Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Body Image

The other week Ann Marie wrote in her primary talk the line "I like my body." I am thrilled to hear that from my girls at any age. I think a positive self image in critical for girls (and women for that matter). In our day of supermodels, photoshop, and hollywood glam teams it is incredibly difficult for girls and women to appreciate the beauty and divinity of their imperfect bodies. I thought I would share some ways I have come to appreciate my body and its "imperfections" over time and through experience. 

As a teenager, I knew I was never the prettiest girl in the class. I never really felt like the ugliest either. I guess there have always been parts of my body/face I have liked and others I wished looked different. I think that is fairly common to most people. 

I knew with the right clothes and makeup I could accentuate my assets and minimize my less lovely features. In the end I knew I would never be a "10" but I could look respectably beautiful if I tried. Since my self esteem has never been centered on my looks, this has always been good enough to me.

As I have grown older and more experienced, I have come to appreciate my body and its "faults" or "less lovely" parts more and more. One example of this is my knees. I have never thought I had cute knees. Seems funny to think of knees as something that can be cute, but they definitely can. You know those knees that are small and make an hour glass shape of the leg. I don't have those knees. There is no hour glass shape to my legs. 

This is a part of me that no amount of working out is going to change. You can't diet your knee bones skinnier. I have therefore never thought of myself as a person with "nice legs" because my knees have no shape to them. 

Now in college I began running. I ran for several years. I am not talking marathons. But I did do some 10Ks and I ran a few miles everyday for several years. As I made friends in the running world, I learned how many runners have problems with their knees. When I got married, I found my husband can only run on certain surfaces because his knees get hurt if he isn't careful.

I also noticed that most of these people had really nice looking knees. I came to appreciate my stocky knees. They may not be the prettiest knees, but they are sturdy and hearty and healthy knees. They perform their function very well. I now love my knees. I wouldn't trade them for the cutest little shapely knees ever made. They are MY knees and they are perfect for my me.

I could say the same thing about my nose. I have never really liked my nose. I always wished I had a petite cute little nose. A nose is kind of a hard thing to hide or minimize. I became less self conscious about this as I grew older and my face became more proportional. 

Now, however, I wouldn't trade my nose for anything. It isn't that my nose is prettier. It is still the same old nose. But my husband has trouble breathing through his nose at night. I have no problem getting enough air in through my nose unless I am sick. My nose performs well at its duty. I love my nose because of how well it works for me.

Now I don't have many major health problems. I am not sure how those with major health problems would feel about my reasoning for loving my body. But I still wanted to share my thoughts for those who could possibly appreciate their bodies a bit more for the work they perform regardless of how they look.

More tomorrow on appreciating our bodies from a different angle and with a different line of reasoning...

 

19 comments:

Judy said...

I enjoyed your thoughts today. In my teen and early adult years I disliked my nose. It is alittle on the large size. People commented on it at times. I wanted a nose job. Then one day out of the blue I started liking my nose because it was "MY" nose. Now I have no problem loving my nose. I have to say though now that I am past 50 I am struggling with loving wrinkles. Hope the acceptance comes soon.

Todd and Laura said...

I too very much enjoyed your thoughts today...and I know what you mean about the knees. I don't have pretty knees, but I have a new perspective after hearing your thoughts on knees. :) With the encouragement of my husband I accept and even love myself more every day. He has helped me to see the beauty in myself and I can't ever thank him enough for that.

I know you must hear it over and over but I want you to know what an inspiration your blog is. I love your thoughts and how honest and true you are. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your thoughts with me each day. I look forward to my Daily Scoop!

Anonymous said...

I've never really thought to look at my body in that way. I've struggled with my body image my whole life. I was repeatedly sexually molested as a child and it kind of ruined my self esteem. I'm 28 now and still don't feel comfortable in my own skin.

I fear it's something I'll struggle with my whole life...

mckenna said...

Right now I'm working on getting healthy (not dieting, diet is a four letter word) by eating healthy foods and exercising. So naturally I've thought about this topic a lot. I keep wondering how much happier I'll be with my body when I reach that magical goal weight. The reality is, I'll still have stretch marks from birthing my children. I'll still have wider hips than the super models. And I'll probably still break out like crazy when that time of the month rolls around. There are still going to be things about my body I don't love. But I have come to realize how much my body has brought me through even though I have not taken care of it the way I should. And you know, as much as I would LOVE to look like those super models I always remind myself that THEY have things THEY don't like about themselves too. So why not stick with my own issues and learn to love them? I love this post! As I raise my daughter I think about it more and more. I want her to love herself, body, mind and spirit. Hopefully I can teach her to have the same attitude you've shown. Thanks!

The "Street" Clairs said...

very well written and such great insights on appreciating your own body. I know that I am not as gorgeous in the worlds standards as models and actresses but I am my own kind of beautiful.

Anonymous-It isn't easy but over time with counseling and healing you will be able to see the beautiful person that I know is in there. I too was sexually abused and spent many years hating myself. After counseling, personal prayer and study (and years) I can now stand tall and feel beautiful and know that despite what I endured it doesn't make me less of a woman, daughter, mother or wife. You are in my prayers and thoughts and you are never alone.

Jennie said...

Thank you for your insight. If only we all could rationally look at things in the way you do! I think you are beautiful inside and out.

Kelsi said...

Thank you for your thoughts! Love this post it really puts things into perspective! You are so amazing to me! Thanks for your wisdom!

Amy said...

This reminded me of one of my favorite people, Marjorie Hinckley. One of her grandkids once said that she had the best "Grandma lap". It was comfortable and warm. He would look at the other Grandmas at church with their pointy features and skinny laps, and be thankful his Grandma's lap was like a soft cushion.

Kate said...

Your very insightful post reminded me of this video by Dove, I think it's called "evolution":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

Have you already seen it?

Also, I wanted to thank you for your example of grace and gratitude, which again you've expressed in this post as well. When I was in college, a very wise woman told me that the mark of a true believer is their gratitude, regardless of their circumstances. As I've read through almost all of your posts, I've been amazed by the many ways you have expressed gratitude and a grateful heart, regardless of your circumstances. You are one amazing woman. I hope you know how rare and beautiful you are. Thank you for sharing your faith, grace, insight and beauty with so many of us daily.

Melanie said...

When I was in the 'mad blind dating' phase of my life I used a conversation starter of; "Tell me 5 physical things you like about yourself". Most people can get to 3 and then they have to think.
My little boy has Hirschprungs Disease (along with his trisomy 21)He no longer has a large colon and I would give anything if he could have a large colon. It makes me grateful for the initiatory work done in the temple and to be able to remember those blessings.

Amanda said...

I think this is a wonderful post. Every woman struggles with their body image at some point in their lives. And I love how you choose to look at the usefulness of the things about yourself that you didn't like instead of the way they looked. It's a great way to look at things.

Liz H said...

My body doesn't always work so well for me. So my insight for how I love my body - even though it doesn't work "just right" is that I'm here for a temporary testing period. Even when everything isn't 'right' will I turn to the Lord for help or turn away in cursing the struggles I have.

I think our bodies are a blessing (with curses here and there) but learning to love us as our Savior and our Father in Heaven does is probably the most important education we can get here.

I love the book of Moses for the plainness that Heavenly Father uses in calling Moses "My son" so many times. That is our shield from the struggles and trials and hardships of this world. I also believe on some level we need to embrace the struggle to like/love ourselves because what is appreciated at 12, 15, 30, 45, 60 and 90 are very different things (just ask your father). There is a time and season for our bodies to work at different degrees of abilities.
Just My Opinion.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie:
I have struggled my whole life with body image. I placed my self-worth on how thin of fat I was. I became anorexic as a teenager and it has carried into my adult years. It is the heaviest burden I carry as each day I base my value on if I look fat or thin,or if I am physically presentable. I don't judge other people based on their appearance, but I always feel others will like me more if I am thinner, if my hair looks nice, if my clothes are nice blah blah blah. All shallow superficial crap.
I don't want to be like that. I hate it. My logic mind tells me that my reasoning is so wrong, but I can't seem to realize that people might like me for reasons not related to appearance.
How do we learn to love ourselves or at this point I would even be grateful for being able to accept myself as I am.
I think I will follow your lead and look at my body with eyes of gratitude. I'm healthy, I'm strong, my nose is big but it works fine, etc.. I'll try that. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....I love our way of thinking. Unfortunately, I have the same unshapely knees...that give me pain daily. And my nose...well, it's small and I can't breathe through it. I do like my ears, though. Just because.

Heidi said...

This was great. I loved your thinking and how it changed. It's wonderful how we can change our outlook to make pretty much anything positive.

Gwenevere said...

Now what to cherish about too much skin on the belly and not enough fat in the chest?...I love my kids. I love nursing and I love being pregnant. But I don't love what happens when the nursing is done and the baby weight is off. Just when I convince myself that I don't need a tummy tuck or a top enhancement (I'm trying to keep it clean for the kids reading), a good friend will have it done and I think...."wouldn't that be nice!"

My next thought is, "Is there anyone who doesn't color their hair, wear fake nails, pierce their ears, wear make-up, have surgery to change their figure?" Not that those things are bad, but seriously why do we as women put ourselves through an image crisis every time we pass a mirror?

Anonymous said...

I have always fought with myself about my weight (I still do). My mom was always talking about "(someone or other) is so fat"--she still does. It is a markd of her disapproval. In addition to that I had ballet lessons from a teacher who had been in a ballet company herself. She always told us how thin you must be to be a ballerina. Eventually she posted a "perfect ballerina weight" chart in the studio and weighed us once a week. I danced so much that my muscles were rock hard, but I was still 20 pounds "overweight". In addtion to that, there was still the thin-crazed media to contend with.
One day, a few years ago (15 years of marriage and six kids later), I was getting ready for a shower and saw myself in the mirror. My first thought was that I hate my body. But suddenly another thought came into my mind: Satan wants us to hate our bodies.
Wow! I had never thought of that before.
I still struggle with weight issues. I would still like to drop 30 pounds. But I don't hate my body. My body is wonderful--healthy, strong and well-functioning. And it is a gift from God. No one should hate that!

Michael said...

Great post, thanks for sharing your wisdom! You seem to beautiful inside and out! Lovey picture of your family!http://amfreedom.wordpress.com

abby's photo shoppe said...

I REALLY enjoyed your message. REALLY. What a fabulous outlook on life. Thank you for writing it down for others to be inspired. I appreciate it.
I have randomly been to your blog over the last year as I lost a baby at 25 weeks. I appreciate your blog. It helps me. Thank you.
Abigail