It's a challenge, to get past that conditioning and just have fun getting dirty. Sweaty. Unladylike. Most of us have been culturally raised to be afraid of and hate on our own bodies: the size/shape of them, the body hair and pimples and ripples of fat and cellulite, the scars and asymmetrical parts. This is especially a challenge for me now, after health conditions caused me to gain a lot of weight in the last 5-6 years, and when my right breast is not quite the same color or shape as the left.
It may return to (the new) normal in another 2-5 years. Or, never.
I realize I am damn lucky to still have both of my girls. Yes, you can experience both survivors' guilt - for getting off so lucky - and simultaneously be unhappy about the body part you're grateful for.
So, much deep breathing and mindfulness required. Since I keep wanting to compare the body I have against the body that in my mind, I "should" have.
As an exercise in combating that...
My lovely friend Jerilyn arranged a "Wet & Messy" photo shoot for a small group of women. We were going to be covered or dipped in various substances.
Every woman who participated was uniquely beautiful, and even more than that, BRAVE. It takes much courage to expose your vulnerable, naked (or almost) naked body to a photographer and other women.
I wanted chocolate syrup. I got chocolate syrup, in the end.
But there were other choices, too, from green slime to marshmallow fluff to shaving cream, and combinations of all of them.
We also had Stoli, but she merely watched with intense interest.
Alaina choose marshmallow fluff. Interestingly, it went on kind of clumpy, then smoothed out on her skin. Yes, it was a gooey, sticky mess - and doesn't she look amazing?!?
Jerilyn had chocolate and strawberries. Good enough to eat, amirite?
Raven, aka Batgirl, chose to get slimed. Isn't she fiercely gorgeous?
Tina wanted to be a chocolate sundae, with a cherry on top. (Well, between her teeth.) Delicious!
A stunning African-American woman with glorious dark skin, opted for shaving cream and she looked fabulous, but felt too shy to let me post her pictures. (Which is fine, I'm all about consent!)
So, interesting thing. I thought every other woman looked stunning, in her pictures, but at first, all I could see was my flaws.
Know what? So did they. (Saw their own flaws, not mine.) This is something we almost always do to ourselves as women. We really have to knock this shit off.
Deep breath. Here we go.
The photographer wanted to go for a "cookies & milk" theme with me, so I started in a milk bath. (Faux milk, mind you.)
As noted, the minute I saw my pictures, my gut instinct (and boy, do I have a lot of gut!) was to nitpick all my flaws. My ginormous thighs and belly. My mismatched tits. My....
One of the keys to a good relationship with anyone, they say, is at least five compliments to every criticism. What if I apply that to myself?!? And these pictures?
1) My pedicure was on fleek. (Or whatever the expression is.)
2) My powerful legs are strong enough to carry me everywhere I need to go.
3) Inside my tummy, everything works extremely well - my digestion and elimination never give me problems.
4) My hair glistens with strength and health.
5) My smile is something people say they always notice about me.
And on this picture...
1) I was eating a cookie AND smiling at the same time. Do you know how challenging that was? I haz oral skillz, dagnabbit!
2) Both my breasts are in excellent working order re: sensitivity and texture.
3) My skin is healthy, looks luminous here, and is exquisitely sensitive.
4) The cookies and milk theme was a very cute idea and conveys well in this photo.
5) I have strong, flexible, capable, pretty hands.
Last picture. It's getting harder, but I'm determined to find five compliments, AND not repeat the others...
1) I was living the dream of wanting to be covered in chocolate syrup. Fun!
2) Chocolate syrup, yummy! My tongue can taste (and enjoy), my throat can swallow (though I did almost choke on the chocolate, at one point).
3) I managed to fit into a very short bathtub without breaking anything, either in the studio, or on my own body. For those aware of my recent misadventures with a bathtub that required eight stitches, you'll know that's not always a given!
4) The syrup was poured so skillfully, I did not get any chocolate syrup up my nose (did get a little in my ear, though).
5) The fun time I was having here really shines through.
We don't have to hate on ourselves.
We need to learn ways to love ourselves the way we are right now, not in some vague future time when we're thin enough (or heavy enough), or flexible enough or have learned to jump through whatever ridiculous hoops of fire we decide to set up for ourselves.
We are enough, right now. I am enough.
I was brave enough to take these pictures, and to share them here. My wet & messy friends were brave enough to let me share theirs, too.
I am never going to look in the mirror and feel love or see beauty, in a roll of fat. When I try, I just set myself for failure and more hating on myself for failing that, too. If you can do it, more power to you!
But I can look for and appreciate other things about the strong, healthy body I inhabit, which gives me indescribable pleasure. This body kicked cancer's ass! It is amazing and deserves love. Just as it is.
Maybe it'll get thinner, maybe not. I'm doing my best to follow the Health At Every Size model; give my body better food, enough rest, to move for the joy of moving. But still, (unless I die first) my body will continue to change, perhaps have other ailments, gain more wrinkles... and I need to love it anyway.
I know you are brave, in your own way. I bet you can probably find a dozen things to hate on about your body without even trying, but I challenge you to list in the comments, three or five or a dozen things about your body and mind and personality that are awesome, instead.
Hugs and healing and self-compassion to you.