Last Sunday I was asked the rhetorical question, “what do you see when you look in the mirror?” For the first time in my life I really thought: I see someone with a beautiful body. I also feel disappointment because I am not society’s definition of physical beauty. But for some reason, when I look at my body I feel admiration and gratitude and I think it’s partially because I recognize that my body is a scar.
I’ve fought with body image and struggled with eating since I was 8, when my dad told me I should start sucking in my belly so I would be more attractive. I struggled when I was 16 and my crush said that the reason he could never like me was because I was fat. I struggled when I was put on various diets by my parents throughout my childhood and adolescence. I struggled controlling my appetite and felt a gnawing desire to hurt myself because of my weight and the way my body looked. (I’m probably not alone in all of this either.)
When I was 17, I worked really hard to lose weight. I lost 90 pounds that year, starving myself to do so. I felt really proud of the way my body looked. That year I also got better acquainted with Ethan who said one day, “You know. I thought you were really pretty before you lost this weight. I will think you are pretty always.” My mind exploded. How. Could. He? HOW?! Someone could love me and it not be determined by the number on the scale or size of my pants?! In the comfort of our relationship, I slowly began to realize that I didn’t need to weigh a certain amount to be loved or to love. I stopped starving myself and started to eat healthy foods and exercise frequently.
The year I turned 19, Ethan and I were married. Hugh came only 17 months later. During my pregnancy, I gained all of the weight back that I had lost. I felt my self-confidence diminish and started to feel my self-loathing return. It’s not until now at 21, that I’m starting to really feel gratitude for my body. I guess it’s partially because I realize it’s been through a lot. It’s also because I am reading more body-positive blogs and realizing healthy bodies can take all shapes.
I was watching a documentary recently and the commentator referred to the Grand Canyon as “a scar that can be seen from outer space.” I thought this use of the word scar was really interesting. Normally when I think of scars I think of something scary or ugly. But the Grand Canyon is referred to as a “natural wonder” a place to visit and revel in it’s beauty.
I started thinking about my body and all signs of wear and use. The stretch-marks on my arms, breasts, hips, belly. The way my belly sags and my butt jiggles. The literal scars on my legs, wrists, and hands from falling, cooking, or cutting. All over my body are symbols of the little stories that were made in painful and happy moments. My scars. And I feel some pride in them. My body gave me Hugh and I can use it for good things. My body IS a good thing. It helps me love the people I love. My scars are my medals.