Body Shaming Bullies
I grew up in Michigan, which is basically the frozen tundra.
Seriously, we watched football outdoors in shorts when it walk is the 50's. Ooooh, balmy.
I did my first undergrad in Manhattan. Neither of these places uses the words "bikini ready" very often.
...then I moved to South Florida. The land of perpetual bikini readiness. Groan.
For awhile it didn't phase me. It's possible that I was just young, in good shape, and did not have the perspective that giving birth to two babies and subsequently attempting to balance work, parenting, homeschooling, and the super fun aches, pains, and the delightful hot flashes of my mid-40's affords.
Curse you, mid-life clarity.
For almost 16 years now "wellness" has been my passion and my business. I'm a Christian counselor and I specialize in tweens, teens, and young women. I have always done my best to practice what I preach. I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, and project a positive, self respecting, God-honoring body image, not just in public, but in front of my two daughters.
Sometimes I nail it. Other times I blow it. BIG TIME.
I think in my younger years I had a bigger issue with vanity. Now I struggle with casual self-deprecation, which is just lukewarm body shaming, but no less detrimental. This goes double when I do it in front of my girls.
"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30
In other words, no matter what you look like or how much bling you have, a woman's commitment to the Lord and how she projects her worth in Christ to the world is what truly matters.
So model healthy habits, physical and spiritual. It can be harder than it sounds.
I've also been very honest with my patients and clients that an occasional indulgence helps one find balance and some joy in life.I've always loved (and agreed) with Sophia Loren on this one..
But what happens when you look in the mirror one day and don't look or feel as "healthy" as you used to? Do you call your self "gross" or "fat" in front of your kids? Gosh I wish I could tell you I've never let those golden nuggets slip.
So what if I'm not the size 6 I use to be? Should I pack up my bags, tuck my hypocritical tail, and get the heck out of the health care? Nope. No freakin' way.
You know what I find annoying in my 40's?...the person I was in my 20's. I was SO oblivious as to how good I had it.
Taco Bell at 2am without extra poundage? Easy. Functioning at work after only 4 hours of sleep? No problemo. Smiling without wondering if my face is turning me into a bloodhound? Yeppers. Plenty of time to hit the gym? Bingo.
So here I am now, mid 40's, and I just realized it isn't my body that needs shaping up, it's my ATTITUDE. Do I indulge in the occasional "garbage food" or Netflix and chill when I should go for a walk? Yes, yes I do. And you know what? That's okay. Laugh lines show a life well lived and I sure as heck earned the stretch marks growing two humans in my body earned me, thank you very much.
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Pslam 139:14
Health is not measured by "bikini ready" anything. At least, not in my world. It also sure the heck isn't how God sees you. I beg you not to give that perspective, where outward beauty outweighs inward beauty, a foothold in your life either.
It is a THIEF OF JOY.
The other day I got a serious reality check. There I was minding my own business hanging out with my family at the beach when a huge realization hit me. Watching my daughters swim I reflected on a time when I NEVER worried about how I looked in my swim suit. I used to love bikini shopping.
I mean, what????? Freakin' alien.
There was a time when I just swam. I played. I didn’t stay in a chair or cover up with a towel.
Sure I get to read (without interruptions) at the beach while the littles swim and dig holes to China in the sand with their dad. But honestly, I also HATE the walk from my chair to the water. Does my ego think everyone is checking me out? No. I just feel exposed and vulnerable. I don't feel at my best. Honestly, I don't even know what that means anymore. All I knew for certain is that I was sitting in my chair missing out.
(You'll notice my strategically cropped photo of myself here.)
My precious girls will be broody teenagers in the blink of an eye. It feels as though they were babies yesterday. So here I am, blessed with these precious kids, self-shaming myself at the beach. Time is running out and I'm worried about the size of my thighs and how not-so-flat my stomach is. What an idiot.
But then...a moment of clarity. Thank you, Lord.
I realized that teaching my daughters body positivity MUST begin with me modeling it. Does my body look the way it did before I had kids? Nope. Does that matter? Double no. My girls don't give a rip about how "bikini ready" mom is, they want her to join in the fun. They want to see her love herself like they love her, like my husband loves me, like God loves me.
"Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." 1 Peter 3:3-4
Inspired (and convicted) by this realization I bought myself my first bikini in 12 years. Okay, it's a 50's throw back, but still. We're going for modesty/body positivity. Work with me here.
You know what? I’m wearing that baby to the beach the next time I go. And the towel? It’s staying on the chair.
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