December 07, 2009

I am sitting naked in a chair, and if I look to the side, I can see myself in a mirror.

Pablo Picasso, Nude and Still Life, 1931

Why am I doing this thing, you ask?

Because I read a post on Jezebel just now about a blogger, Michelle Gay, who posted a picture of herself in her skivvies, with commentary on what makes her proud of her body. Michelle writes "Eating Journey", a blog about how she lost something around a hundred pounds and changed her life. Changing your life to that degree requires changing your thinking, and Michelle was interested in how other women saw their bodies. What she found was that, to a greater or lesser degree, we all have pretty complex thoughts about what our bodies mean, what they can or can't do, and how we feel about them.

Not exactly news, is it? I mean, if you're a woman in this or any number of other cultures, you're constantly exposed to messages about how, no matter what you do, it'll never be good enough; *you'll* never be good enough.

Our friend Mizfit has some interesting thoughts on this: in an exercise she's done with plenty of women, the women always draw outlines of themselves much larger than they actually are.

(I encourage you to read Mizfit's post. In it, she links to a number of other Exposed bloggers. It's amazing.)

So. If you were here next to me, now that I've grown tired of freezing to death in my drafty, underinsulated house and put my robe back on, you'd see a short, stocky, middle-aged woman with hair-colored hair and eye-colored eyes. I'm smart, but not brilliant. I'm athletic, but not a jock. I am, in short, almost frighteningly ordinary.

Now, though, when I look at the bodies of other women brave enough to post pictures of themselves, I see this about myself:

Hands that have saved two lives and midwifed many, many more through dying.

Arms that can lift almost anything they're called upon to lift, be it bags of dog food or lonely cats or heavy patients.

A chest that can bench-press my trainer. Plus, it looks great in V-necks.

A back that can lift anything. I mean *anything*. Need a steam locomotive moved? I'm game.

A belly that, while soft and overlaid with a couple of inches (or more!) of fat, can do sixty V-ups with weights between both ankles and hands.

Hips that can shake to Brave Combo like nobody's bidness.

A butt that has moved at least one man to lyrical, and sometimes vaguely obscene, observations.

Thighs that can run a mile without stopping, then move me up and down a step, then squat weights, and then go to work a twelve-hour day and take the dog for a run. Then get up and do it all again.

Calves that, at something like 16.5 inches, are my pride and joy. They're a combination of genetics and training and the one thing that shows that my sister, my mother, and me are all related.

Feet that still work despite years of abuse and cutting my toenails too short.

Learning to love your body is a lifetime's work. At some point, when we're kids or young teenagers, we quit taking what we can do for granted and start focusing on what we're not.

What do you love about yourself today?


  1. (thanks for the love. was TOTALLY SURPRISED by that when I made my morning pilgrimage to the cranky!)

    I know what you said about it being a lifes work is 100% true for me as well.

    I may have bad crows feet and the beginning of deep furrows thanks to too many years life guarding and not enough sun screen BUT I wouldnt go back to my younger wrinklefree days for anything.

    it has been such a journey of exploration and effort and learning to get to 40...and Im glad to be here.


  2. Great post as usual Jo!
    I spent too many years agonizing on how my body looked rather than what my body could do.
    I think I was well into my 30's before I made peace with the fact that my muscular thighs were always going to be larger than a supermodel's and my 6-pack was shy.

    Now I love the fact that my body can do y thing....I BELIEVE it can. And I am grateful for that everyday.

  3. I used to beat myself up when I looked in the mirror, but I don't do much of that anymore. When my sister was diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy, it really changed my perspective. I have the ability to do so many things that she will someday be unable to do. I should be celebrating what my body can do, not whining about how it looks.

  4. Well I have to admit that in the summer I spend most weekends buck naked - either in my garden or at a naturalist camp. I must be crazy - right?

    Well being conned into going to a nudist resort about 20 years back instead of being the sex orgy that my Catholic background insisted it MUST be, it proved to be the single most POWERFULLY liberating body acceptance experience I've ever had. My link will take you to what I wrote about this.

    What do I love: I love that my soft curves (um.. that's looking through soft eyes) are soft. I love my hands that can type up a storm. My legs are strong - need a boeing kick-started, I'm your gal. I love that my breasts look like real breasts and aren't magazine perfect.

    I love that when I'm amongst other naked people I feel just so at ease from any body hang-ups because when I compare my body with those (instead of the magazine ones) you know, I'm just fine.

  5. What an amazing post! All so true. Liking/loving oneself is a life long process for sure. As much as I have accomplished with my bod for a 52 year old, I still see the little fat kid in the mirror at times & I still push to correct little things I do not like & yes, I still get down on myself.. you would think I have learned! But I am better that I was when I was younger so that is a step.

    I love how you explained yourself in terms of strengths! We should all do that! THX!

  6. Great post! It's so hard to see the postitive when it comes to our own bodies. I read an interview with Amanda Peet in Self magazine and she was wishing she looked like Gisele and Jennifer Aniston. She says, "I want boobs, a gentle six-pack, and a perky butt." Amanda Peet! So, really, no one's safe from critiquing their bodies.

    Thanks for forcing us to think about what we like about ourselves. I like my cute feet.

  7. Yes, wonderful post! Loved the title, too! It's amazing to me what our bodies can do and how little we give credit to that! I love that my body does things I never knew it could and constantly surprises me! Every day living inside it is a gift.

  8. I really liked this post. I think it is important to remember to be proud of our bodies in spite of all the society pressure cues that we will never be good enough.

    Today and every day I am proud that my body allows me to not only enjoy everyday living but that it is in better shape and at a better fitness level than it was when I was 18 (I'm now 31 by the way).

    I also rock some really nice calves too which is thanks to genetics and great training...they have to be my favorite physical feature and I love showing them off.

  9. Love this!

    What a great reminder to appreciate all that's wonderful about our bodies. Right now I'm spending far too much time angsting about a foot that's messed up, and scowling at a stubborn roll of bellyfat I can't get rid of, rather than celebrating the rest of the parts I have that are strong and healthy and work just fine.

    And I totally agree that one of the best cures for body insecurities is to hang around REAL naked women (in gym locker rooms or spas) as opposed to looking at photoshopped magazine pictures of already anorexic actresses.

  10. I slowly learning to re-appreciate my creaky bod, too. It's surprised me a little on this weight-loss journey, coming through when I pushed it and helping me out when I needed it most.

    Excellent post.

  11. "in an exercise she's done with plenty of women, the women always draw outlines of themselves much larger than they actually are."

    Too true. i still see myself as the bigger me sometimes. I'm getting better at it but I still catch myself in a window or a mirror and go "holy crap! that's me!"
    Feels good...though I wish I could just replace the image inside with the new me and get on with it :)

  12. I love my left knee. My right knee is totally in the dog-house.
    More seriously, I like my legs, arms, shoulders, back, all that stuff. I am working on liking the bit between thighs and ribs.

  13. I like the fact that I can move anything too. During the summer my neighbor is always laughing at me because I come home with loads of heavy home repair stuff, or gardening stuff, and I never get the hubby to help me unload. I think it's the only thing that keeps me from feeling too bad about the extra least I'm still strong.

  14. Yay for Cranky love for the exposed movement. I've done that, and I wonder how I will feel when I do it again in twentyish years at forty. I'm kind of looking forward to loving all new things about myself and my body.

  15. What a great post!!! I LURV Mizfit.

    But enough about her/you: Me? I love my hands and my feet. I have extremely pretty feet because I've never (hardly ever) worn shoes that were abusive. I love that I have hardly any facial wrinkles even when I smile, on account of having kept out of the sun lo these 61 years for the most part. I especially like that I have no frowny lines, because I've always worn sunglasses in the sun so I won't squint. I like my shoulders. They are rather broad for a woman, and shapely.

    Other than that, I have to say I'm not terribly pleased. AND I just found out I have SIJ which is terribly annoying and they say I can't do yoga any more. :-(

  16. Fantastic! What I like about myself right now is that I'm letting go of caring *so* much about what other people think, and I'm appreciating the body I've got. I like that I'm ABLE to perform 200 reps of an exercise over about 12 hours- I like that I'm strong enough to do that. It's something special when we can do things like that.

  17. Great post. Absolutely wonderful.

  18. I love my whole body for still being able to do what I tell it to do.

  19. OK, top down...

    Love my brain - for taking on board all the things I've forced it to learn (and still working, most of the time)

    Love my eyes - for seeing beauty in all sorts of odd little places

    Love my mouth - for accepting that it wasn't going to be constantly filled for the rest of it's life

    Love my collarbones - yippee! I have collarbones!

    Love my hands - how else could I hold my lovely hubby?

    Love my boobs - used to hate 'em, then realised they may be smallish, but they are still 'womanly'

    Love my back - mine gets on with the job and shifts anything, too

    Love my belly - OK, I'm lying about this, but I'm really, really trying hard

    Love my legs - they are strong and getting toned and could walk me to the moon and back!

    Love my feet - lovely hubby calls them my 'monkey feet' cos I can almost still tie knots with them

  20. I love my calves and my budding biceps.

    Great post...

  21. Best blog post I have read in Forever!!! Thanks!

  22. Hi Cranky: Love your creative twist on this venture. Mish and I are keeping the "Exposed Hall of Fame" going, so as other bloggers step up, such as yourself, we are adding to the "Master List"

    I have not yet been "exposed," but you've inspired me on a new way to go about it - thanks!

    Keep on spreading the positivity!
    aka mamaV from WeAreTheRealDeal


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