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Body Image and The Struggle Toward Acceptance

Friday, January 20, 2012

I read a great article on MSN today about a woman who loves her body, but hates her legs. That caught my eye because I hate my legs, too! (I can't say I love my body, yet, but I suspect I'd be in a similar boat as the woman in the article.) Here's the link to it:

glo.msn.com/style/body-o
f-work-1534485.story#!stac
kState=0__%2Fbeauty%2Fi-lo
ve-my-body-hate-my-legs-1534300.story


This woman may as well have been me writing this story. The way she describes the physical appearance of her legs are the same way I describe mine: blotchy, stuffed sausage. I consider myself to be a person with moderate or average self-esteem, but when it comes to my legs, my confidence crumbles. I don't own a pair of shorts that aren't meant to be worn outside a pool. I don't wear swimsuits without a long pair of boardshorts. I have knee-length dresses, but it takes a feat of strength on my part to ignore the fact that you can still see my huge calves and ankles. So, I normally wear long dresses, pants (even in summer), long skirts, and "flood" length pants (which still make me uncomfortable sometimes).


Long board shorts on my Mexican Riviera vacay.


Rolled up floods in Puerto Vallarta, MX. It was 90+ degrees outside and I still wore heavy denim. I felt awkward with these and my "ugly" shoes.

I hate my legs more than any other part of my body. I have that awful "double wave" on my arms... ya know, that extra flab under the bicep. I do hate that, but I hate it less than my legs. I wish that pooch on my tummy, the part right under my belly button that cushions my internal lady organs, was significantly smaller... or at least stuck out only as much as my upper tummy. I wish my butt was a little more perky, and a lot less saggy. I don't even necessarily want it smaller at this point. Just up more than down. I would love for my teeth to be whiter, but those white strip things burn my gums and make my teeth SUPER sensitive. And, I hate all these things, but I hate them less than my legs.

Maybe its because I'm afraid I won't ever be able to do anything about them. My body shape is a lot like my grandmother's and my aunt's. I'm pear shaped, with a larger lower half. My grandmother isn't the biggest woman (she's lost a lot of weight recently), but her calves look very "athletic", and they always have. Same with my aunt. And same with me. I want my body to look proportional when I get to my goal. And somehow, I don't think my legs will cooperate.


My calves look ginormous to me in this pic. Like the stuffed sausage I think of when it comes to my legs.

Besides that, my legs are total jerks. My knees are the crap. They hurt going up and down stairs. My ankles are weak little wussies. And my feet... man, don't get my started on that plantar fasciitis. And my calves can't handle a little bit of workout. Several years ago I sustained a pretty wicked injury when I was coaching gymnastics. Part of our employment agreement there was to at least be working on good exercise habits and gymnastic moves if possible. I was a fairly decent tumbler, especially considering I wasn't the smallest girl. So, after work, when all the kids had gone home, and most of the coaches, too, a few of us would stay after and get our fitness on. One of the coaches was working on becoming a certified personal trainer, so we offered to be her guinea pigs. She did a great job on me. My butt was lifted, I dropped two pants sizes, I felt good and I looked good.

Well, one night we were doing calve raises on the floor beam, which provides a greater range of motion. Unfortunately, I must have overdone it even though I didn't feel a thing that night. I woke up the next day unable to walk. My calves had spasmed sooooo bad! I was unable to walk for a week, and I was unable to walk normally for another after that. And I've always had problems ever since. My muscles up the back of both calves are always tight and bother me when I exercise. Grrr... I probably should have had some sort of physical therapy, but I didn't have health insurance at the time.

A few things about myself and my journey differed from her article. When life starts to suck (and lets face it, these days it does quite a bit) I don't notice a heightened sense of self-criticism when it comes to my physical appearance. My grandmother may/may not have been raised in a time when women were reliant on their looks to "land a man" or a job or whatever else. But, I never got that impression from her. She never projected an importance on looks, just health.

"Coping with imperfections is the best way of dealing with them," says Martin. "You can't heal relationships with your body once and for all. It's a constant negotiation. The women who are successful at this are those who take the time to really tune into their lives, to reject their own internal critics, and really turn up their focus on joy and wellness. Once you step away and look at the bigger picture, the size of your thighs seems pretty insignificant."

This blog really wasn't meant to be a huge put-down on myself. It was just supposed to be working on myself about accepting who I am, how I am. Sometime I'd like to think I'll get there. So, I apparently need to step away and look at the bigger picture, focus on my joy and wellness, and really tune into my life. However you do that.


It would be nice to not have to buy wide-calf boots someday.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • ARCHIMEDESII
    I have yet to meet a woman who couldn't find something to complain about on her body. If it's not her legs, it's her hips or stomach or boobs. We love nitpicking our bodies. We love comparing them to everyone else to see if they measure up or not. Some times we look to see if we look better than someone else for a pick me up. LOL !!!

    Yeah, I think we all can be pretty insecure about our bodies, but it's important to appreciate what our bodies can do and not worry about what it looks like.

    Personally, I've stopped worrying about what people think about what I'm wearing. If it's hot out, I'm wearing SHORTS ! I don't care if someone doesn't like my legs. They can feel free to look elsewhere ! The fact is, no matter how bad we think our legs, hips, stomach or boobs look, they aren't that bad. We tend to make mountains out of mole hills.

    AND... since you brought up my favorite pet peeve i.e. buying boots. I'm considered reasonably slim by societal standards. I have problems wearing knee high boots. I have decent muscle definition in my legs. I don't remotely consider them bulky. I have a hard time getting boots up over my thigh. I swear, knee high boots were designed for STORKS, not women !!! So, don't get down on yourself because tall boots don't fit. they don't fit me either !

    I'd love to find a nice looking pair of tall boots, but like you I can't find a pair that fits properly. shoe shopping, much like bra shopping can be a real drag.




    3371 days ago
  • SMILINGTREE
    When I was a baby, my grandfather started calling me "Piano Legs" because he thought my ankles were unnaturally large - that there was no real shape to my legs and they went straight down like the legs of a piano. I was self conscious about it for years - I still won't wear capris (they just call attention to the size of my ankles!)

    But, one day, I noticed that one of my (younger, prettier) cousins has ankles as big as mine. And then I realized I had never looked at them and thought "Dang, she has huge ankles!" and just like that, my perspective changed - except of course for the the thing about capris.

    You are right - everyone has things about their bodies they don't like. I've moved from ankles to skin. I'm as red as a tomato, all the time, no matter what I do. I'm just going to avoid mirrors :)
    3371 days ago
  • WOLFKITTY
    Grr.

    ""Coping with imperfections is the best way of dealing with them," says Martin. "You can't heal relationships with your body once and for all. It's a constant negotiation. ""

    I'm calling BS on this one. It makes it sound like women should just accept that they will always hate themselves.

    NO! You CAN heal relationships with your body. I believe it. And I will make it happen for me. Luckily, there's the rest of the paragraph:

    "The women who are successful at this are those who take the time to really tune into their lives, to reject their own internal critics, and really turn up their focus on joy and wellness. Once you step away and look at the bigger picture, the size of your thighs seems pretty insignificant."

    I think the first sentence is a blueprint for how to start loving your body. I've done this. I've lived it. I work on it. The 2nd sentence is what may happen, yes, but for me it means putting into perspective how OUT OF WHACK my thought process was before, and realizing there are all kinds of beautiful.

    I can't take proper care of my body unless I truly believe that it, and I, am worthy. By "take care" I mean eat healthfully, move healthfully, sleep, breathe, live healthfully. Truly nurturing myself means that there's not much room for hating myself. (I don't want to take care of things that I hate.) If a flower made me sick, would I water it and encourage it to grow?! No. Would I continue to feed a cat that scratched and bit me every second it came near me? No. I'm not on board for that kind of punishment.

    Not sure if I'm making any sense, so I'll retire here. Just know I love ya, Jill, and I think you're gorgeous!
    Hugs,
    Joce
    3371 days ago
  • WOLFKITTY
    Everybody has their places.. Sometimes it's hard to see the beautiful picture because we're so determined to find the flaws. I think you have great legs. I don't know them very intimately, obviously, but from the outside view they're pretty great! Plus, they seem really long. Maybe that's where you get most of your extra height.

    I work on this all the time. In the past few years, I try to find aesthetic value in my different body parts, and am mostly successful. As I worked through it, that drowned out the rest, and I'm finally starting to come to appreciate my (previously most disliked part) lower belly. In the group picture from Lesa's daughter's (shorter) POV my belly hang peeks out under my shirt. At first I was mortified, but that happens all the time, no matter how much I try to cover it up. I can either learn to just recognize that it is there, and it is okay, or have errant anxiety pulse through me every time it's exposed.

    There's a softness to my belly that invites hands. Even if I didn't like it, men have. And while I think that we are more than how attractive we appear to our mates, if the negativity gets to be too much, I hold onto that one. It is not how the fashion industry or diet industry would like us to believe - that only flat stomachs are the thing. Real bodies have thicker parts and thinner parts, and everyone is made differently.

    Anyway, I want to go read that article now!

    Hugs and loves!
    Jocelyn
    3371 days ago
  • HDHAWK
    I don't love my legs either and no matter how thin I get, they don't get as thin as I'd like. I don't want those super skinny legs either though. They get us where we need to go so we're lucky to have them. Keep working out and they can only improve.
    3373 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    When I was your age, I had perfect looking legs - the kind that people frequently commented on and the kind that looked even more perfect in high heels. Fast forward to my 40's and now my 50's and I don't have those kinds of legs anymore. In my 20's, on my pretty, slender calves, I could not run a mile. With my heavier looking, muscular calves, I can run. In my late 40's, I ran a marathon and a number of half marathons. I am a grandmother and I can run a mile in just under 10 minutes and I can do that for several miles. I am not bragging, just letting you know that things change in unexpected ways. If I may be so bold as to offer you some advice? Use your legs more, look at them less. Dance, skip, hike, climb stairs....you are young and strong and you have the muscular calves to prove it! emoticon emoticon
    3373 days ago
  • no profile photo CD10934741
    I had to chuckle when I saw "cushions my internal lady organs". Haha! Jill, you are BEAUTIFUL!!! Legs and all. We all have parts of our bodies that we're not particularly fond of, but that's not us - that's society telling us what we should find attractive. Don't buy in. Your legs are strong and gorgeous, and the rest of you is beautiful too. Believe it. emoticon
    3374 days ago
  • ABB698
    We can all relate in some way but we are all special in out own ways and there are some things where gravity is more powerful than anything.....LOL :)
    3376 days ago
  • SLIMMERJESSE
    I honestly pay little attention to what anyone calls anything. Age is irrelevant. Sizes of clothing is of no matter. Etc. Society has a way of putting all of this info on us and what we do with it is own it. Live by your own standards. Easier said than done. You are a lovely-looking lady. I hope you see the changes you seek. Meanwhile, I hope you learn to give yourself a hug - and mean it. (smiling)
    3380 days ago
  • JSALERNO
    you are definately not the only one that feels that way. I hate my legs too. I also hate my but. It is so flat. I am learning to love these parts but it is difficult. We can do it together
    3380 days ago
  • MEWHENRYSMAMA
    LOL...my IPad corrected that to "calfskin" and I decided not to edit...it was to funny!
    emoticon
    3380 days ago
  • MEWHENRYSMAMA
    Wish I couldn't relate, but I SOOOO can! I would not begin to try...too many things and parts! LOL! I kind of put on the soft lens and move on as there are things we can change and things we can't! You are lovable anyway!!! Would you hold your love, care or concern from someone because of big calfskin or saggy boobs? Don't think so!
    Go ahead...embrace your calf's and be proud!
    Love & Peace,
    Mary
    emoticon
    3380 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7229242
    wow learning to love my legs too !
    3380 days ago
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