Picture this: I’m standing in a hotel room in downtown Minneapolis, wearing nothing but a bra and pair of undies, beaming as I hold tight to my naked little 17-month-old daughter. We’re not alone, I should mention; we’re actually being photographed by a woman I’d only met about ten minutes prior.
Actually, just have a look for yourself. This is us, photographed by the inimitable powerhouse Ashlee Dean Wells:
Never mind that Ashlee, a veritable stranger, quickly became one of the people in my life I cherish most deeply — because at the time, I’d jumped out onto a limb and done something I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever do.
I’d peeled off my clothing and scooped up that squirmy naked babe of mine, and I’d done it because I’d answered a call deep within myself to honor my body, to bare my every line and curve, and to show the world an example of what it looks like to practice meaningful and intentional self-love.
I don’t share this under the pretense that I’m a woman who’s satisfied with her body every single day. At the time that picture was taken, I was 17 months postpartum. I had full and round breasts that made milk for my nursling. I had the curved hips of a woman who’d pushed a nearly 8-pound human out of her vagina. And I had a glow about me that burned brightly until roughly two months later, when I lost that daughter of mine’s sibling in utero and was slammed with a secondary infertility diagnosis.
Since that day, I have wrestled constantly with the ways in which my body has both given and taken away.
What I have, though, in spite of it all, is profound respect for the power that women possess, a deep reverence for the fleeting nature of this life, and an inherent knowing that no amount of self-deprecation will ever grant me peace.
We women are trained to find flaws within ourselves, both physically and mentally. We’re bombarded with images of perfection, forced to reckon with unrealism, and made to feel like even our finest selves aren’t quite up to snuff. And before long, we find these disparaging concepts coming from inside of us.
Maybe you're trying to get your body to look like That Girl's, or just roughly like your own did ten years ago — and all that is fine by me, so long as you keep one thing in mind: your body is glorious just as it is, right this minute.
For the record, your bum will never magically morph into That Girl’s bum, because that’s her bum. And chances are pretty good that the perky boobs you had a decade ago are but a distant memory. And all of that is okay. Through it all, you will always be you. And what a beautiful thing that is.
So, women, I’m talking to you — give yourself permission to love every inch of you. Honor your body, and meet it where it is. To those of you who’ve given birth: you’re forever changed. Relinquish the idea that you need to get your body back to looking the way it did before your baby was born.
To those of you who are still swayed by Photoshop tricks even though you know they aren’t real: they aren’t real. You know this.
Your body is beautiful now, cellulite, stretch marks, scars and all. Walk with it, love it as you go, and honor it every step of the way. Your value has nothing to do with your waistline. If you can’t find this empowered feeling inside of you, pick up your phone and text your girl gang for support. And if you don’t have a girl gang, get at me, women. I’m here for you and I think you look lovely today.