When I was a kid, people called me “Chicken Legs.”
I get it, now, why they did that. I have grown a child in my own image, and her knees are just as knobby and bumpy and walnutty as mine were at the same age.
This is Norah, age 9.
Cute roundy little walnuts. :)
In my head, my knees still look like that. Or at least, I feel like they’re supposed to. In my head, no matter how warped and messed up it makes me, my knees are supposed to look the same as my nine year old daughter’s. They are supposed to look just like they did when I was 21 and 112 pounds.
They are supposed to look pre-pubescent, completely fat free, bony, and thin.
As an anorexic, there are a few places on your body where you can most easily judge your starvation progress.
Collar bones. Elbows. Wrists. Hips, on the side, and pelvis in the front. Pubic bone. Ribs. Cheekbones, jaw, chin.
At my very thinnest, very smallest adult size, my knees looked JUST like my nine year old daughter’s, plus a small amount of muscle above and below.
Then I grew up.
Then I had kids, gained weight, got older, grew more skin, cultivated a bit more fat, turned 35, and something changed.
They got “thick.”
Logically I know that I’m making a log out of a splinter. I know my knees aren’t THAT big. I know I have slender(ish) legs, and that my legs are one of my best, won-the-genetic-lottery features.
Still. Ana holds on tight, and I have learned to judge any amount off fat AT ALL with disdain, disgust, and complete intolerance.
Enter The Body Image Project.
Before today, when I looked down at my knees, I saw “chunk.” Thickness. Padding. A solid coating of fat under my skin, centralized just inside my kneecap, right where my knees touch together. Before today, I used to reach down and pinch the thick wad of skin on the inside of my knee, and I’d use the girth of what I found to determine my worth.
“Uuuuuuuuuugh… I’m getting SO FAT. ERIN YOU ARE GETTING SO FAT.”
…yeah. I wasn’t. I’m still not.
I honestly didn’t know that until I took this picture.
Well. Look at that. Not really big.
Not really big at all.
Reality is something a bit different than the trunk-like legs I envisioned in my head.
Before I took this picture, if I had to draw a silhouette of my knees I would have drawn them very, very different. I would have drawn them BIGGER, for sure. Older, maybe a bit more wrinkled. Thicker. More like a cucumber or half of a yam, with the thick part jutting out of the leg of my underpants, the tiny tip stuffed into my shoe.
It sounds so silly, when I say it out loud, but I think we do that to ourselves a lot.
I think we do that to ourselves all the time.
In our heads, we think of the part of our body we hate, and all we can see in our mind’s eye is “the flaw.” The unreasonable, unrealistic, imaginary, perceived imperfection, and then when we look close at our own bodies (literally the worst visual perspective you can possible use to determine reality, imagine how big an apple looks when it’s pushed against your face), all we see is “NOPE.”
“NOPE NOPE. IT’S JUST LIKE I FEARED.”
In my head, when I think about my knees and what they look like, all I really think of is this:
Except THEY’RE NOT.
As it turns out, and as revealed by The Body Image Project picture, I do have fat ON my knees, but I do not have fat knees. Semantics, maybe, but a very important distinction, one that we should be careful to make correctly, and every time.
I have the knees of a 38 year old woman with three kids. I have the knees of a woman that could probably stand to eat a few less cookies and a few more vegetables, but a woman that lives a happy, active, balanced life.
I do not have the knees of a 9 year old girl or a 21 year old anorexic, but that’s okay. It’s a good thing, because I am not either one of those people.
Even more importantly, I would not feel bad about what I don’t have, if I’d quit comparing myself to other people.
And so it is with you.
I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again today. PLEASE. Please please engage in this Body Image Project. Spend some time with your camera and the photos after. Look at yourself from an appropriate and accurate perspective. KEEP LOOKING until you start to see what others do, until you gain some objectivity, and don’t look away until you can gaze upon your image with peace and contentment.
It really does work.
(start by posting me a picture of your knees!)
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