The past several days a recurring thought keeps bubbling up, presumably because my subconscious wants me to dig deeper on this subject.
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about body image. Both how we view ourselves and how we view others, and how that compares to how they view us.
Last Tuesday at the gym, I decided to go hard on cardio, so I started on the rowing machine, then moved to the Stairmaster, and then finally to the spin bike.
I had forgotten my music at home so I had zero distraction from the row-row-row your boat action, and found myself doing a lot of people watching. I was only about a foot off the ground, and over to my right were a set of 3 Stairmasters, towering over me.
I looked over and up to see a couple of girls climbing their little hearts out. They were both on the chubby side. Not huge, just bigger, solid girls, and they were grinding it hard on those modern-day torture devices. Props to them both.
A few minutes later, an attractive, very athletic looking girl jumped on the third machine. She was dressed in a t-shirt and a tight pair of booty shorts. After a few minutes of warm up she stripped her top off to reveal a very small sports bra. So at this point, she was pretty much wearing the equivalent of what I would wear poolside. And good for her, she had a slamming body, and looked great.
Or did she?
Yes, she had a ripped upper body. Her abs were sick! Obliques that brought a tear to my eye. And her legs and butt looked very tight and toned. But wait…what’s that?… It can’t be…
All over the backs her legs, dimpled, orange peel-like, cellulite-ridden skin.
My first thought was: Oh shit. If SHE has cellulite, what hope do I have?? FML.
Yes, evidently it is all about me.
My next thought was: Everybody has imperfections. And every body has imperfections. And that is okay. Because at the end of the day, this girl was beautiful. As were the two heavier girls beside her. The cellulite didn’t make her ugly, just as the extra layer of bulk didn’t make the other two ugly.
And finally, the thought that stayed with me, got stuck in my head [in the way a pesky Avril Lavigne song does], was this: I wonder if when she looks in the mirror, all she sees, all she fixates on, is that one ‘trouble spot’ – her back-of-leg cellulite zone.
And if that’s the case, how tragic.
That any of us…dare I say, all of us, look in the mirror and only see that which is imperfect, that which we hate, that which we wish we could change, is so very, very sad.
I met two junior high/high school friends for dinner last night. It was absolutely wonderful to catch up with one another. And I marvelled, as I do whenever I see them, at how great they look.
And yet, here we were, a group of 46-47 year old women, looking great for our ages, and fixating on what we felt we were in need of ‘fixing’:
I replayed our conversations in my head as I drove back home.
And I realized that a big element I hadn’t thought about is perspective. By that I mean, in my perspective, these ladies looked beautiful, not just ‘for their age’, but in general. And they were very generous to me as well, with comments about how great I look, and with one referring to me as “Skinny Minnie”. WHO? Me??
And I realized…this really is all about perspective.
Compared to the last time they saw me, I am much thinner. True, it’s only ~20 lbs, but, it’s more about how my body has changed, thinned, sculpted and stretched. And it’s also about how I carry myself, and the self-confidence I guess I’m wearing. So, while I don’t look in the mirror and see “Skinny Minnie” [because…hello!], they did see a fit, healthy beautiful woman last night.
The question is, how and when will we learn to see ourselves in the way others see us?
How and when will we see the best in ourselves before we glue our gazes on those perceived (or even real) flaws in the mirror?
Can we learn to be kind to ourselves, to love ourselves, to see our own beauty, flaws and all?
God, I hope so.