my “advanced age.” Though as I inch closer and closer to 50, it does get easier to care a bit less about it all. And for what it’s worth, I’m sure you should feel great about being you. Just the fact that you’re introspective shows something: you’re willing to grow and change!

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