I am walking through the hall in junior high school, making my way through crowds of talking, laughing, and note-passing kids. I am wearing my Philadelphia Eagles jersey and my new Guess? jeans and I am feeling pretty cool. As I pass a group of my brother’s friends, one of them calls out, “ha…cha cha cha cha!” a catch phrase that comedian Jimmy Durante used in his stand-up act. (Jimmy Durante was known for his ginormous nose.) The smile I had been wearing immediately vanishes. I keep walking, looking straight ahead pretending I didn’t hear anything, head straight to the girls bathroom, go into one of the stalls and cry silently for several minutes.
Throughout my life I have been teased about my body for many reasons: my nose, my butt, my arms, my legs, my height, my face, my hair…I am sure I am leaving some things out. Most of these experiences, especially the events that occurred early in my life, were quite painful, for I thought that there was nothing at all that I could do about it. I felt helpless within my body, and resentful toward it for the pain it caused.
The world is not set up to cultivate confident humans. It is in fact, quite the opposite. How often have you looked at pictures of yourself from a time and place and thought, “wow, I didn’t think I looked that good back then, I thought I was ugly/fat/hairy/weak then, but look at how ugly/fat/hairy/weak I am now! I should have enjoyed what I had.” I hear that a lot. I actually have had that experience myself. This experience, in fact, is a small part of what led me to liberation from the hatred I once had for my body.
I caught a glimpse of this at one point while I was married. Unbeknownst to me, I had gained about thirty pounds. I didn’t realize it until I was looking at a picture of myself at one point and thought, “huh….I am looking kinda big. I wonder how that happened.” Later that evening at home, I asked my husband if he had noticed my weight gain and if he had, why he hadn’t mentioned anything to me. He replied, quite simply, that I seemed happy and if I was happy, what did it matter that I gain a few extra pounds? My jaw dropped. Here was this tall, handsome hunk of a man telling me that it didn’t matter to him if I was a bit heavy, that as long as I was happy, he was happy. It was a jolt to my system to feel that kind of love. It was just a glimpse of an awakening to a different way of life.
Along with my past experiences, I came to see through a series of hundreds of dates later in life, where my body or looks were openly critiqued, that you do not need the world’s approval to be a happy person. You do not need the approval of your peer group, your family or your friends. You only need the approval of one very important person. You only need one person to love you unconditionally, one person to accept you just the way you are. That one person’s acceptance will free you from the expectations of others and put you on a path of a happiness you have never known before.
As you might suspect, that one person is you. I can tell you from personal experience, if you are truly happy with yourself, if you love yourself and your body unconditionally, no one can touch you. No one can make you feel like shit about yourself if you do not allow it.
I realize that this message is everywhere. There is a reason why self-help books are so popular. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants unconditional love and happiness. Getting there is hard though. It takes real work. It takes an ability to be honest about yourself. It takes a willingness to change your mind. Your mind, which has been fed the wrong message about your value and your physical appearance, is the actual challenge. You must see yourself as lovely. Accept yourself as beautiful or strong or pretty or sexy and get on with it. Reject any message that paints you as less than, because it is:
A. Not true
B. Fed to you by unhappy people
C. Sold to you by an industry whose purpose is to get you to buy shit endlessly in pursuit of happiness and perfection
I started loving my body the more I focused on what I could do with it. I was athletic growing up and was always doing physical things; I was a body in motion. And you know what else I was? Unconcerned about how I looked. When I remembered what joy I held as a kid, I decided to bring that back into my adult life. I realized that in effect, I had become less active because of the state I had withdrawn into due to the criticism I received about my body and my life. The more I believed I was a small ugly person, the more I acted like it. But I am not a small ugly person. I am fucking awesome, and I become more awesome each day that thought goes through my head. I can’t get to awesome thinking I am ugly/fat/hairy/weak/stupid, can I? No. No one can.
I hear from men and women alike that they won’t be happy with their body until fill in the blank. They won’t be able to have sex until fill in the blank. A lot of life is missed waiting for perfection, but waiting to have sex until you have flat abs? Until you get rid of a pot belly? Until your legs are not so bulky? That is truly biting off your nose to spite your face. Missing out on life because you don’t like how you look going through it is a real tragedy. I have had sex with tons of people, and the people who I enjoy it with the most are the ones who are confident, no matter what they look like. The people who feel good in their own skin are easier to feel comfortable around. They are easier to be naked around because they feel good being naked.
Life is not about looking a certain way, and in truth, you can change your appearance and still be unhappy. Some of the most beautiful people in the world are profoundly unhappy. Just think about it. How many beautiful people have died from a drug overdose? TONS.
Life is about living it, and caring about what unhappy people think about you is sucking the life force out of you. So fucking stop it. Stop listening to all things that make you doubt yourself. Start doing things that confirm your awesomeness. Remind yourself of the epic reality of your body. Express your point of you. You are here for a reason, and it is not to hate yourself because you have big thighs.
Big thighs are awesome. Droopy tits are epic. Pot bellies are kick ass. Your body shows the history of your life and that is an amazing thing. Allow your body to tell your story. Let it add to all the stories that have come before and pave the way for the stories that will come after. You don’t like the story? Then look at the pain surrounding it and deal with that pain. Blaming your body for your emotional pain is like blaming the highway for bad traffic. The highway can be your path to freedom. The people on the highway who cut you off, honk at you, and keep you from where you are going are not the highway’s issue. They don’t have to be yours, either.
Unhappiness and insecurity come from a misunderstanding of who is most important in your life. Who, above all else, deserves your devotion, your compassion, your acceptance. Address your needs and fill them. Ask for what you want unapologetically. Focus intently on your greatness. Write off those who do not see it in you. They are blind to your greatness because they are blind to their own.
Fuck those guys. You are The Only One Who Matters.
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