Love Your Own Skin

“I love you, and I’m sorry but I cannot send you a full body picture.  I know you want me to love the skin I’m in, but I’ve really been battling some weight issues along with some depression.  I have tried for the past week to get dressed and take the picture.  I’ve probably taken 100 and I just cry…I’m sorry, but I can’t do it.”

This text was sent to me a week after I told my beautiful friends I wanted to write a post about women loving the skin we are in.  Not the shape we were when we were 16, 24, or even 40, but truly loving the woman that stares back at us each morning.  Let’s be honest….That’s hard!  When I look in the mirror I see wrinkles etched around my eyes that weren’t  there even 5 years ago.  But I’m slowly beginning to love those fine lines; they were created from years of laughter, squinting in the sun at baseball games, and crying along side my children as they learned tough lessons.  Those lines hold memories, and are an a testament to a life well lived.

But what about the extra 5, 10 or even 30 pounds we may be carrying around?  How do we still love ourselves when our pants are snug or don’t even button?  It’s tough.  I get that.  But here is what I want us to consider.  Confidence is beautiful.  Owning your body, and the journey it has been on is empowering.  For too long we have let the world tell us what is and isn’t beautiful.  We’ve watched young women starve themselves for fear of what the mean girls might think about the way they look.  We’ve allowed society to dictate what is too small or too big.  Let’s be honest.  We aren’t all the same shape, height, color, or nationality.  What a boring world it would be if we were!  But one thing is certain.  We are ALL beautiful.  Some of the most beautiful women I have met have curves, laugh lines, and stretch marks.  But they just glow.  Beauty isn’t about being a size 2, having the perfect legs, or meeting a certain description.  It’s about that glow that comes from being a woman who loves life.  THAT is beautiful.

While we are talking about the glow, let me address pregnancy.  I remember hiding from the camera while I was pregnant.  “Please don’t take my picture.  My face is fat, and everything is wide on my body.  I look horrible.  I don’t want anyone to remember me like this.”  I kick myself regularly for that.  I wish I had photos that documented my growing belly, the glow of my skin, and the joy mixed with apprehension  I felt while carrying my children.  So love those baby bumps.  Flaunt them the same way you would a pair of diamond earrings.  Smile at the camera, and say, “Look at me.  I’m growing a tiny human.  What are you doing with YOUR free time?!”

I remember working out with my friend a few years ago and she had on this sweatshirt that said, “Pretty For A Black Girl”.  It had this adorable cartoon of this black girl with big hair blowing a bubble.  “Faith, I don’t get your shirt.  Why does it say “For A Black Girl”?”  “Katie, do you know how many times people say that to me?  They don’t just tell me I’m pretty.  They tell me I’m pretty for a black girl.”  WHAT????? Why have we been conditioned that some races are more beautiful than others?  Do we sit little girls in front of mirrors and tell them they are pretty, but the girl down the street is prettier because she is a different color?!  I was disgusted by what  I had learned ignorant  people were saying.  Friends, I don’t care what color you are.  You are BEAUTIFUL!  You may have your grandmother’s nose, your dad’s eyes, your mom’s smile, and hair like you Aunt Clara.  THAT is what makes you beautiful.

Then there are those of us who say, “I just wish I wasn’t built so thick.  I want to be petite or tiny.”  STOP!  I am of German decent.  I have big thighs, a behind that needs it’s own zip code, and a waist that is about a size 4.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a pair of pants?!  But I embrace it.  I don’t care that my thighs are big now.  Instead I focus on looking strong.  Let them be big.  I’ll just make them as strong as a Clydesdale’s.  Let society tell me to eat more grass and carrots.  Forget them!  I am strong, and thus I feel good.  Stop freaking out about size, and focus on health.

Let’s not forget the tiny girls.  One of the biggest misconceptions is that tiny girls have it easy.  I remember a time when my daughter came home in tears.  She was just a tiny wisp of a thing, and another girl told her only dogs liked bones, and that no boy would ever be interested in her.  Other times people have accused her of not eating enough or even having an eating disorder.  Again, there were tears.  So many misconceptions about beauty.  I doubt my baby will ever be very meaty, but she is beautiful.  She may not have as many curves as the girl next to her, but she has dancer’s legs, long curly hair, and the sweetest button nose I’ve ever seen.  Are you sensing a trend?  It’s not about the size of the package.  It’s about what’s IN the package.  We as women have to be done letting stereotypes define our beauty!

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I also want to talk about those of us who say, “You should have seen me when I was younger.  I used to be really pretty.”  Ladies, beauty is ageless!  I personally don’t think gray hair will look good on me, but I don’t even know what my real hair color is right now!  It’s not that I’m afraid of getting older, I’m just destined to be a blond until I die!  While I will forever take care of my skin, and take my vitamins, I will not curse the aging process, or get a facelift so that I look more cat like than old lady.  We need to age with grace, and love ourselves as we go.  I caution you though.  Some women get sexier with time.  I have a friend that has a better body than I do, and she’s in her early 50’s!  Age is just a number!

So here is the take away.  We are women.  We are beautiful.  Every curve, every wrinkle, every stretch mark, every shape, every age.  We need to love ourselves right where we are.  If you have areas you want to work on, that is ok.  There is never anything wrong with trying to create a healthier version of yourself, but stop punishing yourself for not being perfect.  Look in the mirror.  See the beauty.  It has been said that when we believe we are beautiful, others see more beauty in us.  I won’t sit here and tell you that I wouldn’t like to drop 5 pounds, or that I don’t constantly work to be healthier and more fit than I am today.  But  I refuse to beat myself up for not being perfect.  I will NOT hide away until my body is just the way I want it.  I want us to live life to the fullest, loving ourselves along the way.  On your birthday, eat the cupcake!  When your are invited to the beach, wear the swimsuit, and saunter like you own the place.  Stop letting others dictate how you feel about you.  I’m telling you…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. 

And to the young lady who cried at her own image….I’ve known you since you were 19.  I’ve seen you go through 2 hair colors, multiple boyfriends, and several career changes.  I thought  you were beautiful when I met you.  Your hair was tied in a top knot, and you had that young fierce look that only a kid ready to take on the world can have.  You are STILL beautiful today.  You have mellowed a little, and when I look at you, you look a little more seasoned, and a little wiser.  Every curve, every dip, every scar is beautiful.  If you choose to change your body, do it for you, not because the world told you to.  I love you.

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I'm a Christian mom and wife, former journalist, and southern girl. I love monograms, sweet tea, and saying yes ma'am and ya'll.