Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I was listening to an interview Oprah did with Amy Schumer, and while I'm not usually a fan of her (Amy Schumer, not Oprah. BIG Oprah fan over here), I did gain a lot of respect for her perspective on how we should treat and love ourselves. Ironically, the same evening, I found myself scrutinizing a photo that I took of myself and Brighton at the beach. WRINKLES! All around my eyes! Where did those come from?! One eyebrow sits higher than the other when I smile too big. My mouth is crooked. My teeth, are those discolored? Moles I hate, dark circles under my eyes...

I am constantly criticizing how I look. My friends and I used to call our lower abs "marsie" which was short for "marsupial pouch" because we could never get those flat tummies that "pretty girls" had. And now, post-baby, even if marsie isn't flabby, she's never going to be flat. My chin looks weird in some photos, my butt too big and boobs too small. I'm just saying, we ALL do it. How many times do you have people retake photos because you don't look right? Right?

In her interview, Oprah quoted the poem above by Maya Angelou, and it made me wish I saw myself that way. That more women saw ourselves and each other that way.

How often do we scroll through Instagram and Facebook and find the latest "flat tummy" workout, guaranteed to get you looking like the girl in the photo? I recently saw one of those, and thought, I have got to get real with myself: I will NEVER look like that. My legs will never be that long and my hips have pushed a baby through them. I keep looking at the scale desperate to see the numbers 115 (in that order) again, but I haven't seen those numbers since freshman year. It's just not reality. 

Nobody likes to talk about their insecurities, so that's why I'm talking about it. Because we all deal with it. When you become a mother people say things like "your body is a miracle", "your body created a beautiful human", or while your pregnant they say "you're making a baby, of course you're going to look different, but it's amazing" - but then a stranger will say "woah, you ready to pop?" or "you sure there aren't two in there?" **major eye rolls** But still, every day we look in the mirror and see how we don't fit into our clothes the same way or we can't get our abs to look like they used to. We see the pregnant mommy bloggers who look better than us when we aren't pregnant and then bounce back like they never carried a child for 9 months. 

The body image battle is a silent war I've been raging for a long time. Throughout junior high and high school I danced and always felt like I was in great shape. In college, I studied abroad in Italy (hello pasta + wine) and came home unable to fit in any of my clothes. Today, I seem to have some unrealistic expectation that I should still look like my 8th-grade self. Check out this crazy fact: A 1999 study of Japanese women in their 20s provided a few clues. Subcutaneous (i.e. under-skin) fat disappears slowly from the cheeks, neck, boobs and lower legs, and begins to build up at the waist, the infragluteal region (underneath the butt), and on the abdomen. The researchers, looking at women at the end of their twenties compared to the beginning, found that weight had shifted around in three different patterns that were distinct from the ways that it was distributed around the body in the early 20s. <--- even science says I'll never look like I did in high school! So why are we still trying to?!

If you're like me and you've been critical of how you look, let's make a commitment together that enough is enough. That we should strive for health, not perfection (because can anyone actually define perfect anyway?). Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her book Switch on Your Brain, discusses how our brains can be rewired and how scripture lines up with what science tells us about the brain! She says, “Our choices—the natural consequences of our thoughts and imagination—get 'under the skin' of our DNA and can turn certain genes on and off, changing the structure of the neurons in our brains. So our thoughts, imagination, and choices can change the structure and function of our brains on every level.” In Romans 12:2, when the Bible says, "...be transformed by the renewing of your mind" science actually proves that we CAN do this by practicing different thought patterns. Sorry to get all nerdy on ya for a moment, but I just needed the reminder for myself that it IS possible to quit being so critical and start being grateful. 

What about you? Is this something you struggle with? What are some of the tools you use to kick those negative thoughts to the curb and embrace the body, the face, the wrinkles, the hair, the "you" that you are today?