This summer has been the first summer, for as long as I can remember, that I have worn shorts. And this is a big deal for me. A really big deal.
For those of you who know me, know well that I have forever hated my knees. We all have it, right? Perhaps one, often many, parts of our bodies that we just hate. You have all told me again and again that my knees are “normal”, that there is “nothing wrong” with them and even that they are “beautiful”. And I never believed you, because I never felt it and I always thought I had to feel it, that I had to actually like my knees. But I am starting to realise something different... Maybe my relationship with my body isn’t as simple as that. Maybe it’s more nuanced, more subtle, more changing. And maybe that’s ok.
My relationship with my body has not always been a happy one, and it certainly isn’t a completely happy one today, but I can say it has become more of a peaceful one.
I have battled with my curly hair, my thighs and those knees all my teenage and adult life. I have persistently pulled my curls back as tightly as possible in an attempt to disguise their fuzz. I clearly remember many summers in my twenties refusing to wear a bikini when I went swimming with friends because I didn’t want to show my body. I’ve spent days in tears over not being happy with the shape of my body or the clothes I have to cover it up. It all seems so futile when I actually put these words on paper, but it has dominated my thoughts and feelings about myself for a long time.
Wearing these shorts this summer, I am beginning to realise that something has been (very slowly) shifting and changing.
I could try to simplify this shift by saying it’s all thanks to yoga or to the beautiful, diverse and strong women I have surrounded myself with or simply the fact that I am getting older and maybe caring a little less about how people view me (or how I think they do)… but I couldn’t pinpoint one of these things that has lead me to (somewhat) comfortably wear shorts this summer.
I will say a few things that have aided this process though… Yoga is one of them. Yoga has shown me that my body is quite remarkable. The things it can do, the way it can hold me and carry me. It is a powerful thing. Climbing mountains in Nepal last year also showed me the power of this body of mine. And so have the times when I have got sick or hurt, when I have watched my body slowly (and often imperfectly) heal itself, reminding me that it is doing the very best it can to take care of me.
Over the past 12 months I have also been reading books by remarkable women like Tara Brach and Regena Thomashauer who have been planting seeds of strength and power and unshakability in my mind. I am learning that women - dear friends, family and strangers - hold me up and fill me up. Even when I don’t 100% believe what they tell me, I try to let it wash over me, to rest somewhere in my mind and slowly, perhaps one day, I may start to believe it too.
So as summer draws to a close and those shorts find their place tucked away until next year, I am sitting here in the realisation that the summer of 2018 may be one that goes down in history for me. Not because I can suddenly say, “I love my knees” but because for the first time that I can remember, I simply don’t hate them.
A few disclaimers and notes…
Body image, eating disorders and body dysmorphia are complex, multifaceted and vary enormously from person to person. Today I wanted to share a glimpse about my relationship with my body, key word: my. Your body is yours and I just want you to know that have the right to feel however you do about your body. If you are feeling alone or really struggling, reach out. There is help and support available.
Some great campaigns about body image include #morethanmybody #nowrongwaytohaveabody #thisiswhatayogilookslike Do you know others? I'd love to hear about them!
Some books that I've been reading that have filled me up, include Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance and True Refuge and Regena Thomashauer's (aka Mama Gena) Pussy: A Reclamation. They are not necessarily about body image but in some way they have shaped this changing relationship I have with my body. Have you read any powerful and inspiring books lately? Share the love!