Body image has been on my mind a lot lately. It is summer and we just wrapped up a vacation that had a single common denominator of HOT. Temperatures of 90+ degrees and off grid camping had given us the goal of finding water as early as our day started and floating, swimming, splashing the heat away.
One of my triggers in the thought process of body image is the simple truth that the lack of clothing worn is generally a direct correlation to the rise in temperature.
The second is an honest confession of how I feel about my body.
Hanging around a pool is a good time to do some watching, thinking and considering.
I posted the following diatribe this week on social media. It was an in the moment observation of what transpired for me in a 48 hour period. It focused on #selflove. And, it was a shout out to the village that is needed to raise us up, but too often kicks us down.
I got a great deal of love in return. I got some enthusiastic hollers of preach it. And, some simple praise for speaking a truth we so often discount.
The point of my post was simple – we are all different. Unique features of beauty. Personal struggles with our self perceived shortcomings. Insecurities. Individual qualities that add to this patchwork of life and enrich our culture. In consideration of this – we are all the same, too. We each have a desire to change something. Goals we are struggling to achieve. Hurdles that keep us from strutting our stuff.
Sitting poolside while my girls played for hours gave me the opportunity to not only watch the people, but watch the individuals.
Day two was my day to become one of the many. Put my bikini on. Show my uneven tan lines thanks to my favorite tank top and reflect a bit of high desert sun off my white legs. My squishy curves and round softness was not weakly hidden under a bathing suit marketed as flattering. I was an open book.
And, my god, that is vulnerable.
I started with flip flopping nervousness and one weak attempt after another to show my “good side” or present just the right angle.
Then time got the best of me. And heat. And the eager beckoning of my children to join them under the waterfall.
Self love is a grandiose and truly idyllic goal. It is one thing to preach that we all have our issues and things we are unsure of and embarrassed about, but it is entirely more vulnerable to lay them on the table and present them for others to see. In the moment, it doesn’t matter that most people aren’t even walking by the table or glancing your way.
The world feels like your audience as you stand in the spotlight on stage.
So, I begin to wonder, can you achieve that idyllic goal of feeling authentic and honest self love while simultaneously acknowledging that you are not okay with some of the flaws that make you feel vulnerable?
I don’t know. Perhaps it is a philosophically personal decision. And, if it is, the idea that self love can be attainable by all feels like a ruse. A gimmick.
Can I truly love myself, for who I am in this moment with what I have, but still acknowledge fault and shortcomings?
I can love the way my breasts get fuller when I’m slightly overweight. I can appreciate my lean fingers, smiling eyes and round Serbian cheeks. I can find and list all the things I love.
But honesty for me means looking to the other side and seeing what can be improved.
What must change to bring me joy.
What I’m lacking that is needed for my self fulfillment.
One observation I made about my post was the lack of support from the followers and friends who are devoted to fitness extremes. Perhaps it was a coincidence that my words and pictures didn’t cross their feeds or pop up on their timelines.
Or maybe it is that self love is unrelatable because it is akin to acquiescence and weakness.
The mantras and memes that circulate of getting off your ass, making today your day and starting your morning with a can do attitude do not seem to jive with honest acceptance for who we are in this moment.
The idea of guilt comes to mind.
Guilt is an incredibly powerful trigger and reminder to change a behavior or produce a different result. Shameful guilt becomes an unhealthy manipulation of this powerful tool that teaches and reinforces socially acceptable behavior.
In this world where we are dogged with the idioms to be our own greatest fans, love ourselves as we are while we also reach our highest potential and strive for more, how do we find the place for self love?
Do we define self love as it best fits us personally and hold that truth to be evident for us?
I honestly don’t know.*
* My ramblings and complete lack of closure on the subject are a reminder of why I majored in cultural anthropology. Making the queries, doing the research and pulling together the info are my muse. Answering the questions is better served for others.