I stood naked today.
In front of a tall, full length mirror.
No preliminary glance, no quick retreat.
Shame wasn’t allowed.
While I see myself nude daily, it’s in a half mirror that sits above the bathroom sink. It allows me to focus on the parts of my body I’m most comfortable with and admire; like my heart-shaped lips that turn into a quirky smile, plump cheeks that lend themselves to youthful innocence (this helps when you’re 41), and stormy green eyes.
It’s not difficult for me to see those pieces of myself. And even despite my plentiful voluptuousness – with the right clothes – I create hints of succulent curves that I’m proud of. I wear my size quite well, thank you.
But today, it was time to take all of me in. To really look. And not just at my perfectly curled hair or ample breasts. So up went the new full length mirror.
And there, staring at me, as if waiting for my attention, were body parts I don’t easily accept: the dimpled thighs; the scars on my abdomen; the thick upper arms; and the marks that stretch widely across my stomach.
I clicked the camera and turned sideways.
There was nothing to hide. Standing straight, sucking in, or having clothes that press and smooth the sticky out bits couldn’t cover me up.
This was about telling the truth and really seeing my body in its completeness without shutting down, without looking away. Facing her. Accepting her. Loving her the best I could.
I took more shots. All angles. Front. Side. Back. And started over again. Though I’m the most accepting of my body that I’ve ever been – ever – I still felt the cringe up my spine. I heard the voices of old humiliation echo in my belly. “Look at THAT. I’m so embarrassed. If just THAT part could be cut off of me … if it would be smaller, better. I mean, your calves are looking pretty good and those feet are cute, but…ugh. THAT.”
And then something changed.
It felt mean. It felt mean and dishonest to stand in front of myself and feel love for some parts of me, but total rejection of others. It felt like a sick, slicing cruelty.
“Do you love your body?” The question shook me earlier in the morning.
Look, my body is a far cry from what our society deems beautiful. A far cry from what our mothers, our sisters, our grandmothers, our friends say is good enough. And I’m not alone. As women, we honor our shame instead of stepping into being the beautiful goddesses that we are.
We are not defined by our bodies alone. Yet in effort to portray our inner beauty, we do not have to admonish, ridicule, or diminish our physical presence.
This act of being naked before myself granted me permission to see the truth of who I am right now, without excuses, without self-degradation, without loathing over one or two particular parts of my body; but instead, to see this as a holy act of self-love. And celebrate it.
To stand with every imperfect lump, bump, fold, and awkward piece of me – alongside the smooth, curvaceous softness – became an opening to radical acceptance in a way I haven’t experienced. And I’m not done yet.
As the camera kept clicking, my stance changed. I stood taller, crossed my legs, put my hands on my hips. Smiled. I smiled in all my nakedness. A sense of unconditional confidence rose within. It was healing.
I am my body just as much as I am not. Either way…I own it. It is mine. It belongs to me. And I am beautiful.
So, my dear ones…
Do you love your body?
Stand in front of the mirror.
And love yourself.
When our eyes met, she shifted and suddenly, her body was pressed tightly against mine. With one hand pulling her closer and the other holding a pen to sign her out of the afterschool program, I prepared myself.
“There was an incident,” the teacher said quietly.
Interrupting, my daughter wailed, “That boy over there called you FAT! And I was SO sad that I went into the other room and cried.” For added proof, she shoved the picture into my hands she had drawn of herself crying.
Words have power and deep meaning; they should be used with care. I’m probably pickier about words than the average person. In our home, fat is one of the prohibited words because, well, why use it when you can say “big” or “round” to describe someone’s size without completely insulting them.
My daughter has known this for years. Armed with that knowledge, she explained that the thought of my feelings being hurt, hurt her. (It was both heartwarming and alarming that she felt I needed defending or protecting.)
A year ago, there was similar incident. When I heard that a first grader in my daughter’s class called me fat, I worried my size might be an embarrassment to her. Neither of these kids had teased HER (or me, really … they simply described me as fat), but … you know, there are a gazillion articles in Weight Watchers magazine about the mothers who became motivated to lose weight because they were afraid of embarrassing their child.
My daughter was adamant (then AND now) she wasn’t embarrassed; I wasn’t entirely convinced.
Most of my life I’ve been large and many times I’ve felt embarrassed about that. Despite my conscious efforts to project a positive body image (even when I had to fake it), it only made sense my daughter, too, might be embarrassed by my size. I had no evidence of that, though.
So a year ago, I decided to speak to her teacher about the incident, with my daughter present, realizing it was a perfect opportunity to set an example for her and show her that I was a confidant woman, regardless of my size.
But the truth was, that whole scenario stung a little.
It took courage to even mention the situation and request that the class discuss how people come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. The teacher was supportive and encouraging. And though I stood tall with an easy, wide smile that would’ve fooled anyone into believing I was the Queen of Confidence, I felt that very confidence shrink. Even if just by a few inches.
I listened to the teacher say I was special, wore cute clothes, and was always shiny and sparkly. I was suspicious. Was she trying to validate me? I wondered if somehow those qualities – in her eyes – made up for my ample size. You know, the whole: “She might be fat, but she’s a shiny, happy fat person!” (Negative self-talk anyone?)
…But last week, as I listened to my daughter blurt out the similar story, I noticed something was missing.
There was no slight sting.
There was no shrinking of confidence.
Most profoundly, there was no shame.
Instead, there was a sense of centered calm and lightheartedness from being unaffected in a negative or self-deprecating way, unlike many times before. In that moment, all fear, hesitation, and embarrassment about my body was gone. Simply gone.
I felt free.
Bemused, I hugged my daughter, genuinely smiled, and let out a belly laugh. “Honey, I AM big. It’s OK. It’s an accurate description. But it doesn’t change anything. I’m still awesome.” My daughter loosened her grip and smiled.
“That’s what I told her! I told her how great your hair is,” the teacher excitedly chimed in, twisting her fingers…
It seemed ridiculous and humorous that a dramatic production around the word “fat” took place. (Which, clearly I inspired because of my hate of the word.)
The fact is: I’m fat!
But so what?
Being fat, in-between, or thin says nothing about who I am.
My value is not determined by numbers on a scale, a graph, or a tape measure.
I’m a rather spectacular and unique woman regardless of my size.
And so are YOU.
Do I want to feel physically stronger and more agile? Absolutely.
Am I my ideal size (for myself)? Nope.
Am I going to hold off recognizing my worth and meanwhile live timidly, quietly, as though I don’t deserve to be happy – and shiny! – until I AM stronger and more agile and weigh less? Uh, hell, no!
I’m not a spring chicken anymore. Life is short, full of wonder, and I want to enjoy it. Despite how big my thighs, ass, and tummy are.
Thin does not own joy.
Our daughters need to see us fully embrace our inner and outer beauty. They deserve to get messages that stick their tongues out at society’s that tell us we’re unworthy, unattractive, unimportant, and unlovable if we don’t look a certain way.
It’s OK to accept and love ourselves. Exactly the way we are. Right now.
So what caused this change?
I’m not exactly sure.
But I do have more clarity about who I am, what my gifts are, and what my purpose is. Those truths don’t fluctuate with my weight. They remain constant under all circumstances.
And I know this: We are all important, invaluable, rare, and beautiful.
I kissed my daughter on her cheek and proudly – truly proudly – announced, “No matter what size I am, I’m super amazing.”
She, with a glistening smile added, “And magic, too, mom!”
Something big, fat, juicy, voluptuous, Rubenesque, curvy, and sumptuous has happened.
And I like it.
You don’t have to be perfect. None of us are.
And you don’t need all the answers.
It’s impossible to expect that you’ll make all of the very best decisions all of the time. You won’t.
Sometimes, our fear of getting too close to someone – or our fear of losing them – keeps us stuck, repeating old patterns of behavior that prevent us from feeling that anxious sense of vulnerability.
Then there are times when the yearning desire to intimately connect with another drops us to our knees – if only just for a moment of release and freedom. And you exhale.
It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you flawed or full of inner demons. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or damaged.
It means you’re human.
We all need to escape from our busy minds churning out endless whirring like a factory of redundancy … the same old self-talk, the same old stories we tell ourselves, haunting us over and over.
Or maybe, you need an escape to avoid asking yourself the hard questions.
The questions that cause you to seek the truth within yourself about what it is you need. Not want. Need.
The truth about what brings you joy. The truth about who you REALLY are right now. Today. The truth about what makes you feel alive, passionate, present, engaged … with yourself, with others, with the beauty of life.
It’s easier to comfortably create a life-on-auto-pilot. That way, there’s no risk of finding out whether what you really yearn for is possible or not. You can even (occasionally) convince yourself that you have everything you need. That everything is fine. Why rock the boat? This might be as good as it gets.
It takes courage and fierce audacity to live life on your terms – let alone figure out what your terms are!
And it takes trust to look yourself squarely in the mirror.
I know it’s hard. You’re afraid of what you’ll see. Will it be a reflection of a jaded path, worn and crumbling beneath your feet? Will it be that your greatest fears, the worst things you say about yourself, are true? That you’re tormented. That you cause pain. That you’re crushed. That you’re unworthy of love.
I promise you this: That is NOT what you will see.
When you look – really look – deeply in your eyes, all of the labels, roles, and fears simply fall away. What you’re left with is your true, deepest heart that shows up in this world as your unique version, your unique fingerprint, of Love.
When you get clear about what you believe, what you need to feel vibrant, what you need to feel a sense of freedom and truth and integrity, there’s no turning back. And you probably know this.
When you tell the truth, you cross the threshold of honesty, a land where if you continue to make compromises, you’ll be living a lie. A life where you knowingly deceive yourself. And that doesn’t feel good: because that is not who you’re meant to be.
You’re not meant to feel broken; you’re meant to feel broken OPEN, full of a free heart, wide and vulnerable as the sky.
You’re meant to sit on the edge of a mountain and breathe with ease as you take in the beauty of the sunset.
You’re meant to be gently held by the water as you cast the line of curiosity to see what your next catch in life will be.
You’re meant to feel the empty calm when you’re in the meadow, listening only to the birds call and the peace in your heart.
Maybe you’ll have to make difficult choices to create the kind of world that’s in alignment with who you are … without feeling ashamed, like you have to defend yourself, or like there’s something wrong with you.
Because, really … you’re OK. You just have to start listening to yourself.
That is where you will find your freedom. It is in this courage and truth that you’ll discover your strength. It’s where you will begin to trust in yourself to hunt through the unknown, without all the answers, and believe in who you are.
Meanwhile, as you harness the courage to stand upon the precipice and view the vast possibilities in your life, unsure of what’s to come … you don’t have to be perfect.
My friend, none of us are.
Dear Nice Girl:
You know who you are.
You’re the one who helps the elderly couple struggling to carry their luggage up the stairs.
You’re the girl who calls after a truck full of strangers to give them the book that flew out the back. (Maybe it was important to someone.) Your boyfriend locks his eyes on yours, shakes his head and says, “Nobody does that.” But you do.
On the plane, you pick the fallen peanut package off the floor and place it gingerly on the tray table so the passenger sitting next to you – a sleeping soldier – can eat them when she wakes.
You’re the one who tidies up the dishes on your table at the restaurant to make it easier for the server.
You try to make it easier for everyone.
- Pull forward at the drive-through to put the change in your wallet so the car behind you doesn’t have to wait a fraction of a second longer
- Always check behind you and around you to see how youcan move out of another person’s way … never dreaming of making someone get out of yours. (Maybe you should.)
- Didn’t conform at school and have one clique. You fluttered between all groups, getting along with the cool kids, the smart kids, the nerds, the gangsters, the jocks – everyone.
Peeling back façades, gently lifting off masks others wear is your specialty. You peek behind and say, “Ah! There you are!”
You keep secrets. Nice Girls are Professional Secret Keepers. You safely carry stories of lost pregnancies, abortions, the steel barrel shoved in his mouth, and betrayals measured by the number of kisses down another woman’s spine.
You’re good at keeping secrets … but not at keeping love.
You attract men with war and conflict on the soles of their feet. You recognize complex Achilles-aches and provide a place of centered calm; but his feet are too tired and too wounded to carry you. His war too bloody.
For years, you help and support conflicted men, hurt men, men in crisis, men in transition feel grounded. They say you saved them.
You even get some thank yous. The Nice Girl carries them in a pearl box, knowing gratitude matters.
You think this makes you special, loved, different – almost powerful – to be The One who penetrates him, who sees his potential, his spirit … even when he does not; but it’s not your job to heal his wounds.
Eventually, he wants a backpack and no possessions. A divorce. Or he wants what you can’t offer him: his own children and a clean slate. Or he moves away to focus on his education … he can’t have you and focus on dreams.
This is the pattern. It begins to feel like continuous rejection, a cyclical sacrifice of self. You wonder what’s wrong with you.
Look: Not all people are nice.
Some betray you. Don’t keep their promises or show up for you when you need arms around you … because they’re too deep in their own hurt (all while you, Nice Girl, are empathetic about their pain and try to help them through it, even when they were the cause of yours).
The generosity you give to others you don’t give to yourself.
They push the boundaries of hurt … because they can. Because out of kindness (and perhaps, sometimes, fear), you’ve let them.
You learn that “You’re one of the nicest, sweetest people I’ve ever known,” comes with a slap-down, a “but.”
- But he tells you not to fall in love with him.
- But “I don’t want to keep you from meeting a nice guy.”
- But he’s not happy enough … because you weigh too much.
- But he’s having affairs.
- But he’s not ready for your love.
- But he’s confused.
He loves you…
but doesn’t choose you.
There are some, who at worst, know how to turn your compassion inside out.
They set fire to your self-worth and rain ashes on you.
You’ll burn, yes; but you’ll burn brightly and the moon will smile at you from afar, knowing you are the fire.
Ashes will fertilize the soil and you will grow again.
Ashes are story kindling. Stories that alight.
What looks like destruction is rebirth.
See, not everyone wants tranquility. He might like the steel cut of a knife or the desert sting of wind. He might like edgy storms.
And you know how to weather storms…
You see the front coming and unlike most – who retreat – go straight out. You see how far you can go. The air shifts. The rains come. You smile and brace for those winds and let them rip through your hair. You want to spread your arms out as wide as the tumultuous ocean lets you, embrace it all, and scream, “BRING IT!”
It’s in those storms that you feel the hot, raw, visceral energy piercing through you. It brews deep in your soul.
And you want more.
Listen to the whispers of your heart. They’ve been there all along, inviting you to generously devote time to yourself, Dear One.
Surround yourself with those who see your gifts of sensitivity and empathy as just that: Gifts. Know this for yourself.
Know there’s beauty in disappointment: It leads you to finally recognize what it is you do want.
When you’re ready, build yourself a luminescent, storm-torn door. A door that humbly stands in the beauty of its imperfections, right in front of your golden meadow heart.
Only you can open it.
There will be those who meet you there.
Watch on the horizon for the storm chasers. The ones that show up, courageous.
They drive hours just to have coffee and see your face.
He notices little things: the tiny mole above the knuckle on your index finger and the one on your heel; that you curl your toes and screw your mouth to the side when you’re nervous. He’ll kiss your crooked mouth still until he knows, you know, that you are loved.
They love in quantities the galaxies hold and go so high, they grab handfuls of stars for when you have nights that go dark.
Their soul clicks and their arms spark when they see you.
They show up when you’re on your knees.
They won’t burn you … and you’ll have stars.
Keep your palms open to the sky, Nice Girl.
Build your door. Carve beauty all over it.
Let them come to you.
And remember, always, who you are.
You don’t have to be a size 8, have a big ass and large breasts, a small waist, wildly swing your hips, and show copious amounts of cleavage to entice a man. I’m not saying those things aren’t sexy. Of course they are; but there’s much more to what makes a woman alluring … and men instinctively know this.
Confidence is one of the sexiest things in a woman, many men say; but it’s deeper than confidence. What men are really picking up on when they see a woman with that gleam in her eyes, that sultry smile on her face, is the self-awareness of sensuality.
Sexuality is usually associated with sensuality; and though there is a strong correlation between the two, you can be sexual without being entirely sensual, and you can certainly be sensual without being sexual.
Women who are aware of what feels good to them, what arouses their senses (not only their sexual ones) ooze sensuality. A knowingness. These women understand this looks like confidence, but smells like seduction. Empowerment. Being in possession of yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 6 or a size 32. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. And men know it when you walk in a room or look them in the eye.
But this smoldering self-awareness is not about gaining the attention of men, either. Real sensuality becomes so … intoxicating, so enchanting … when its power is harnessed with the intention of being whole, of expressing the fiery, vibrant woman within
… not for the purpose of getting a man’s phone number, but rather for the purpose of being free.
Sensuality is about being in-tune with and expressing the feelings that are elicited when we’re captivated in a moment of pleasure.
It requires curiosity. Awareness.
And an openness to surrender, to be fully present, with what we’re experiencing right now. It allows you to feel passionate and alive
To be aware of your senses and express them is an act of devotion
, of loving self-care. And this changes the way you live.
You begin relishing moments of beauty and finding joy in simplicity, like: a full moon; the smell of campfire; the pull of your bottom lip in a passionate kiss; your child’s laughter.
There’s an acknowledgment of the temporary, that life is fleeting and fragile
, and so to experience it fully, we grant ourselves permission the freedom to feel whatever gives us pleasure, without repression. You bless these experiences. They make you whole because you’re expressing who you truly are.
The truth is: We’re all
sensual. We’re made this way.
Yet, our culture continues to have special adjectives for the more sensually and sexually inclined woman: dirty; naughty; loose; slut; whore; bad. It seems we’re afraid to see, in fact, this woman is often radiant and succulent, fully recognizing her desires. What’s “bad” about that?
What’s “bad” about the woman who wears fishnet stockings with a pencil skirt on a Monday afternoon because she feels hot when she does. Because it makes her feel good. Because she can own that look … you know the one: seductive and suggestive in a classyway. The way a grown woman can. The kind of woman who knows herself, what she likes, and what she doesn’t like. The kind of woman who can immerse herself in the moment, with gratitude, and with an acceptance for who she is.
Sensuality is birthed in gratitude. Gratitude for our ability to touch, taste, see, smell, and hear. Gratitude for our bodies and the marvelous sensations we experience through them. The sensual woman wants to devour them all. To feel it all. To be embraced by them.
So, she’s grateful for her body … regardless of the size of her stomach, or the size of her thighs. Even if she’s far from her ideal weight.
She may even spend a little extra time rubbing lotion on her thick upper arms, the ones she wishes weren’t so thick, while facing herself squarely in the mirror, and still managing not to feel overcome with shame and poor body image. Instead, she accepts herself for how she is right now and bravely chooses not let her size stop her from living life passionately.
A woman fully owning her sensuality will moan in delight as a luscious drink reaches her lips; or shudder when a mouth softly brushes across her neck; she will sit outside on a clear night, wrapped in a cozy blanket, mesmerized by the stars. When a song touches her heart with poignancy, resonating to the core of her, she’s not afraid to cry. The next moment, you may find her laying in the grass with her children, finding magical shapes in the clouds. She’s alive.
And though this isn’t about sex or about getting a man, the paradox is, that this kind of woman wields so much inner power, is so scintillating, so enticing, that she can literally bring a man to his knees. Maybe it’s simply to explain a bill to her as she sits in a waiting room. Perhaps it’s to slowly remove her leather boots, or to slip off her clothes as he kisses down her spine.
She gives a gift to a man … allows him, too, to surrender in the moment, to her magnificent self-awareness, to her wild femininity. Together, they experience freedom.
And speaking to you as a big girl, now: Trust me … women of any size
can possess this.
Sometimes you have to be brave. Get clear about what you really want and say the truth about it. When you acknowledge your true desires, you have to make room for them in your life. That isn’t always easy.
In fact, it might hurt. It might mean letting go of something or someone you’ve held on to. And it aches when what you long for is not your reality … at least in the way you want it to be.
Yet, once you’re certain of your needs, you must prune what no longer serves you. So, you slowly, cautiously pick up the shears. With trembling hands, gently trim a branch … one bent and barely holding on. As you trust your heart, you snip and let go. Snip and let go. Intuitively, you understand this will allow for new growth, new beginnings to bloom in your life. Resistance will only wear you down. And you’re already tired.
Letting go does not mean good-bye, necessarily. Not in the way we often think of it. The branches were once strong and held lessons for you. They taught you to see the beauty in yourself, to remember you are wise and kind. They helped you see the magnificence of who you are. They lifted you up and in the best way they could, gave themselves to you. While you prune, the lessons and love remain. You release the parts that cannot blossom into anything further.
It’s during this time we must not curse the branch. It hurts to realize we have to cut back. It hurts to start trimming. It hurts to let go. You might get angry and scared. It’s not fair. It’s not what you want. Why can’t it be different? Though it causes pain when we want more in our lives – more than what someone is able to give us – they have given us something. They’ve allowed us to deeply feel what we truly desire. They’ve awakened a part of us, a yearning. And that is a gift. That gift always remains fully intact, no matter how much you prune.
When the releasing hurts, let it hurt. Let it wash through you and accept the truth about how hard it is to recognize that things aren’t the way you hoped they would be right now. Grieve. Cry. Write. Talk. Build a fire. Take a bath. Light a candle. And know, really know, that new possibilities and opportunities will take root. It’s a fundamental truth. Your job now is to look out for them, identify them when they appear, and take a chance.
This is the part where you show up for yourself. And keep being brave.