Embrace Me

I know I said it yesterday but it bears repeating: I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to read my post on the Special K challenge.  The response I received was overwhelming and I am still trying to process it.  I’ve pinched myself multiple times over the course of the past day, but so far I haven’t woken up.  I guess I should probably stop pinching, that spot is getting kind of bruised (okay, so maybe that wasn’t funny.  Moving on).

It’s been my experience that women tend to have difficult relationships with their bodies–I mean, this has pretty much become a cliché, evident in jokes about the dangers of answering when a woman says, “Does this make me look fat?”, assumptions that having to try on or buy a bathing suit is inevitably traumatic, and even vanity sizing in all kinds of clothing stores–and reading through the comments both here and on Jezebel really solidified that belief for me.  We’re bombarded with so many messages that equate our weight and appearance with our worth as people that it’s hard to imagine that any woman could escape having some kind of negative feeling about her body.  The undercurrent of frustration that runs through the comments this post received demonstrates, I think, how tired we all are of being subjected to the amount of scrutiny we deal with on a daily basis.  This scrutiny comes from all kinds of sources: marketing and advertising campaigns (as the Special K challenge so readily demonstrates), the media, television, movies, and magazines, from other women, and (sometimes most destructively) from ourselves.

Personally, I think it’s time we tried something different.  Rather than subject ourselves to scrutiny, judgment, and criticism, I say we adopt a different tactic.

This is my body.  To be entirely honest, when I look at this picture, I wince a little bit (actually, a lot).  Why?  Because I see every single flaw.  I’m not sure what you think when you look at this image, but when I do, I see: a disproportionate body, a tummy that could use some toning, thick thighs, large hips, and sausage arms.  Whether or not any of those terms actually describe my body is irrelevant.  What’s important is that it takes effort for me to look at the picture above and think positively about it.

The thing is, though, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that body, and there’s absolutely no reason why that body shouldn’t be treated with love and acceptance.  After all, it’s my body, and deep down inside I know that no matter what I may tell myself on any given day (today, for example, I didn’t get up early to go running and I feel terrible about it) and no matter what sort of messages I may get from the outside world, I deserve to feel good about myself and treat my body and the rest of me well.

Everyone has their flaws, nobody is perfect.  It’s fine to want to work on your flaws or make improvements.  But doing so shouldn’t preclude your appreciating your body for what it is, right now.  Don’t wait until you’ve lost the five, ten, or fifty pounds you’ve been working on taking off; don’t wait until you’ve run a 5k or a marathon; don’t wait until you’ve completed your New Year’s Resolutions; don’t even wait until tomorrow.  Promise yourself now that you will work toward loving yourself unconditionally, and accepting the things you don’t like, and even the things you hate about yourself.  No matter who you are, what you struggle with, and how you feel about your body, you are worthy of your love and the love of others.  Your self-worth should not be based on anything other than the fact that you are a wonderful person.

It is in this spirit of acceptance that I’d like to start Embrace:Me, a project designed to encourage body confidence and treating yourself with a healthy, accepting attitude.  I feel strongly that by adopting a more positive attitude toward our own bodies, we can combat the effects of the pressure we feel from external sources, and from ourselves.  To show your support for Embrace:Me, I would love to hear your stories–stories of accomplishments, of body confidence, of anything that makes you feel good about yourself.  Maybe even a story about why you don’t have to justify your reasons for embracing the person you are to anyone else.  Feel free to email me your stories at icametorun (at) gmail (dot) com, send me a link to them via twitter (@icametorun), or send me a message through Facebook.  Ultimately, I would like to share your story here on my blog.  Let’s use this positivity to counter the frustration we all feel as a result of the things that make our relationships with our bodies difficult.

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on the phone with someone from Kellogg’s about the Special K challenge.  I really think that this is an opportunity to increase awareness about all kinds of issues related to self-confidence and body image, and I sincerely hope that we can all continue to work toward bringing these issues to light.

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32 comments

  1. I think your idea is really great and I hope more people embrace themselves for who they are. It’s good to change and it’s ok to see flaws, but I think we need to also realize everything has flaws just like it has its strengths. We are beautiful, smart, talented, strong… all in different ways.

    I need to accept and embrace this too.

  2. Kudos to you for putting up that picture and starting this project.

    One of my own insecurities is about my chin, so when I look at your picture I think “Oh man, she’s got such a nice chin! I wish my chin looked like that!” Like, really, who gives a crap about what my chin looks like? No one really looks at me and thinks “That’s such an unfortunate chin!” as I imagine they do. And I’m sure you don’t go around thinking “I am SO lucky to have this chin!”

    I had this one really fantastic moment when I was in the middle of training for a 1/2 marathon. I’m a terrible runner, and it took me 5 years to work up to being able to do 7 or 8 miles at a time, and those were very slow miles. However, one day I was stretching my leg when I realized that there was a definition line running down the outside of my thigh — you could see the muscle and the curve below it, and that was such a change. I almost started crying because this was the first time I saw REAL change in my body during this training.

    Now any time I feel bad about an aspect of my body, I flex my thigh, look at that curve, run my hand along it, and think “I did that.” It’s a really nice feeling.

  3. I can’t believe you are speaking to someone from Kelloggs! That is amazing! I love when some of the big companies start to hear the collective voices of all us “little people” through social media. There is a huge problem of negative messages out there. I received an emailing recently asking me to feature one of these types of messages on my blog just today. And if they actually dug into my blog a little and saw that I had ED struggles, maybe they would think twice.

    You are incredibly brave to post a picture of your body online. It’s something that I keep thinking I should do, but it’s so scary! I’ve been talking to my therapist lately about how maybe, just maybe…, those things that are scary are the things that I should turn toward and go after.

    FWIW: I saw a beautiful smile on a happy woman, someone who has grown immensely over the past months and is an inspiration to me and to so many others. I saw a woman who is supportive and caring and I’m glad that I’ve connected with online.

    I love your Embrace: Me project, great idea!

  4. Great post and website (which I just found thanks to a tweet by Mark Bittman). I have been working on improving my self body image over the last year or so, not that it’s easy. I grew up playing very competitive soccer, which gifted me with larger than average thighs, at least according to US clothing sizes. One strategy that has helped me is placing a visual reminder to think positively on the mirror in my bedroom. In my case, I made a small sign reading “I am beautiful” and taped it to the corner. I believe it has empowered me and slowly changed my attitude about my body. But I’m sure it will take ongoing effort throughout my life.

  5. What a worthwhile project! I have struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember. It’s only now that I’m in my mid thirties that I’ve come to terms with how much of an obstacle my negative thoughts are in achieving true happiness. Learning to love myself is an overwhelming task-but one that’s worth pursuing. Thank you for having the courage to start this project and share it with the rest of us!

  6. the only thing i see when i look at that picture is a confident, beautiful woman! and from your posts i can see your intelligence and compassion, too. be proud of that picture. and be proud of you in general. embrace:me? fantastic, amazing, splendid, wonderful idea. honestly, thank you.

  7. Great post! I am working on embracing my body as it is right now lately.

    It is really SO powerful.

    Ironically, going the other way, embracing my body as underweight has helped me recently gain five pounds I needed to gain…already skinny, I lost weight this winter from stress and was so self-conscious about it. The more I thought about how I needed to gain it back because everyone was worried and how ugly I was, the more anxious I felt and then my appetite vanished even more. When I finally accepted, “it’s okay I look like this right now. even if I can’t change the weight, I can still take steps to be as healthy as I can be”, I relaxed enough to gain the weight back.

    I am still picking at little things on myself, but I try to remind myself to dress in a way that makes me feel beautiful because I deserve it and that nobody looks at me naked but myself and my boyfriend, and I guarantee he is too busy to scrutinize my butt as much as I do. 😉

    1. Thanks for your comment, Katie! I think it’s really important to point out that body acceptance goes both ways–feeling that you’re overweight is not the only way to treat yourself negatively, and I think you express that really well. It’s really easy to forget that difficulty with body image can come from a variety of sources.

  8. Holy similarity Batman! I just wrote a post about liking yourself today, the way you are. I love this. 🙂 When I get a little down I like to remind myself that I gave birth to a 10 lb 6 oz baby… in my KITCHEN. I’m a strong and powerful and capable. I want ALL women to feel this way.

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