….well, actually it’s day 3. July 3rd.
I had fully intended on starting this project on the first day in July, to run the whole month. Then we went out of town for a family reunion, then my week was full of crazy catch up because I was gone from all three jobs for two days, then yesterday I was filling out a deposit slip for work, looked up the date (because I had no idea what day it was), and it said “July 2.”
That’s usually how it is with me. GREAT INTENTIONS. Pretty great planning. Moderately acceptable execution.
Frequently drops the ball.
As an OCD-control-freak-overachiever-perfectionist, that last part grieves me.
The perfectionist part of me wants to spend the day today writing THREE articles, not just one. Take three pictures, post three blogs, back date the first two. Six hours later, done and done. I’d have started on the first (even if I hadn’t), I’d be COMPLETE, the project would be whole, and when it was all over I’d have one completely intact, just-right, no-holes, no missing parts blog project. My FIRST blog project, and it would be a roaring success.
…but then I got to thinking.
“Isn’t that expectation of perfection the problem I’ve got with my body in the first place?”
When we come into this world, we are born just exactly as we should be, and we are enough, just as we are. “Perfect” or not, ten fingers or eight, intact palate or cleft, black hair or red, we are born “just right,” built according to instruction, our bodies nothing more than a vehicle to hold the blank slate of our mind, a mind to be filled with life and love and experience and expectation.
I don’t know many people that judge, ridicule, disrespect, or hate a baby because of how it looks, no matter how it looks. And honestly, the baby doesn’t care. The baby is just THERE, alive, breathing. Waiting.
But then we grow up, and we DO care.
We grow up, and the amazing Body of Self we’re born with, the Self that was built according to instruction and born exactly as its should be, the body that was enough just as it was, it is suddenly NOT enough.
Do you ever feel like you’re not enough?
Just like I feel for missing the first two days of a one month blog project, I feel “not enough” often.
I used to feel “not enough” ALL THE TIME.
Some of us wish we could go back and fix things, like the temptation I have to add in and backdate two more blog posts to make a full and perfect series.
[“Having babies wrecked my body. I love my kids, but MAN I wish I could have my old body back.”]
Some of us wish we were more aware of what we had at the time, more mindful of opportunities, like if I’d remembered two days ago that “Today is July 1st, I should start my new blog series today.”
[“I wish I could go back to my teenage self and say “NO, you are NOT FAT.” I wish I would have understood.”]
Some of us accept the choices to get us where we are, we’re just pissed that “where we are” is not PERFECT.
[“I love my life, but DAMNIT I hate being trapped in this body.”]
And, for us perfectionists, for those of you like me that feel an overwhelming, deep-seated, compulsive need to throw out anything that is not going to be done at the end exactly-right-perfect, KEEPING a blog series that is not “just so” niggles and pokes at a part of my brain that logic and reason do not touch. “Even if I finish it, it’s still not right. I’m sunk before I start, it’ll never be as good as it could be.”
“It’ll never be enough.”
[“I’m so gross and disgusting anyways, look at all the fat and stretch marks and cellulite. WHY EVEN TRY TO LOOK BETTER.”]
And really, it’s that last one there that I fight with the most.
When any one thing in my life exists as a reflection of me and my worth and also is not perfect, it must be destroyed. It must be avoided. It must be abandoned at the start, because “no matter what you do, you’re already completely messed up.”
[Perfect Erin in my head screams “JUST QUIT. DON’T EVEN START.”]
But I have to start.
DAMNIT I HAVE TO START, and I have to KEEP starting. I have had to learn to start over and over, every day, at least five times a day, because I keep making mistakes. I had to keep starting and I had to keep going because I was so tired of feeling like crap.
Aren’t you tired of feeling like crap?
I was tired of self-hate.
I was tired of feeling worthless.
Mostly, I was tired of quitting.
The Body Image Project
In my journey to learn balanced, healthy eating and exercise, I have failed no more than 1132534831 times. (no, not exaggerating.) I have learned to let go of my mistakes, to overcome my hangups, and to keep moving forward no matter what the cost. I am currently creating an online program to share what I’ve learned with anyone that wants to know, because the lesson was SO HARD. I wish I would have had help, and now I get to help others.
I have also learned (am learning, because I still have “those days”) to love my body in all its amazing glory, just as it is, built according to instruction.
This lesson was learned in large part due to my birthday suit, my camera, a tripod, my own bedroom with a lock on the door, and about two hours a week after the kids were in bed. On those evenings, on “Camera Date Night,” I would lock my door, comb my hair (sometimes I’d curl it), put on some make up (which I very rarely ever wear), try out various states of undress, assemble my camera and tripod, use my remote, and take some pictures.
(okay I’ll be honest, sometimes TOTALLY naked selfies.)
I haven’t really spoken much about the experience with …well, anyone. Most people would “?!” and “WTF,” or be grossed out or think I was completely nuts. I can’t say I’d blame them. The thought of a 30-something woman putting kids to be so she could hole up in her messy bedroom and take naked pictures of herself seems …I dunno, very “Single White Female” or “Fatal Attraction.”
In truth, I learned more self-acceptance and self-love from my naked (and naked-ish) time in front of the camera than any and all other times, relationships, therapists, and personal revelations of my life put together.
I took off my clothes. I took a couple hundred pictures. I LOOKED AT THE PICTURES.
At first it was awkward and uncomfortable, and kind of gross. It was like walking in on a loved one while they’re pooping. “Ew and oh no,” but kind of normal, but not really. A little embarrassing. Very much “everyone does it, why is it a big deal,” but still not something you’d want to look at for a long time or examine more closely. I tolerated what I saw, but I wasn’t interested in sticking around to hang out. No pulling up a chair and TV table to play Uno while the stinky business was happening, no sticking around to talk about feelings.
Get in, look, get out.
After the third or forth session, though, something changed. I found myself less repulsed by the pictures I saw, and much more curious. I started to see parts of me that I hadn’t really looked at before, and I began to realize that my body isn’t all that bad.
I started to detach. I gained some objectivity. Most importantly, I was able to see my body as *a* body, instead of “not *the* body.”
I stopped hating myself for what I wasn’t, and started to like myself for what I am.
The camera captured my reality, and without really intending for it to happen, for the first time in my life I started to see reality, too.
I was born and created exactly as I should be,
I am enough, just as I am.
Whether you understand it or not, that is your reality, too.
SO. Here’s how this works.
Every day this month I will take one selfie. I will post the picture here, on my website, and I will tell you how I feel about the part of me featured in the photo.
There are only three rules:
- I will not shy away from my body due to propriety or shame. There is no such thing as “gross” or “naughty.” There is only BODY. We are walking pieces of beautiful, artsy meat, and I will treat mine as such during this project.
- I will take pictures of all parts of my body, one at a time, no matter how I feel about them. No hiding. No avoiding.
- NO PHOTOSHOP, editing, or altering of any kind. (Cropping is okay .)
To participate in this project yourself, please post your selfie photo in the comments on Facebook, paste a link to your photo in the comments on this blog post, or email me a photo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[I can hear you now. “UM NO, I AM NOT POSTING MY PICTURE ANYWHERE. Taking the selfie is going to be hard enough, let alone LOOKING, let alone POSTING or SHARING. Nope, nope, nope.”]
I KNOW. I totally get it. I have posted pictures on this website over and over, and the very first time I was terrified. It was so scary!
I did it anyways.
Guess what else?
I didn’t die.
I didn’t die, and I got stronger. I got better. That saying “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” is totally true. And, if you’re truly fierce, when you learn your worth and find your power, “what doesn’t kill me had better start running.”
DO YOU HEAR THAT, SELF-HATE?! YOU HAD BETTER START RUNNING.
It’s time, my friend. It’s time to take back our worth, to take back our power. It’s time to love ourselves for what we are, instead of hating ourselves for what we are not.
It’s time to embrace our reality. ALL OF IT. Every single inch of it. Every fold, wrinkle, pucker, mole, blemish, pound, limb, and follicle.
It will be hard, but I have good news.
The good news is, perfection doesn’t exist.
The better news is, neither does failure, if you just. keep. going.
July 3, 2015
Of all the parts of my body, this makes me the most uncomfortable. In the normal way I “go big or go home,” I think I’ll pick the parts of me I hate most FIRST, then work backwards from there.
Show me your tummies, Ladies. Show me the beautiful bodies that you used to bring life into the world, the bodies that haven’t yet carried children, the tummies you wish were flatter, the bodies you wish were something different. Look at them yourself and find one beautiful thing.
When I feel my stomach from the inside, I feel fat. I feel thick. I feel “not skinny,” overweight, jiggly, soft, heavy. It is not flat. It will never BE flat, not like it was.
It won’t ever be like it was, not ever again.
What it IS, though, is beautiful. Strong. Capable. Powerful. It has grown three children. (Seriously think about that – I have GROWN PEOPLE INSIDE MY BODY. Crazy.) It has given life to three of the most amazing people I have ever been blessed to love, and for that I will always find beauty in it.
It is wrinkled and stretched. It is blemished and pulled, like a balloon that has lost its umph. It is used. It is “as is,” refurbished, repurposed.
It is loved. It has GROWN love.
And honestly, it isn’t bad for a 38 year old mom of three. I’m pretty lucky to have it.
Tell me your story, friend. I can’t wait to hear.
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Live every day like it’s your last one. Turn the relationship you have into the one you want. Forge Depth, and never stop digging!