|Nicole on her 11th birthday|
I bet that you have a memory of some kid making fun of your body from your girlhood. I bet that you can picture the whole scene: sticky bus seat, noisy kids chattering, and the flush of red cheeks and the pit in your stomach. One of my shaming memories is from 1986 or so. Some boy I didn’t even know punched me in the thigh and told me I had the thickest thighs he had seen on a girl. He continued to pester and shame me about my legs until he grew bored with me ignoring him. I remember looking down at my legs in those lime green shorts and just feeling like I wanted to be invisible. I felt so disgusting and weird and unusual in the most awkward way. I was about 11 years old, just about to blossom into awkward young womaness. I couldn’t have been more vulnerable to this cruelty. I also was not a fat kid. I was the chubby prepubescent girl with about 15 extra pounds and yes, I had thick thighs.
That boy had no idea what damage he was causing. I don’t think he really meant to be so cruel. I forgive that boy, even though his words have haunted me for 25 years. I think about the scene regularly and had the shame wash over me regularly until very recently. I used to sit next to my friends and compare the size of their thighs to my own. Whose knees were bigger? How do our inner thighs compare? It was really obsessive at points in my life. But no more. What changed? Me.
I have decided to see my thick thighs as the advantage and blessing they are. I can squat hundreds of times before my legs give out. I can pull and push sleds. I can carry heavy things. I can hike up mountains. I can run miles. My big legs do all these things. And you know what? Now those thighs, those very same thighs, are a source of joy and pride for me. But this came from hard work, physical and mental, mostly mental. No one gave this gift to me (except my thick-thighed ancestors). I had to make the choice to tell that boy to ‘shut up’, finally after 25 years of mocking me.
My body is never going to be ‘perfect’. But I have grown to embrace the imperfections as they are, as I am. I am not at full body acceptance and love and celebration. But I am getting there. I no longer play those shaming scenes in my head. I am finding ways to enjoy my body - yoga, biking, strength training, push ups even. In this letting go of that shame I have opened up to so many new pleasures and joys, including a more enjoyable sex life.
That boy didn’t take those years of self-love away from me. I did that. I made the choice to play those tapes and buy into all the societal bs about what is beautiful and ‘perfect’. Just like I choose to stop bashing my body and to start the process of full love and acceptance. You can make the choice to tell all those mean girls and boys to ‘shut up’. You just have to do it. Make the choice now. And now. A And tomorrow. And next Wednesday. Until it is the new tape in your head.
Forgive the girl who internalized that shame. Forgive the young woman who felt so ugly and undeserving of love. Forgive the woman who punished herself with food or starvation or binging. Forgive and let it all go. It’s only weighing you down. It is only preventing you from the freedom to be yourself in all your awesomeness. The forgiving will lead to the forgetting. One choice at a time.
Nicole's passions are wellness, social justice, and learning new things. She enjoys an adventure, whether a cross country road trip in a 1972 Ford Clubwagon or a hike around a lake with her family. Nicole shares her home with her partner Travis, their two boys, two cats, and an ever-changing number of fish. Nicole is a working mom, a yogi, a classroom parent, a knitter, an occasional runner, and a proud feminist. Someday she plans on hiking the Grand Canyon, doing an unsupported handstand, and writing a novel. Probably not on the same day. You can read Nicole's thoughts on womanhood and motherhood at Think Mama Think.