This week’s Beautiful Bodies comes from the superb Mara at Medicinal Marzipan. Simply put: Mara is Amazing. It’s insane how warmth can come across on the internet, but this girl radiates it. Pop over to her site and check out the treasure trove she has regarding body image, self improvement, fulfilling your dreams, and more.
Describe your body:
Today my body is begging for some water and a good stretch. My shoulders, strong and tense, hold my best intentions, moving purposefully and reminding me when it’s time to drop whatever it is that I’m carrying and love myself by moving joyfully and unplugging. My body is curvy and sensitive. It runs the best when my food allergies are tended to by an intuitive and compassionate structure, like a small child, and when I give myself the space to sleep solidly at night. My body feels best dressed up in brightly colored dresses, providing me with room to move around and feel comfortable.
When I was in fifth grade I had a “boyfriend” for eight months over the course of the school year. It was a time when all of those “Got Milk” ads were premiering, and in the lunchroom while we were pouring over glossy images of Tyra Banks circa 1997, my “boyfriend” leaned over and whispered, “milk does your body good.” This was an awkward and clumsy compliment, but it was the first positive feedback that I remember receiving about my body. In retrospect, never having been a milk drinker and with this relationship put into dramatic perspective, I find this comment a little creepy, BUT I remember at the time feeling very beautiful and proud of my body.
When I was a little kid, I was on a softball team that received our images printed on little cards with our “stats” on the back, including our weight. I remember passing them out happily to my friends, and receiving theirs in return. I remember some of my friends grabbing up my cards, looking at my weight on the back and gasping that How could I weigh SO MUCH?! Prior to this I have no memory of feeling badly about my weight, 70 lbs. at the time, but I remember feeling deep shame because in that moment my body became too much, too heavy and a source of mockery and rejection.
I was in fourth grade.
I remember telling my mother that I was going to go on a “water diet” (ie. nothing but water for three days) soon after. This was the first diet of many.
To my 15-year-old self I would say: Don’t give your heart away to just anyone walking by with a kind word and a coy smile. Be judicious in choosing romantic partners. Wait for someone who is going to truly adore and appreciate you for who you are, instead of permitting your voracious need for love and validation attract you to dangerous situations. You do not need to be strong all the time – you need time and space and tenderness to grow into the person that you want to be. Ask for help. Hold out hope. Allow yourself to be inspired be sources that build you up instead of tear you down. Don’t stop writing. You are just as interesting and gorgeous as that quiet, deep inkling suggests – listen to that voice as often as possible.
My biggest body image struggle has been learning to view my body as beautiful. Even when I felt comfortable in my skin during my adolescence, when it came time to look in the mirror, I was unable to SEE myself the way I felt inside. After a childhood of media-training to view my curvy body as clumsy, unwieldy, unsexy and ugly – re-patterning my thoughts around “what is beautiful” has taken time, love and effort. It has required copious moments of looking in a mirror, softening my eyes, and training myself to realize that bodies of ALL SIZES can be beautiful. It helped to take the focus off of how my body looked in the mirror, and pay closer attention to how it felt on a daily basis. At moments where my thoughts could not be trusted to truly represent the full picture of who I was, listening to my body became my best tool for cultivating self-love.
I personally hate it when people comment on my body, whether negatively or positively. For example, “Oh my gosh you look so great – did you lose weight?” Questions like this, though nice, trigger an onslaught of memories of being praised during years of punishing my body into submission by restricting, bingeing, and making “weight loss plans” for myself. It brings up that teenage voice of “F*$& you, this is my body and I will do what I WANT,” which, well, isn’t remotely helpful to anyone, myself included.
I tend to approach life in this way: your body is your own, what you do with your body is your business. It is my deepest wish for myself and for you that you are being kind to your body by giving it enough rest, eating food that makes YOU feel good, and moving your body in a way that inspires joy instead of dread.
My non-negotiable tip for dressing my body is: start with underwear that fits and is comfortable. If it doesn’t fit or isn’t comfortable just throw it out right this second. It is impossible to feel sexy and pulled together when you are constantly fidgeting with a waist band that digs in. Underwear aside, I strive to pull together outfits that compliment my curves instead of fight against them. I prefer outfits with bold, lush colors and comfort levels through the roof. Think: dresses that are made out of luxurious fabric, fit me perfectly, and feel just like pajamas. I am able to be my best when I feel comfortable within my skin and ensemble of choice.
As a body image blogger and self-love coach, I spend quite a bit of time perusing the internet in search of ideas, supporting fellow body image warriors, and contributing to the global conversation on self-acceptance. This community can be gorgeous and uplifting, but it can also be prone to a fit of the “haves” and the “have nots.” I have witnessed this most often when we become bogged down by physical size and appearance. You are too thin to be a part of the fatosphere or you are too old to have trouble with your body image, etc. It seems that when we permit ourselves to be fractured in this way, we are missing the point entirely. My hope for this community is that it continues to be all-inclusive, as people of ALL sizes and shapes experience difficulty with feelings of self-worth and self-image. When we are able to band together around these issues and support one another instead of tearing one another down – we will all benefit from the mightiness of our collective self-acceptance in gaining momentum in eradicating diet mentality and the thin ideal. We are all only as strong as our weakest parts.
Are you happy? What’s that mean for you? Could you be happier?
Truth be told, at this moment I’m pretty freaking happy. It has been a bit of a battle since I decided that I had to learn how to love myself no matter what, even when it was quite difficult to do so, but it has been so very worth it. I recently got married on June 9th, and was reminded yet once again during this process what it feels like when the societal pressure to be thin(!) and beautiful(!) crashes down around you. The best thing that a person can do for themselves is to develop a bit of an internal questionnaire: Where is this thought coming from? Do I believe this? Is this something that is going to matter to me in 20 years? The truth is, we are never going to be perfect, but we can try our hardest to be compassionate with ourselves and pick ourselves up lovingly when we falter. I know that I am my happiest when I treat myself kindly.