Body Positivity: Give Yourself Grace
When I was 14 or 15, I would look at fitness magazines. I did a little reading, but mostly I looked at the photos of strong, skinny, “perfect” women. They had defined muscles (usually abs) instead of rolls, and shimmering skin instead of stretch marks earned during puberty. And I wanted desperately to look just like them. I wanted it so badly that I would do the workouts on the pages of these magazines, willing my body to look like the models, and crying when I caught my reflection in the mirror because I saw the exact opposite.
Fortunately, I’ve come a long way since then. I don’t shudder every time I see my full refection. In fact, sometimes I look at myself and feel pride. I’m not expecting to be waltzing around in a bikini or anything, but I do like my body for the first time in my life. I don’t look like the women on the pages of fitness magazines, but I look and feel like a strong, healthy version of myself. Yes, I have stretchy, saggy skin around my belly button from growing two humans inside of me, but I can also out-row a 20-something year old man. My body isn't what I wanted it to be when I was 14. But I love it so much more because I feed it good food rather than deprive myself. I move when I can but I don’t beat myself up over missing a few days at the gym.
I give myself grace to be me.
Some people may say that I’ve lowered my standards for my body. And that is fine if they want to think that because, frankly, my body is my business, not theirs. I’ve learned to value myself and to put the hard work in to make my body healthy and strong. That means working out regularly but not excessively. It means eating what I want but learning to expand what that means (clean eating FTW). None of these changes, physically or mentally, happened overnight. They took work and determination and they always will. But doing it with grace, patience, and understanding rather than hate and disgust made it way more fun and rewarding.
Here’s what I think: I think we have allowed girls and women to seek a perfection that isn’t one-size-fits-all for far too long. Instead, we should be celebrating comfort, strength, and nourishment over numbers on a scale or the size of our jeans. If I could talk to the 14 year old version of myself and tell her to dry her tears and work hard on loving herself rather than obsessing over another person’s idea of what women should look like, I would. At the same time, I’m grateful to have struggled and come out of it with some perspective. I hope that helps at least one person out there to stop worrying about those last few pounds or the workout they missed this morning.
Let life happen and give yourself grace.