In my quest to become Real, like all of those who have forged this path before me, I have overcome a few things, and come to accept a few others.
Let’s start with my feet…
By the time I was 12 years old, I wore a size 12 shoe. Yep, you read that right…a 12! Oh, how I hated my feet! Already awkward and insecure, I was absolutely convinced that my
skis feet, stood out like a neon sign. Finding cute shoes was nearly impossible. In the days before the internet, I only knew of one store that carried my size…Payless…and by carried I mean they had a handful of choices, most of which were less than desirable. I dreaded going to the bowling alley or the skating rink. Not only did I have to say my size out loud in front of lots of people…it was then displayed on the back of my feet like a scarlet letter. Those places did not even carry a women’s size 12. Instead I had to ask for a men’s 10…mortifying to an awkward 12-year-old girl. Most of the time I shoved my feet into a women’s 10, which still seemed huge to most of my peers, and came home with blisters. That seemed like a good plan at the time because it saved me some embarrassment.
This obsession with my big feet lasted well beyond those awkward middle school years. At 5’9”, I am fairly tall, but plenty of taller women have much smaller feet than mine. I felt like I got the shaft. When I was a member of the color guard for my high school marching band, they had to order “special” shoes for me that didn’t match anyone else’s…because they did not make my size in the ones that everybody else wore. I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide. A boy whom I dated in high school once told me that he had big feet as well, and that shoe size really didn’t matter. I should have listened to him, but I didn’t. I could not get past the humiliation. I wanted to be cute and petite. I wanted to shop for shoes at the stores where all of my friends were buying shoes for their cute little feet. But, that was not my lot. It took me well into my adult years to accept that I could not change those feet of mine, no matter how much I wanted to, so I’d better just suck it up and move on. Just like my high school friend told me so many years ago…it does not matter. Nobody cares about my shoe size except for me. Most people don’t even notice that I wear a size 12, unless I point it out. And, thank heavens for Zappos…my one stop shop for shoes. I love that place.
Now, moving on to a more sensitive issue that I have finally come to accept about myself…
I have never been very “well endowed,” which never bothered me until I started having babies. I nursed each one of those five babies, and each time I weaned one of them, my already petite chest (the only thing on my body that is petite) got smaller…and smaller. Those kids sucked me dry, and I now resemble the 12-year-old version of myself in that way, only smaller (we are talking about more than one A here…). For many years I HATED it. It was humiliating to shop for bras in the girls section, and still not find anything that really fit. Shopping for swimsuits was a joke because nothing was proportioned correctly, and I didn’t even come close to filling out those cups. With my big feet and nonexistent chest, I had a hard time feeling like much of a woman. I considered implants, not because I wanted a large chest, but because I wanted to get back what I had lost. I thought about it often, but I could not go through with it, because thoughts of my daughters overshadowed my worries about my own insecurities.
I could not stop thinking about how I wanted them to grow up to become comfortable in their own skin. I didn’t want them to constantly compare themselves to others, wishing for smaller feet…a larger chest…thicker hair…a different nose…never really embracing the beauty that was already within them, because they could only see what they were lacking. I didn’t want them to surgically alter their bodies so that they could look more like other women, who were likely opting for plastic surgery as well. When I looked at them, I saw beauty beyond compare, and I wanted them to see it also. I knew how tough that would be when they got older and were bombarded by messages telling them how they should look. The world has been brutal with women in that regard, making it difficult to feel attractive unless you buy this…or wear that…or have a large enough chest…or a small enough waist…and I was right there in the middle of that trap. I realized that if I wanted my daughters to rise above such messages, and accept the idea that it was possible to find peace with who they were, I needed to embrace those ideas myself.
Thus my journey began.
It has not always been a smooth journey. I struggled to come to grips with not being “normal,” if being normal included being a certain size. Eventually I was able to redefine normal in my mind, accepting that there is no one “normal” size, and then finally being comfortable outside of the range of normal. It has been difficult at times, but also liberating. I have learned that it is okay to be me…just simple old me…and that people like me for who I am, not who I wish I could be. They don’t care what size I am, so why should I? I still don’t love shopping for swimsuits, but I have abandoned all thoughts of plastic surgery. I am certainly not judging anybody who has taken that path, as I seriously considered it myself. But, in my own way, I am fighting against the pervasive idea that a woman needs to look a certain way or be a certain size in order to be attractive. That, my friends, is simply NOT true. I am not saying that I have reached the pinnacle of beauty, because nothing could be further from the truth. I am saying, however, that I believe beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and that one simply does not need a perfect body in order to be beautiful. Some things can be surgically altered to make them more “perfect,” but I guess I have decided that perfection is not my goal, contentment is. I want people to be comfortable with me because I am comfortable with myself, despite my imperfections. Perhaps more importantly, I want my daughters to feel the same way, and I feel like it is my responsibility to show them how to achieve that, not through surgery, but through acceptance, which brings a whole new dimension of confidence that I never knew was possible.
So, there you have it, friends. This is me…as I am. What you see is what you get. If you are struggling with your own self-image and imperfections, boy can I relate! Hang in there. Don’t give up. Don’t let the media tell you what you should look like. Let’s be honest, those images are not reality anyway. They are created with Photoshop. Life is better when lived for real. It is a happy way to live. So, if you feel so inclined, join me on this journey to becoming Real by letting go of the person that you wish you could be, and accepting the person that you are. Doing so has changed my outlook, my perspective, and my life, and I truly believe it can do the same thing for you.