So a couple of years ago I got really small. Physically, I mean. It was both intentional and unintentional — intentional in that as far back as I can remember I’ve been “trying to lose weight”, and unintentional in that I never actually expected consistent exercise and a change in diet could work. I guess we’ll never really know what the true cause was.
I’m not even sure I had a goal weight or size in mind, I just wanted to be smaller. I wanted there to be less of me; I wanted my thighs to take up less space, I wanted my stomach to stay sucked in, I wanted to be slender and lithe. No doubt this was, as it often is, fueled by decades of conditioning that teaches women are to be small to be desirable, and must be desirable to be valuable.
But I had this subconscious, and maybe sometimes conscious, idea that everything would change for me once I got small. I’d finally get the attention of the guy I pined for, I’d finally feel confident enough to wear shorts without fidgeting, I’d finally be dateable, I’d finally be able to step into my own life. I was like the trope of every singer in a small midwestern town, starry-eyed and hopeful that their lives will change once they get out to “The Big Apple” or those famous California beaches.
And you know what’s hilarious and not a surprise to anyone at all? Not one. lost. inch. added to my self-esteem. In fact, I had no idea how small I’d gotten until years later. Even as I was arguably as little as this body’s ever gonna get, I couldn’t feel it, and so I couldn’t relish in it. Those years that I was “thin”, may have actually been when my self-worth was at its absolute lowest — not entirely related to weight, but it was def floating around in there. All I could focus on was this subconscious, shame-driven quest to disappear myself.
There’s a line from a poem read in one of The Liturgists podcast episodes where Hillary McBride, amongst a litany of apologetic statements made to her body, says “I’m sorry for celebrating when there was less of you.”
I’m sorry for celebrating when there was less of you.
How many times have we cheered for fitting a size smaller, or tightening a flabby area? Listen, I’m ALL for getting fit and staying in shape — I’m literally one whey protein purchase from the guy in the gym taking a selfie — but I’m saying like, what’s the motivation? Are we truly celebrating hard work? Are we still loving our bodies as we celebrate? Or do we celebrate as though we’ve vanquished an enemy? Finally emerging triumphant over the cursed body.
About a year after college I started yoga and watched my waist, my arms, my thighs, my ass, alllll expand. As I got stronger, I got less small, but was then discovering everyday how much cool shit my body could do. I could stand upside down on my “head”, and sometimes my hands. I could hold a plank for minutes at a time; I could twist myself into something very closely resembling a pretzel with the new flexibility in my hips and shoulders. It became less about impressing myself with how small I could get (reminder: I didn’t even get to impress myself because I was too shame-driven to notice the change), and more about impressing myself with what I could do. And surrendering the idea that my body had to look like anything.
Pro Tip: Your body doesn’t have to look like ANYTHING.
She’s gonna take whatever shape she’s gonna take and it will all be good because she is alive.