We all have those “problem areas,” or things we wish we could change about our bodies.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be tall and slender. At age 14, Keira Knightley was my idol. I watched Bend It Like Beckham about a hundred times, thinking that if I just worked hard enough, maybe I could look like her. But at 5’6″ with a muscular, swimmer’s build, that’s never been in the cards for me. My broad shoulders and muscled thighs have been the bane of my self-image for years.
Growing up, my older brother would tease me by calling me “stumpy legs.” I’d like to say I brushed it off and didn’t let it affect me, but every time I see my legs in a photo, that’s the first thing I think of. The thing is, strong musculature runs in our family on both sides. So at the mere suggestion of exercise, my arms start bulking up and my shoulders get even wider. You’d think that would be a blessing, but for someone who’s already self-conscious about being more masculine than the boys, it’s kind of a curse.
My husband, on the other hand, is only a few inches taller than me and though strong, leans much more towards the slender spectrum. I prayed that our daughter would take after him instead of me. But as she grew more into her body and shed those baby rolls, she became my mini clone. She started walking at nine months and running shortly thereafter. She has exceptional balance and her favorite place in the house is the gym. Yet never once have I looked at her with less than the most admiring gaze. Her well-developed thighs, the strong, straight line of her neck and traps, and her muscled little back make her look like a miniature gymnast.
The other day she was dancing in her underwear, and I was admiring her sturdy form, graceful in its strength. She looks just like me, the thought, though I’d had it before, shocked me. If I thought her body type was beautiful, which is a direct copy of my own, why couldn’t I view myself that way?
I’ve constantly wished I could look different — I’ve dieted and worked out, done cleanses, and know how to dress to show off my assets. There are rare moments, some lasting longer than others, where I’m happy with myself. I choose to love myself no matter whether I’m bloated or fit, and it actually works. But inevitably I slink back into the pit of wanting to look like someone else. And with all the advertisements, perfect social media accounts, and celebrities, there are a lot of “someones” to choose from. They all seem to have something that I want and don’t have.
This is a trait I absolutely do not want to pass on to my daughter. It’s a struggle as old as time, and something that most likely won’t change in the near future. It seems like our brains are hardwired to think, Not good enough, when we so clearly are. For instance, my best friend, who has my ideal body type, constantly says she wishes we could trade bodies because she thinks mine is perfect. Every time, I shake my head in disbelief and tell her she’s crazy.
But recently, as my daughter’s similarities strike me more and more, I look at myself and think, There is something lovely about strength. Sure, I don’t exude any type of waif-like features usually linked to delicate heroines, but I can do kettle bell squats like nobody’s business. I’m slowly learning to appreciate the body I’ve been given and am grateful for its strength and health. Because I know that the more positive I am about my own body, the healthier self-image I’ll be able to pass down to my daughter. And when she’s old enough, I’ll be able to thank her for helping me to see myself in a better and more positive light.More On