no hiding. just love and celebrating.

May 9, 2013 | 50 Comments

mybody

Yesterday I wore a skirt and my black chucks. I felt cute and fresh and young.

In the evening, Emma and I took Sloane to the dog park. I asked her to take a picture of me. Emma is always up for a photo shoot, no matter what side of the camera she’s on. As she positioned herself to take the photo, people appeared from behind the trees at the curve of the trail. I pushed her camera-ed hand down and made her wait until they passed. As if it were a drug deal.

I imagined Emma processing my reaction. If the roles were reversed, she wouldn’t have flinched at having an audience. I worried I had exposed the insecurity and body shame I work hard to protect her from. That she is likely already fully aware of.

Once the strangers passed, Emma shuffled ahead to play phtographer. When she finished, I tucked my phone away and enjoyed our warm, pathy walk. I took pleasure in watching Sloane and Emma trample about in sunshine interrupted by the shadow of trees.

At home, I tapped open my photos. Emma had taken over 40 pictures. What a goof, I thought. I scrolled, looking for something share-worthy.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. All wrong.

The protruding-bellied, squishy-kneed, big-armed woman was not the cute, fresh, young one I had been with all day.

This is how the world sees me.

I wanted to cry. Instead, I chose one of the ten photos in focus and posted it to instagram with the caption, “Hi, world. Here I am. No hiding. Just love and celebrating. #bodyimage”

Ironically enough, I had just spent half an hour on Facebook trying to convince a woman—a stranger—to stop referring to herself as hideous. I said if we hope to create a space for our daughters to easily celebrate self, we must think and talk about beauty differently. It starts with us. Right now.

“Think Elephant Man.” She responded.

“The Elephant Man deserved to feel great about his body. It’s the only one he had.” I said.

And then I saw the pictures Emma took and felt hideous. Why is this is so hard? So hard to see who I am and to love me as is?

After the dog park (before the picture post to Instagram), Emma and I stopped at the pet store to get Sloane a water bottle. As we left the store, we saw a Vizsla-owning couple Steve and I had met weeks before. “Hey! Too bad we didn’t have Charlie with us. He and Sloane could have a play.” The man said, his beautiful, slender companion smiling at us.

And do you know what I thought to myself? I thought, “I’m chubby and uncute. It’s lucky you talk to me. Surprising.”

I mean, it wasn’t that exact sentence, but it’s the sentiment of what washed over me. I believe on a cellular level that I am less valuable, less interesting, less worthy of human connection because of the shape of my body. How do you weed out your cells?

I promote fat-acceptace and HAES. I am careful to talk about myself in ways that don’t make other people uncomfortable and don’t leave me feeling empty. But this self-contempt is a fascist lion.

I haven’t exercised for about two years. I’d love to get fit, but I haven’t done a single thing about it. In the meantime, I’ve made an effort to love the shit out of me. To let it be okay that this is what I look like—because this is what I look like.

I sometimes force my naked body over to the mirror. I run my hands over my belly and studdy my shapeless arms and pillowy legs. I say loving things and tell myself it’s okay. It’s okay that you look like this. You’re beautiful and no less worthy of anything good. You deserve to take up space. Don’t shrink. Don’t hide. Stay with me. I love you.

Loving my body and remapping my internal dialogue is like building a house of cards on a wobbly table in the wind. I thoughtfully, with focus (you are enough) and precision (you are worthy), carefully (you are loving) and slowly (you are loved) secure (you are loveable) each card in its place.

And WHOOSH!

An old synapse fires and wakes the rest of the nasties and suddenly I’m outnumbered. My small voice of love gets lost in what is so familair it feels like Truth.

You are hideous.

Unloveable.

Uninteresting.

Unworthy.

I gather in close the scattered cards and start again. This time a little more discouraged, a little more tired, a little more unsure it’s worth the effort.

And this isn’t just about me anymore. I have another life I’m responsible for. She’s finding her way in the same world that taught me my value is determined by the shape of my body. And I’m terrified I wont be able to carve out something different for her.

This morning I watched a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline). Ten minutes into his speech he talks about art.

“Make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it on the good days, too. Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do. The urge, starting out, is to copy, and that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.”

Your body.

“So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

I thought of the picture. Of my body. This body is my art. The art I have to offer that no one else does.

I can carry it with shame and the belief that it is not enough—that I am not enough—or I can fight to be thankful. Thankful I have a body, for what it does and how it moves me through the world. I can celebrate it and be kind to it.

I can build my house of cards on the wobbly table in the wind. And each time that wind comes I can gather in the cards and build it again and again and again.

Here I am. No hiding. Just love and celebrating.


For more fun, like my Facebook page. It’s like a slumber party with less pillows.

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  • http://www.foureyescommunications.com Natasha

    I haven’t even finished reading this. I just have to interrupt my reading to say that I’ve seen you naked, Friend, and you know I’m hard on myself and that I’m picky in general and I thought you looked VERY beautiful and proportionate, with beautiful, smooth skin, and I’d do you.

    I have a hard time seeing my body change. It’s not that I don’t love other bodies bigger than mine or that I don’t love bodies with cellulite or spider veins, it’s that I’ve grown very attached to how I look. Have looked. It’s only the past three years that I’ve put on enough weight that I feel that same shock you felt when I look at photos. I, too, feel cute and sexy and slight, and then I see photos and it’s just not what I think I look like. Our identities are so tied to what we look like. When I dye my hair, even though it looks great, it’s still hard for me to get used to. It’s uncomfortable. How am I the same person when I look so different?

    I see women who are my size and general shape or larger and different and I think they look sexy. It’s the only way I’ve ever seen them and at face value, I think they look great. But when I look the same way, I sometimes feel stricken, because I am used to something I’ve felt comfortable with.

    I know that a part of it is that I’m aware that while I can find a multitude of women attractive, that media standards don’t find me attractive enough and this means some men and women won’t, either. But my own little research projects tell me that plenty of men aren’t as picky as they are taught to be. When they are, it’s usually young vapid guys in their 20s. Well, I don’t want to fuck vapid 20-something guys, so we’re even. Except not, because they’re the ones really missing out because I’m pretty sure I’m way better in bed than they are.

    But anyway, a part of it is just the slipperiness of identity. When we change roles and change relationships and change jobs, we sometimes feel like we’ve lost ourselves. Why would we not be similarly affected by changing bodies?

    • Shannon

      This: “I sometimes feel stricken, because I am used to something I’ve felt comfortable with.”

      You’re brilliant and hilarious and picky and I love you.

      Thanks for loving me, too.

      I think the difference is that in general, other people don’t care what jobs we have (I mean, sure, some are more prestigious and impressive than others), but it’s not the same for how beautiful we are.

      • http://www.foureyescommunications.com Natasha

        What do you mean “it’s not the same for how beautiful we are”? Did you mean to say that other people DON’T care what jobs we have?

        I like what Susan Sarandon says about getting older, that she welcomes it because how you look is less the point.

        I like to think that as we get better at doing what we want to do career-wise, and doing other big things that make us proud, we will care less what we look like.

        Also, the more I become proficient with my body (for me that means bringing pleasure to me and others, ahem, but for other people it might mean sports), the more I feel good about it. Having a body that can do sexy things makes me feel like it’s a sexy body, even when my belly is fat and I’m not even just saying that because I’m showing off in a blog comment.

        Find things that make you feel proficient?

        And it’s not true that you haven’t exercised in two years. You biked from Vancouver to fucking Victoria! You biked all over the place last year!

        • Shannon

          Yes, people care less about our jobs than our appearance. In general.

          I like Susan Sarandon’s thoughts.

          And I totally need to focus on the things that make me feel proficient. I just need to find them first.

          Don’t roll your eyes at me like that. :)

  • http://www.runningnekkid.com/ Celeste

    When I first saw that photo, I thought you looked gorgeous. I still do, of course, but that was my first thought. The end.

    • http://www.foureyescommunications.com Natasha

      Yeah, it’s a pretty cute photo.

    • Shannon

      Thanks. I want to get to a place where it doesn’t matter if I’m beautiful or not, yanno?

      The end. :)

      • http://www.foureyescommunications.com Natasha

        Yep. But maybe you’ll care less when you can really see the beauty? Don’t we tend to care less about things once we have them? I think it’s pretty hard to not care about something we think we’re lacking. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking the route of seeing your beauty regularly first. Beauty DOES matter. We’ll always care. We’ll always want beautiful flowers in our gardens and beautiful hair on our heads and beautiful lips kissing ours and beautiful websites and beautiful homes. Art and beauty give pleasure and we’ll always want pleasure. We just need to widen the definition of beauty and put things more in balance.

        • Shannon

          Yes, this sounds logical. And I think in part it’s what I’m working on–seeing it.

          I’ve been staring at the screen for a few minutes trying to think of what I want to say. It’s late and nothing’s firing properly.

          I’m thankful to have friends like you who suss through this stuff with me so thoughtfully. xo

      • http://www.runningnekkid.com/ Celeste

        Oh absolutely. But you’re not only gorgeous because of your physical appearance. I mean, the photo you posted definitely is *attractive* but what makes you gorgeous in it is that your soul is showing. The expression on your face; the way you are in mid-step, even your surroundings speak more about you than, say, your awesome rack or whatever. (I’m sorry to be crude but there you go.) Candid photos like this that show us in all our humanity are just the shit.

        I think you’re pretty and all of that, but that’s mostly genetic luck that you can’t control. As I’ve been reading through your blog and watching you live your life in this super expressive way, I am pretty struck by how beautiful you are. And dude, I only just started reading your blog like last month. That’s pretty cool, I think.

        • Shannon

          “Your soul is showing.” I like that. And my rack IS pretty awesome. Thanks for noticing.

          It is pretty cool. And cool that you took the time to tell me. Thanks. You’re close. We should have coffe.

          • http://www.runningnekkid.com/ Celeste

            Whew! I’m always worried about sounding corny. Probably because I can be super corny. Don’t judge.

  • http://www.bigloveforgirlsatrisk.wordpress.com Kim

    Oooo, the wicked lies we tell ourselves.

    I’ve noticed when I pick myself apart, it’s like a giant ZOOM lens. ‘My teeth are yellow’ and suddenly I’m standing an inch from the mirror for a close up confirmation. ‘Yup, fucking yellow.’

    Then I notice the lines around my eyes, and the crevasses developping on my upper lip and I’m back on zoom. ‘Motherfucker, look at that, I am starting to look more like a grandma than a mom. I should have NEVER smoked.’

    Then my eyes fixate on the silvery skin of my belly when four babies were grown to perfection in my little miracle incubator, and all I can do is grimace and think, ‘ugh, hideous.’

    Yet, when I see the picture above… I see a whole being. Shannon perfection. A beautiful woman, with feminine, enviable curves, a great haircut, cute clothes and a darling grin, staring at her little girl on a lovely spring day.

    If I could give you ONE gift, it would be the ability to see YOU the way others see you. Wouldn’t that be an AWESOME fucking gift???!!!

    And then you could re-gift it to me, and spread it around.

    Another great piece of writing. Glad you do.

    • Shannon

      I like how you use words, Kimmie. I’d regift that. :)

      xo

  • http://lucysfootball.com/ Amy

    You’re beautiful. And I know you don’t need me telling you that, but I’m an outside observer, and I’m not even biased, here. Tell your inner voice to shut it. You’re a gorgeous woman, you look like you were truly happy that day, and your inner voice is lying to you. As our inner voices tend to do, for some reason.

    Someday the house of cards will be so strong the wind won’t even wobble it. I’m sure of it.

    • Shannon

      Well, thanks, Amy. I think what I really want is to be able to value myself no matter how I look.

      That’s what I want for everyone.

  • http://divorcedoula.me Pamlet

    Lovely & honest post, Shannon! You’re beautiful inside & out!

    • Shannon

      <3

  • http://verbs.wordpress.com/ Jocelyn

    OH HAI.

    I have something to say about this. I’ve said it a few times to different people this week. It’s an extended version of this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/verbs/432592755/

    Imma gonna write a blog post. Lord.

    • Shannon

      You need a yahoo ID to see whatever that is?

      HAI.

  • http://www.sarahlibros.blogspot.co.uk Sarah

    The world would be a better place if there were more mothers like you. Too many of my friends have unhealthy relationships with food and horrible body image learned from their mothers. What you struggle with, everyone does. But the fact that you can take those feelings, and rather than delete all of the pictures, cry, and build your self hate, post the picture to instagram with a great message is truly inspirational.

    • Shannon

      I think most of us have those unhealthy relationships and horrible body images. I can manage it well most of the time, and then there are days where it just flares up and I’m not sure how to win.

      Thanks for cheering me on, Sarah. I’ve got cheers for you, too. :)

  • http://www.sarahlibros.blogspot.co.uk Sarah

    Oh and almost forgot, I recently did a post on street harassment which I linked to a post I had recently read on here on the same topic. Your words partially inspired my post so I referred readers here to see more on the topic. Here’s the link if you’re interested in seeing it: http://sarahlibros.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/on-street-harassment.html

    • Shannon

      Loved it! Commented!

  • http://50peach.com Peach

    “Thankful I have a body, for what it does and how it moves me through the world. I can celebrate it and be kind to it.”

    That sentence brought a wave of gratitude over my being. Because it is true. Forget society’s idea of beauty. Forget your own idea of beauty. I stand with you in loving and celebrating what we *are*, in the most basic sense of the word. As we exist today, omitting words such as “flawed” or “too heavy” or “too skinny” or “wobbly”. Just as we are. All of us.

    I love you and I celebrate you.

    • Shannon

      I love and celebrate you too, my friend. xo

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  • http://runningscared.ca/UrbanMomtographer Lindsay Dianne

    Oh hai.
    I think you’re gorgeous.

    • Shannon

      Right back atcha. xo

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