At an ‘Identity’ seminar at the Bristol Women’s Conference last weekend we were asked to think about how often we might stand in front of the mirror in the morning and declare with enthusiasm, “I am just SO beautiful!”
I admit to being just a tad disappointed that right from this introduction, the premise of the whole session was an expectation that women universally experience low self esteem, stemming mainly it seemed from comparing ourselves to glossy-mag celebrities. Yeh, I’m not getting that, I have to be honest.
But even so, declaring the wonders of my beauty in the mirror first thing in the morning? Not generally a part of my every day wakey-wakey routine, I admit.
However, it struck me this morning – perhaps for the first time – that I can thank God I’m now in a place where I actually like my own naked body! Fear not friends, this new-found fervour for my form is not about to spur me to run out into the street starkers. But, for me, coming to a kindly and knowing acceptance of what gazes back at me in the mirror is no small achievement after a lifetime of ‘body issues’ which had crippled and distorted not only my view of my body but also ‘who’ and ‘what’ it was to be used for.
My body is a dynamic tapestry that reveals the narrative of my life; the body I was designed to have shares its space and form with the impacts of my human will and mind and soul upon it. For good and for ill.
Now I look in the mirror and I see something functional and strong. I see muscles and bones defining my silhouette alongside curves. My pretty brown eyes that at various time reveal or hide my inner world. Then there’s my chipped tooth (should’ve used scissors). The kink in my lip carved out from years of nervous biting.
My stretch marks and sagging wrinkled skin: a legacy from abusive and addictive overeating stripe me like battle scars.
My tattoos documenting life’s path; my people, my loves and the meanderings of my once-was-wayward heart. My scarred and pitted skin on arms, legs, face, back and chest; wrought from over-zealous hormones, too-harsh self harm, childhood infections that were too-tempting-not-to-scratch or accidents of (mis)adventure.
My funny feet with toes-too-long. My bony hands with scuffed and keloid knuckles. My laughter and age lines. My silvering hair. My stubborn subcutaneous fat and lack of defined waist. My bingo wings.
I own and embrace every brush stroke that ever has been or will be drawn on my body’s canvas. And I choose to love, appreciate and nurture this amazingly complex and expressive vessel that’s been given to carry my soul through this life.
This body, my body, declares my biography as much if not more than words can sometimes tell.