About two weeks ago, I bought new underpants.
Some of you may think “what’s the big deal, it’s just a pair of underpants, everyone has them.”
True. Everyone (hopefully) has and wears underpants. (And if they don’t, I hope it’s by choice.) Probably not a big deal.
For me, though, the new underpants were a super huge big deal, because in order to BUY underpants, you have to THINK about underpants, which means you have to think about what goes IN the underpants.
I had to think about my ass.
As an anorexic, there are a few parts of my body that I try hard to NOT think about. My stomach. My hips. The thick-skin-fat roll that smooshes out just under my bra strap along my back, south off my armpits along my shoulder blades. My inner thigh, my inner knees,
and my rear end.
In order to buy underpants, just like buying a new pair of jeans or a swimming suit (both of which I detest shopping for equally as much), you have to think about the size, shape, and necessary confinement of your backside. You have to consider what it looks like now, and what it will look like in your new clothing.
You also tend to consider what it should look like.
What you wished it looked like.
And aaaaah… there’s the problem.
When it comes to body image and how we see ourselves, “what we see” isn’t the problem. Our actual, factual, realistic truth isn’t the problem.
The problem is our perception of those things, and it’s what we think it SHOULD be that causes us upset.
Yep. That damn comparison thing again.
I don’t get upset about the size of my ass unless I think about what it’s NOT. I don’t get upset about the lack of lift along my backside unless I think about the people who have more, no matter the reason that they have it. Whether it be luck of the draw, genetic lottery, or serious exercise that gave an amazing ass to the woman I compare myself to, when I think “that one is better than this one,” I feel inadequate.
I don’t get upset about the stretch marks and baby pouch left around my middle unless I see women my age with none of the same, and I don’t care about the thickness of my thighs unless I remember what it felt like before I had three kids and 38 years.
I’m okay with my size 10 jeans until I remember “they used to be size five.”
And really, something just occurred to me – comparison can be a dangerous thing, but only when we do so with a covetous heart.
If you can look at what someone else has, compare yourself to them and think “WOW, that’s great, they’re great, I want that, I’m going to work to get that,” that’s great. Do it. It makes us better.
If you look at someone else and say “That’s awesome, that’s so much better than what I’ve got, what a loser I am, I’m just not worth anything because that guy is worth it all,” you have a covetous heart.
In other words, when you see what someone else has, your heart forgets it was just happy.
When your heart is covetous, you stop paying attention to the related greatness you already hold within your grasp. The new, shiny, exciting, NOT-YOURS thing grabs a hold of your focus, takes over your heart, distracts your passion, and rules your consciousness. Without intention or awareness, your grip loosens on what you’ve already got (no matter how good it is), and the wonderful thing you hold, the same thing you were happy with five seconds ago, slips through your fingers like sand.
That right there is why The Body Image Project is so important.
That is why taking stock of your own reality and embracing what you find is so important.
When your hands and eyes and heart and mind are full of what you’ve got, you aren’t focused on what you haven’t, and contentment abounds.
Today, when I took a (very awkward and difficult to get) selfie of my back side, I tried hard to think only of what I saw. I gripped this image with both hands and looked with both eyes, putting out of my head every other thing from every other time and every other life but the one moment I’m existing in right now.
I was pleasantly surprised.
If someone had asked me to draw a picture of my backside this morning, I would have drawn something twice this big. I would have, with my guts and heart and head, thought of the butt I had when I was 15. …if you could even call it a butt. I would have grabbed that image with my mind, held on to it with covetous, greedy, desperate fingers, and drawn a picture of my backside twice the size of this one.
AT LEAST twice.
As I look at this picture, I feel as though I could stand to lose a few pounds. I feel I’ve got creases where I’d rather not, and the resolution of this photo is kindly hiding cellulite and stretch marks.
Here’s the thing, though – when I look at this picture for exactly what it is and not even a little bit for what it’s not, I’m able to take a realistic, calm, patient assessment of my reality. Without shame, without apology, without eyes down or covering up.
AND, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU HATE IT, THAT IS THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE PERMANENT CHANGE.
You cannot find your way to where you want to go if you have no idea where you’re starting from. No matter how great the map, no matter how wonderful the navigator, tour guide, or directions, unless you know where you’re starting from you CANNOT get anywhere.
You stay lost.
Learning to see yourself for what you are, exactly where you’re at, takes practice. You have to take pictures, look at them, remove covetousness and shame and hate and comparison, SIT IN WHAT YOU SEE, and just BE there. Be mindful. Be present.
We live in a world of distraction and avoidance (why else would Candy Crush make so much money?). We pay to stop paying attention. We pay to look at people we wish we were, to covet what we don’t have, to forget about what we’ve got.
That covetousness is what fuels our economy.
“You’re not happy until you look like this.”
And we listen.
I have decided, especially after engaging in this Body Image Project, to stop listening to what other people and society tell me I need in order to be happy. I’ve decided to do FOR ME what is right, what increases my worth and brings me joy. I’ve decided that I am going to be present, mindful, and aware of my reality, I am going to own whatever I find, and I am going to change what I don’t like.
Not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t, not because I’m worthless if I’m not “just so,” but because *I* want to.
When is the last time you changed your appearance or lost a pound because it was what you wanted, without fear or shame?
I don’t know that I ever have.
This should be interesting. :)
Thank you for reading. I am so glad you’re here!