I’ve been going on daily early morning walks with some friends in the neighborhood in the past few months and it’s been a revelation for me in so many ways: waking up earlier, getting exercise, chatting with inspiring ladies. It’s helped me establish a healthy routine that sets off the rest of my day in the best of ways. Many of these topics I want to address at some point here on the blog, but this morning we talked about body image in a way I hadn’t thought of before and I wanted to get it out there before I forget.
Body image has become a common topic of conversation among women both on and off the Internet. And rightfully so. Culturally, our idea of what a body should be, for both men and women, has been skewed and we’re realizing the harm it’s caused on our psyches and how we treat each other. I think we all know that we should have a good body image and I think we all know what it takes and what we need to do in order to have it, but life is tough and sometimes we listen to voices we shouldn’t or we don’t trust ourselves to have the confidence we know we need. Or maybe we don’t know those things. And maybe we don’t know that we can have a great body image even though we aren’t “perfect”. I wish we would.
I write this as one who wasn’t particularly confident growing up. I never attributed it to being unconfident about my body, but I now see that I think it played a role in it. I was chubby enough that my ballet teacher in 3rd grade told me I was too chubby to try out for the Nutcracker. My mom immediately took me out of ballet and put me into tennis as she didn’t want me to be exposed to a body-conscious hobby like she had been as a professional dancer. Playing tennis kept me active and grew my confidence and made me friends. That said, I remember feeling like guys would never like me because I wasn’t thin and I remember being totally conscious of the way I walked thinking that people might make fun of me. Mind you, I don’t remember people making fun of me. It was all in my head. And now I see that the reason guys didn’t like me was that I wasn’t confident. I couldn’t even talk to them! All that said, I was confident in my abilities and talents and my parents did a great job of encouraging me to strengthen them. I did well in school and had plenty of ambitions and goals. Thankfully, my lack of confidence in how I looked didn’t affect my desire to pursue dreams.
By the time I returned from an 18 month mission in Brazil for my church when I was 22 I had been imbued with confidence that came from getting to know and love people and serving them. I forgot about myself for a good chunk of time, which was so good for me. Shortly thereafter, I decided to eat super healthfully and because of that I went from a size 10 down to a size 6. A lot of my “baby fat” was lost and I’ve maintained a similar size ever since. I think it might be my default weight now. (That said, a couple of years after that I went on health mode again and went from a size 6 to almost a size 2 for a bit, but then I moved to Denmark and ate all their pastries. It was only right ;).
When I got home from Brazil in 2005 fashion had changed and all of a sudden, people were wearing happy clothes. Clothes with patterns and colors and more interesting shapes. Not just a t-shirt and jeans. Let’s face it, the nineties had been the most boring era of fashion known to man and we were still recovering in the early 2000s. My sister, who was now a senior in high school, had developed her own funky style and was taking risks that I didn’t know was possible. Her attitude towards dressing was a game changer for me. All of a sudden I realized that I could wear whatever I wanted to. I don’t know who or what was holding me back before (the 90s? my lack of confidence?), but I felt free. It was that decision that has informed my decisions ever since. I decided to wear only clothes that I really LOVED rather than what I thought I should wear or what was on sale, though I still succumb to that too. For me, if my heart doesn’t sing with joy, I probably won’t wear it and it’s a waste of money.
Then, in the summer of 2008 I interned for designer Jonathan Adler. When I first interviewed with them, they invited me to a book signing and reading by Jonathan’s now husband, Simon Doonan at the Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Center. His latest book was Eccentric Glamour: Creating a more insanely fabulous you. I didn’t know much about him but was thoroughly charmed and affected by his stories and ideas. Basically, the premise of the book is to not dress boring. Find what you love and own it. He says that his biggest problem with the way many women dress is that they wear clothes that are ill fitting or revealing or what all their friends wear. But it’s not even the fact that the clothes are revealing, it’s that it’s not clever. Get more imaginative. If you find a signature hair style that works, then keep it! I’ll have to go back and re-read the book to give you some specific examples, but I’d suggest it for a humorous look at dressing.
The reason I mention all of this is to say that my body image has transformed over time. Whereas I was conscious and not confident, I’ve learned to dress in what I love and have confidence in what I have. Life is too short to dress boring and to look like everyone else!
I want to talk more about these topics. Especially things like how to find your signature look or the logistics of dressing. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. What topics would YOU like to hear about? And what are your thoughts on transforming your life through your thoughts on your body? Tell me!