Smile - By Elizabeth Green
I write this looking through tears of frustration, loneliness and probably a lot of self-pity. In my 34 years of living, my self-image has been a roller coaster ride to put it mildly. And quite frankly, I don’t like anything about roller coasters and I never have. As a child, I struggled with being a slightly overweight girl with a sister and mother that ate what they wanted and never gained a pound. Teased in a new middle school because all the girls noticed the boys noticing my curves.
As I entered high school I realized the power of my beauty and the curves I had finally grown to love, an unhealthy relationship to sex and love began to form. You know, the typical coming of age story for a girl with a size 34C bra in the 6th grade.
I had my son right after high school and my life took on a whole new rollercoaster. I was young and scared and I had no idea what I was doing. I took control of what I could in my life, worked hard to support my son and tried to maintain normalcy. The changes my body went through during pregnancy with an already temperamental self-image put that unhealthy relationship with sex and love into high gear. I didn’t have time for love nor were there any viable candidates for the incredibly enormous shoes the person good enough for me had to fill. So, I spent most of my 20’s using my sexuality to feel in control of some aspect of my life… oh the stories. The remaining years of my 20’s into my early 30’s I spent 5 years in a toxic relationship that started with cheating (more stories) and ended in heartache, self-consciousness and a lot of self-reflection.
Which leads me to today. Writing this backstory to answer the question “What would you say to your body if you could?” I have spent the past few years emotionally stunted:
Anxiety, depression, weight gain and a broken heart tap dancing on my ego. Which caused phases of more sexual escapades to try and get the power back (let’s just say there are a lot of stories for another time). Only to realize that doesn’t work now because I am not 20 anymore. I am a very blunt, hold no punches kind of person- even with myself so that led to a very colorful self-reflection phase. I love my mother and have this new-found, humanized, respect for her now that I am a parent of 15 years.
While our body image struggles are very different her idea of what fat is and the insensitivity in using fat shaming terms was lost in a generational gap. It wasn’t malicious or ill intended but none the less it imbedded at an early age how society viewed me.
Because as thin as I have ever been, I have never been smaller then some of the woman I have heard her call a fat ass. As parents, we don’t realize what our children hear or how they may take it. Mostly because it combines with their other experiences to be magnified in a way we can’t see through our own everyday struggles.
I had an internal struggle of not caring what people thought yet still sometimes seeing my body through their eyes.
Especially in moments of loneliness and depression. There are a whole lot of mean superficial woman out there being amplified in the age of instant gratification through social media. It took me humanizing my mother, a very thin beautiful woman and seeing her own body image issues to realize something. Those mean superficial woman are just working through their own self-image issues.
As much as I hate roller coasters, I wouldn’t change one word of my story. Even through the self-image struggles my outlook on the woman around me and seeing the beauty in their individual uniqueness gave light to seeing my own beauty.
What would I say to my body if I could? Smile and keep being beautifully flawed. Nobody can love you unless you do.