#keepingitreal: body shaming confessional

I have a confession to make. And it’s not pretty.

Like I mentioned in this week’s Me Likey Monday, I came across pro runner Lauren Fleshman’s article for Runner’s World entitled, “Let’s Keep It Real About Our Bodies.”

In her article, Lauren talks about a picture she posted on her blog in November, taken at the Oiselle runway show.

lauren-fleshman-oiselleI’m sure you are thinking, “Daaaaaaaeeeeooooomn. She’s perfect!” Well. Lauren wasn’t.

lauren-fleshman-blog

So what did Lauren do? She published more photos, taken the SAME week as the runway shot, when she wasn’t “flexed and sucked in.”

#keepingitreal

The point she was trying to make was to “never take the photos you see on magazine covers or online too seriously. Nobody is perfect.”

Lauren’s RW article went on to say that posting those “real” pictures wasn’t easy for her. She felt vulnerable, insecure and it took her six months to have the courage to click “Publish”. 6 months. And she’s beautiful. More beautiful in the real photos, in my opinion.

See, Lauren had vigorously whipped her after-baby body into shape for the runway in only 3 months. The 6 pack ab picture? Doesn’t tell me (or you) any of that. It tells me that her body is chiseled all of the time and mine should be, too. It tells me that if I work out hard enough, cut my diet or take a super pill, I too can have this body. That I HAVE to have this body. That I should WANT this body.

Body shaming is powerful. We do it to ourselves, we do it to each other. We allow others to do it to us. Especially the media and pop culture.

now-magazine-body-shaming

I remember when it started for me. I was in 8th grade, and up until then I hadn’t thought about my body in terms of sexiness or in relation to others. I played sports and knew my body could do what I asked of it, and that was enough. One day, a friend came up behind me in the hall and grabbed the butt of my baggy jeans. “You’ve got a hot body under there! Quit hiding it!” she said. After school, she gave me a pair of her old jeans that fit snugly in all the right places. The next week at school, it was as if I had opened a door to another world. Cute boys were paying attention to me, popular girls asked me to sit with them at lunch. Apparently, these were magic jeans.

Cut to freshman year of high school, when a stupid, insulting survey was passed around the upperclassmen. There it was in writing: Best Body – Megan White. Me. At that moment, the bar had been set. My body could never be less than that survey. Ever.

meg-7-grade

(Me,on the left, 7th grade. Baggy flannels and jeans were my uniform)

I have struggled with my self-image and self worth for years. I can’t blame it on those two moments, but the fact that 18 years later they are so vivid tells me they played a large part. They also contribute why I make it a priority to tell others how beautiful they are inside and out. I shame my own body but I do NOT, under any circumstance, shame others. Twisted, I know. I’m werkin’ on it.

As the years go on, I get more comfortable in my own skin. I am much happier with my body at 32 than I was at 22. It’s strong in some places, soft in others. It’s a woman’s body, not a girl’s. Yes, there are lines and bumps and wrinkles. But they tell my unique story. They remind me of where I’ve been.

But there are times when my old self gets the better of me. When I forget all the hard work I’ve put in and retreat to thinking I am less than. Like the day before I read Lauren’s article. I posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook of me working late.

working-late

It looks like a totally normal photo right?

It’s photoshopped. I photoshopped in between my thighs so they wouldn’t touch and trimmed back my knock knees. I have never, ever done that before and can’t even tell you why I did other than because I could. Because I knew how. I felt like a fraud the whole time, but I did it anyway.

photoshopped

Actually, that’s a lie. I do know why I did it.

Because I have this fitness blog and I should be in perfect shape. Because other fitness bloggers have flatter abs and skinnier thighs. Because my orthopedic surgeon scrunched up his nose and said “Were you aware that you have knock knees?” …Nope, doc. Not until this moment and by the look on your face, it isn’t a good thing.

I was comparing. I was self shaming. The picture can’t tell you “My thighs may touch, but I am healthy. I run 3 days a week, practice yoga, eat vegetables can hold a plank for a weirdly long time and sometimes gorge on Cheez-Its. I’m perfect just the way I am.” Since the picture can’t tell you that, I felt the need to show you. And I did that by perpetuating the myth that skinny = healthy. For that I apologize. Deeply.

So when I read Lauren’s #keepingitreal challenge at the end of her article, I knew I had to take it. I knew this was the end of the line for my body shaming. It wasn’t serving me, and it wasn’t serving you.

The Challenge: Everyone keeps saying how powerful social media is. Let’s use it to redefine beauty. Post an unflattering photo of your body on Facebook or Twitter and spread the word. Add the hashtag #keepingitreal. When we click on that hashtag we’ll be able to see a collection of photos from real people that represent truth. How refreshing will that be?

So how about it? Will you take the challenge with me? And while we’re at it, let’s move beyond Lauren’s challenge and promise to stop body shaming ourselves and each other. Let’s love our rolls, bumps, chins, hair (or lack of) and everything in between. I don’t know about you, but the most beautiful, admirable, respectable people in my life are the ones that exude kindness, compassion, humility, strength of mind and unconditional love. It penetrates their skin, their smile, their entire being. I’d rather attain to be that, wouldn’t you?

Will you take the challenge? 

 

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