I discovered a big bruise on my shin the other day, and when I went to show it to my daughter, the words inadvertently popped out of my mouth: “I hate my legs.” The moment they were out, I regretted them. Why would I say something like that? Why would I care about what my legs look like at a moment when I was showing her a bruise? Well, it was the end of the night so they weren’t super smooth, and I have other bruises and marks from life, but mostly I think it is because I am conditioned to say I hate my legs. What a terrible thing. My legs look like legs are supposed to look and, thank god, they work like legs are supposed to work. So why would I hate them?
I have spent much of my life trying to overcome the ridiculous American standards for beauty. I was fat from ages 13-24, but those years were enough to imprint on me a lifetime of being afraid I’ll again get fat. And of seeing myself as fat. I recognize that this is a very distorted image, but even now, 30 years later, I don’t have a clear picture of myself as just healthy. And I still hate my legs. I don’t wear shorts or skirts above my knees (even though being “petite” apparently demands that). I have also always wished for larger breasts, even though my breasts have worked well for me my whole life. No backaches, perfect for breastfeeding, appropriate for my size. And in reality, there aren’t many things I would trade about myself for a larger cup size.
As hard as it is for me to not be worried about the fit of my clothes (or the state of my hair) on any given day, I do know that in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter. There are too many people in my life who have many more things to worry about than their pant size (although I know they do anyway), and that helps put things into perspective. I am fortunate to be waking up and walking on my own volition, and I’m quite grateful that I still have my breasts. My friends who have real struggles remind me of these blessings every day.
I hope I have taught my children that what truly makes us beautiful is how we interact with others and the good we do when we have the chance. And I hope that I have instilled in them the knowledge that no matter what we look like, we are beautiful when we are the best versions of ourselves. Everything else, nonsense it all is, to quote Notting Hill. And I really just have to get over the thing about my legs.