When Do You Get to Stop Hating Your Body?

So, it turns out I needn’t ever worry about topics to share with you.

I’ve got late-night TV.

I’m up at o’dark hundred with the cat and the computer and I find this cable show, “How to Look Good Naked.”

I feel a bit saddened by the “featured” woman tonight who needs to make peace with the way her body looks. She is so unbelievably vital, and fit, and beautiful – oh, and she’s twenty-six.

Remember when you were in high school and you thought you were ugly, or fat, or just plain invisible? When you look back at those pictures now, aren’t you just a bit mystified that you could have thought such a thing?

Me, too.

My husband and I needed our passports last week, and, as we waited in line to go through the screening process, he looked through my passport portfolio and found a picture of me at twenty-four inside.

In his very loud voice, he goes, “Is THAT you??????”

I glanced at the picture. I remember at the time it was taken I thought I looked like “Miss All That.” But looking at the picture, I had to laugh at my bad self.

I had all this big henna-tinted 80’s hair and TONS of eye makeup. Basically, I looked all Dynasty-Trash Girl.

Though I was standing there giggling about it with My Italian, secretly, I was itching to take a wash cloth to my own twenty-four year old face.
I feel a bit sad when I think back on all my “style phases.” There was such a struggle to “find” my look. I made the same mistake the young woman in the How to Look Good Naked show was making. I let others decide.

If I was Barbie, I had schizophrenic fashion sense based on which “Ken” I was dating.

There was Musician Jennifer. Lawyer Jennifer. “Don’t Worry be Happy” Party Jen. Then, there was Cowgirl Jenny, and IBM Big Blue Jennifer. I remember Glamour Shots Jen and later there was Bridal Jennifer and Mini-Van Jen.

Will the real Jennifer Boykin please stand up?

During the course of the show last night, it was revealed that one of the reasons the young woman didn’t like herself is because she had let her boyfriend dominate her fashion expression.

He cut her hair. She wore his clothes. As the show unfolded, you could see him becoming increasingly uncomfortable as this woman’s true beauty was revealed to herself. Though he had a smile on his face, I’m not sure he liked the transformation.

And now we get to the heart of it.

My experience is that a woman’s true beauty is revealed to herself as she begins to “own” more and more of her true nature without regard to what others think is best for her.

The more you “stand in your own power” as my friend Kadena Tate says, the more beautiful we become. And, conversely, the more we hide behind a façade that is based on what others think is best for us, the more invisible we become to ourselves.

Taken just a little further, a woman’s inability to own and accept herself manifests as eating disorders, self-mutilation, cosmetic enhancements, and increasingly more dangerous “procedures” to achieve some ideal of appearance that is either impossible or just plain unattractive.

Not long ago, there was a news story of a woman who was permanently disfigured because she wanted a JLo booty and all she could afford was some guy with a hypodermic needle in his living room.

He injected cement into her butt.

Lots of it.

The pictures were horrendous.

Making peace with our bodies, deciding to claim our beauty – as we look right at this moment — is such an important topic, not just for women our age, but for the younger women we are bringing along. If you were sitting in a sacred Wisdom Circle (or at the coffee shop) with girls and women of all ages, what would you tell them about loving their bodies?

 

I’ll start – Dearest Younger Members of Our Tribe, Please learn to love your body. And don’t wait thirty years to do it. When I was your age, I was unkind to myself, and there was no reason to be.

 

This body has weathered many storms. It has delivered four children to this world, and buried one. One day at a time, decade after decade, this body has risen every morning to face the challenges before it.

 

It has worked with people, fed people, loved people, served people, and now, created beautiful visions with people. These beautiful legs have carried me through my journey to you and this moment.

 

I honor my body just as it is today. I celebrate what my body has survived and I love that it has brought me to you.

Namaste.

Love, Jennifer

Photo: Flickr, Enokson

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26 Responses to When Do You Get to Stop Hating Your Body?

  1. vicki says:

    Nice talk.I wish I could have loved myself,yes,but what I really wish is that my granddaughter love and honor herself. She is so smart and clever and hard working. But she has a poor self concept,which causes her to feel depression and frustration with her body.

    • Jennifer says:

      At the gym just now the woman at the locker next to me was saying the same thing about her kids. I think the only way out is through, and we can all just live a life of example and attraction. It’s hard to watch people you love suffer, especially when you know it is needless, right?

  2. Heather says:

    yeah… i’m hearing you there… me at 20, me the wife,the mum, me at 35, me at 45, now me at almost 53…. different looks but not according to fashion but according to the roles I took on…. I became grammy at 42…. hmmmm nuff said there… and there I sit… If you say a grammy what do you picture? I am tired of this and need to zip things up a bit… 42 is not 80… but I picture my own grand parents and thought well I guess that’s what I’m supposed to be..Now logically I know that I am not 80 but the mantle that I took on took over my thought processes and expectations of my self. not good.. I need to give myself a kick in the a**.

    • Jennifer says:

      Well, Heather, you’ve come to the Right Place. Because here at Life After Tampons, we’re all about rebranding Crone-Making. I’m not a grammy, but when I am, I aspire to be the coolest, hippest grammy I can.

  3. Dawn says:

    Jen, I love your wisdom to the next generation. Such great advice! I hope my daughters always truly love themselves – I know they will make mistakes and have grief in life, but if they truly love themselves they will always be able to go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning ready to tackle the all the challenges life throws at them.

  4. Jennifer says:

    You are so right, Dawn. And THANK YOU, love. For taking the time to write. Jennifer

  5. Julie says:

    Do I have to love that at 48 I have a HUGE zit on my chin? Other than that, I’m cool.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this. I do hope women that are struggling find it in themselves to love who they are.

  7. Kate Britt says:

    I learned to love my body when my partner and I became naturists (nudists). The naturist society is unique. Take everything you’ve ever thought or heard as an excuse for “I could never do that” and really listen to what is being said there. It’s all about body-ego. Now think about this: When there are no clothes, it’s harder to “judge the person by his cover”. There are no masks being worn, thus no roles being played. I’ve found nudist society to be the most honest, most accepting, happiest group of people I’ve been involved with. Contrary to common belief, ALL unclothed bodies beautiful, whatever size or shape.

    What would I say to younger women in our Wisdom Circle about loving our bodies? “We are not our bodies!” It’s true. Our outer shell changes; we have no choice. It ages and it gets bigger and smaller and thinner and fatter and more wrinkled and less or more fit, etc. Change is inevitable, and not always toward the more-beautiful. So what’s the point of striving to maintain that media-imposed idea of beauty. Le’ts love ourselves by focusing on our real “ME” — the beautiful beings that are inside our ever-changing outer forms.

  8. that’s why I always liked Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime. She managed to make us understand that while her alter ego was gone- she was there in resplendent glory

  9. Kadena Tate says:

    Approximately three years ago, my business coach suggested that I create a weekly video blog post. There are no words that can describe the plethora of negative thoughts that raced into my mind. I’ve always thought of myself as confident and I was stunned that hiding in the shadows were aggressive beliefs that my weight meant that I was not good enough in some capacity.

    I’ve learned that our words are a boomerang. For example, you mentioned my mantra “Stand in your power”. In order to “stand in my power and speak my truth”, it was necessary to come face to face with my own incongruent behavior. For example, I had “the disease to please” and “the need to be needed”. These beliefs coupled with not setting appropriate boundaries led me into a path of self-destruction. I stuffed the emotions by over-eating and obviously we all know that this is quite unhealthy.

    Embracing my fear has been quite beneficial. I finally built up the courage a few months ago to create a couple of YouTube videos and conduct Skype coaching sessions. I also took the action steps necessary to adhere to a daily fitness and dietary routine to eliminate feelings of unworthiness and a low self-concept. I encourage every reader to become conscious of their internal love language. The words that we speak to ourselves are powerful.

    Sadly we live in a society that is forever projecting images of what “true beauty” is and therefore it is easy to fall prey to an external standard of beauty. I love this post because you are giving men and women permission to love themselves and live fully from a place of authenticity, transparency and integrity.

    The good news is that “Reclaiming the Sass” allows us to recognize that as un-healthy thoughts emerge, this is an opportunity for growth and expansion. Thank you Jennifer for your dedication to helping people live from a place of love and service.

  10. Louise (from Thelma & Louise) says:

    Some of my mother’s best words to me were- “Don’t ever diet.” I am 44 and have still never done a formal diet. I weigh more than when I was 21, but not much. Dieting just screws up your whole metabolism.
    I have two teenage boys and both comment on how they wish the girls their age would worry less about their looks. It really turns them off.
    I have girlfriends at all different ages. The most beautiful ones are the ones doing what they love to do, whether golfing, hiking, designing clothes, etc. They have a sparkle in their eyes that no surgery, or latest lotion, cream, or miracle cure can imitate.
    So to all those younger women out there. FInd something you like to do and do it. Create your own life!

    • Jennifer says:

      I LOVE this, Louise. This is my favorite part — “I have girlfriends at all different ages. The most beautiful ones are the ones doing what they love to do . . . .” Amen. I’m doing it now — with beautiful you! Thank you for visiting and taking the time to share your brand of wisdom with us. Please come back. Love, Jennifer

  11. Anne-Marie says:

    Oh my gosh, why does it take so many, many years to come to this kind of wisdom, about our bodies and everything else…

    I tell my daughter and every young woman whom proclaims any negative body talk sentiments to STOP. Stop and take it back. Because I know how much energy I wasted when I was young and gorgeous thinking that I was fat and plain (that was 30 lbs ago!). So much energy. For exactly zero benefit. If I could got back I would slap myself silly.

    At our age, we can decide to let go or to further torture ourselves with trying to look like the emaciated airbrushed standard that the media has set for us. Or we can become our own advocates and feel accepting of who we are and what we look like and in the process, convert a few sheepish souls to do the same.

    Great piece. Thanks!!

    • Jennifer says:

      You know, beautiful Anne Marie, I NEVER thought about forcing myself to say out loud “Take it back!” But I absolutely will now that you’ve suggested it. Our brains believe what we tell them. So it makes sense to undue those negative thoughts as they come in. Your daughter is a lucky girl. And it was REALLY great talking to you today, love. All the best, Jennifer

  12. Kim says:

    I needed that today because as I type I am looking through my first set of bifocals, picked up about an hour ago. I have worn contacts since I was 15, am now 53 and have the beginnings of cataracts. Just haven’t been able to see well with my contacts so I finally gave them up. I was hanging onto them for vanity’s sake as my eyes are my only good feature left. Oh well, another one bites the dust. I will adjust and learn to love my face anyway. Now, if I could just see out of the damn glasses.

  13. Patti Winker says:

    I would tell any young woman (or old woman, for that matter) if anyone is telling you you’re fat (or ugly or whatever), get rid of him or her. My ex-husband used to tell me I was fat. That’s when I was very young and weighed probably about 30 pounds less than I do today. My current husband tells me I’m beautiful. I should have gotten rid of my first husband the first time he told me I was fat. “When a person tells you who they are, believe them.” My ex-husband told me who he was – an unthinking, critical, mean person – and I didn’t believe him. Young women… it’s not you, it’s them. You are beautiful.

  14. Jan Valliere says:

    Dear Jen
    I’m proud of being S.F.S. (Short Fat Sassy) for thoes who didn’t know the letters. I figure if the other person doesn’t like the way I look, there are 3 other directions they can look. If they don’t like my attitude they don’t need be any where I am. I’m comfortable in my skin and thats all that matters!!!!!!!!
    You Rock Jen
    S.F.S.

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