It's taken some courage to finally pull the trigger and publish the above picture. Because I know its not flattering. At all. But more than that, it's laying bare to the world something that I'm incredibly vulnerable and sensitive about.
I took the photo for a reason though. Or actually two. One was to serve the initial purpose of wanting to begin to embrace what I have loathed and perceived as a flaw for far.too.long. The other was what I am doing now... to share it with others to prove a point about body image.
What you see is what my stomach looks like after having three children. Stretched, flabby, and with a gazillion stretch marks. I've spent crazy amounts of time and money trying to find ways to cover it up, mask it, cinch it in... suffocate it if at all possible. Die, bitch, die. It's always in my mind when I pick clothes out, go shopping, or most especially... think about swimsuit season. I've cried over feeling like a grotesque monster with this goddamn stupid stomach. It's ridiculous.
Why do I cringe so.fucking.much over something that is so benign, really? In the grand scheme of life, some extra skin and scar tissue that is usually almost always hidden, is not really a big deal. At all. And yet it consumes me more than I would ever like to admit. Or at least it has in the past.
And let's be real. It's not just the stomach. It's the small (slightly stretched out) boobs. Its the cellulite on my butt and thighs. It's the horse teeth and ever-growing bags under my eyes. It's everything that doesn't make me look like a svelte, gorgeous, PERFECT super model. All those flaws and imperfections and things that make us human? They all create this weird and disturbing form of self-hatred and loathing that defies all logic and rational thought, and makes us just act fucking stupid about how we look.
Quite frankly, I'm over it. I'm tired of feeling this way about myself. I'm REALLY tired of seeing other women... beautiful, gorgeous, perfectly imperfect women... feel this way about themselves. It saddens me so much that this loathing starts so young too, in pre-teen girls. I'm tortured by the thought of my own daughters hating themselves, and not having the self-confidence to not worry about trivial and vain things. Things that are not only unattainable, but not worth the grief. Eating disorders, cutting, depression, drug/alcohol abuse, suicide... over a body part? What the fuck ever. My girls aren't going down like that. No way, no how. Not only that, but I also want to make sure my son grows up being able to appreciate the real beauty of the very real women in his life, and not hold women to media bullshit standards.
But that has to start with me. This needs to be a message they get from their mother. This has to permeate all of what society tries to provide for them as to how they should look, act, and be like. I have to be the example, and the model of what confident, beautiful, intelligent women really look like. That there is nothing wrong with wanting to look pulled together, and everything wrong with obsessing over things that are out of our control. That being strong and healthy are what matters most, not what shape our bodies are. That their mom is proud as hell of her marathon PR time, and could give a shit about other measurements. And that despite the flabby stomach and cellulite, I'm still freakishly strong (and awesome).
This is easier said than done, of course. Years, and years, and years of this body loathing are not something that gets erased overnight. Magazine covers, pictures on Facebook, and for goodness sake those Victoria's Secret ads can all bring me back to the fetal position almost instantaneously. What gives me confidence and helps me the most though is seeing other women... women that I admire... be so comfortable, and stunningly beautiful... in their own skin. Women that embrace any flaws that they have, and don't apologize for them, don't mask them... don't even acknowledge them. This is me... take it or leave it.
So, here I am. Working on that. Trying to love this body I was given, and not be childishly ungrateful for it. It has gotten me through four marathons and numerous other tough races. It has helped me fight off and survive an assault. It keeps me healthy, and strong, and physically capable. And those stretch marks that I have spent years cringing at and crying over? They're my personal tattooed reminders that my body carried three children through pregnancy, and made me a mother. Why I would look at them with scorn and loathing, I don't really know. They're all I ever wanted, really.
As I look at this picture, it helps me remember all of that. It also reminds me that far more people struggle with body deformities and flaws that actually hinder their capabilities and/or cause them real pain. Every.single.day. I'm never, ever going to have a six-pack. Or a smooth ass. Or cleavage. Yet I can think of millions of people who would give anything for a strong, well-nourished body, and three healthy children. If this picture inspires even just one person to stop fretting about stretch marks, cellulite bumps, cup sizes, and scale numbers and remember that beauty and confidence can be achieved by just being who you are (in my case a badass vegetarian, yoga-loving, tree-hugging, mother runner...obviously) ...then my work here is done.