(submitted by Guest Contributor Your Wishcake)
Lately, there has been a genuine shift in my body image. It's almost as though I'm finally able to clearly see what was always there, waiting to be loved. Which is, of course, the body I'm lucky enough to have. Every inch of skin, every curve of my belly, every freckle across my shoulders.
What is incredible to me, is the fact that every single female I've ever talked to about body image feels the same exact way. We feel so much pressure of this idea of perfection that is shoved in our faces constantly. But, really, all we want is to be given permission to love ourselves. We want to know that it's okay to not be at our ideal weight. We want to know that it's okay to have a tummy that has a roll or two when we are curled up on the couch. We want to know that it's okay if we don't have the body of a teenager once we're halfway through our twenties. We want, most of all, to be reassured.
And I guess that I just want to reassure anyone who may be reading this. Because I know that is what I've needed to hear more often in my life – and truly believe it.
I've noticed that these days, the bodies that I look at and admire are the ones who are real, and not on the pages of a magazine. I absolutely adore the women I see who have curves that they own. The people who remind me of the way women used to be represented – back when we weren't obsessed with having stomachs flat beyond all reason and arms that don't jiggle when we wave "goodbye". I truly believe that a woman's body is meant to be soft. That's not to say that the girls who are naturally tiny aren't feminine or beautiful – of course they are. And I'm not also saying that you should eat yourself silly and not give it another thought. But I think that much of our culture has lost the ability to look at the female body and see it realistically.
A few months ago, I received an Urban Outfitters catalog in the mail, and I literally gasped when I saw the cover. The girl in the photo is completely emaciated. I think that at that moment, the cover of that catalog represented everything I was trying to fight when it comes to negative body image. I was so taken aback that I almost wanted to cry. The extremely tiny size of the model was so in your face that I honestly have no idea how anyone was able to look at that cover and not notice it right away – at least subconsciously.
This is what a popular clothing company is sending out to thousands upon thousands of girls and women? I absolutely can't stand it. If I was so effected by it, I can only imagine what a more impressionable fifteen year old girl would feel when seeing it. And that breaks my heart.
Since that moment, I've been trying my absolute best to look at and love anything that is a better representation of the reality most of us wake up with in the morning. Which is, of course, a bit of fluff here and there. Thighs that touch, hips that curve beautifully, a chin that may double when we laugh. As I look around at the real people in my life, I see so much real, honest beauty. I've stopped looking at the super-thin models or actresses and wishing I could wake up one morning and magically be a size zero. Instead, I take time every single day to look at myself in the mirror and compliment the things that might otherwise make me fret.
I definitely don't have the curves of Beyonce or Christina Hendricks, but I can still prance around and feel feminine and beautiful. I may not be as thin and in shape as Jennifer Aniston or anyone on the cast of The Hills, but can appreciate the glow I have after running a few miles and love the fact that I have pretty great legs. I think that I really lost that appreciation for myself when I hit my 20's. There was so much pressure that I put on myself, and for a while I couldn't just love myself for being imperfect.
When, really, that's all any of us really are. Imperfect. Beautifully so.
I definitely have days where I struggle with loving myself completely – that's just how life is, I guess. I have moments where I'll be standing in a dressing room, stuck in a dress at Forever 21 and unable to pry it from my body. I'll stand there for a few minutes, size-small-dress stuck over my shoulders, hating my life and fighting the urge to cry. But then I'll realize that I'm perhaps a little too old to be trying to squeeze myself into a dress that was obviously not flattering to my figure anyway. I try to laugh it off. I go home and remind myself of the things I do adore about myself. I resolve to go out and find something that fits me perfectly, regardless of the size.
When it comes down to it, I want to just love myself. I want to not worry about what someone else thinks about my body. I want my younger sisters to grow up and know that they are absolutely beautiful, learning to adore the bodies they've been blessed with. I want my daughters (if I happen to have them) to grow up feeling comfortable in their skin – every single bit.
So, here I am. For the first time in a while, feeling okay with my imperfections. Knowing that my husband could care less if I gain or lose another ten pounds – and finds me incredibly beautiful just the same. Knowing that if I embrace the shape of my body, that perhaps there is another girl who will start to look at herself in a new light. Knowing that so much of contentment comes from not allowing yourself to pick yourself apart, but instead comes from praising the things that you used to think needed to change.
Because the good news is that you don't have to change it all to be beautiful.
As simple as that statement is, it's sometimes so hard to believe. And now? I can say that I do believe it. Completely and entirely. And I wish that the world we live in would show us this more often.
Read more at www.yourwishcake.com.