I don’t like my legs. I walked on my toes as a child and teen (and still as an adult when I am low on sleep) and that made for muscles in strange places. Large shins, large calves, thick ankles, and even strange lumps in my knees. Add to the fact that I am petite, naturally large boned and overweight… well my legs aren’t the most conventionally attractive part of my body.
My stomach was never my best asset. Even when I was starving myself into a size 2 and doing crunches every commercial break during Must See TV, I still had a pooch. Now with extra pounds and having a child, it’s even softer and saggier.
I have always had broad shoulders and full arms. My swim coach told me I had shoulders made for butterfly, and that was the first time I saw them as a benefit (and I must say, butterfly was my best stroke!). A high school boyfriend told me I was built like a body builder – something that a teen male would like, but not a teen female already self-conscious about her figure. With broad shoulders comes full arms, which do tone quickly with weights but never thin down, no matter what diet I try.
I have weird feet. Very short and fat toes (so short my pinky toenail grows upwards not out), short but wide feet that are also puffy/thick meaning I can’t easily find strappy sandals or ankle and T-strap shoes that fit. guess it’s from all that toe-walking. I have been known to joke that shoeboxes fit my feet far better than the shoes inside them.
I can spend every morning pinching my flesh and cursing my reflection. I could shop just for clothing that hides my flaws and draws attentions to my assets. I could dress in shapeless black clothing so one can’t tell if that curve is my belly or my sweater. Maybe wear really flashy necklaces and colorful glasses and get a flamboyant hair color to draw all attention from my body, hoping the world doesn’t realize the rest of me exists.
Or I can accept the figure I have now. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Love it and nurture it and be grateful that I have it and be proud of all the amazing things it can do.
No matter what, your hips will be there. You’ll still have that jawline, those thick ankles, that full belly, that scar. It will be there no matter what you wear, and the person who will notice it more than anyone else is yourself. You have the choice on how much of an impact it will have on your life.
You can dress to hide your flaws. I obviously do that by not wearing fitted dresses or many ankle strap shoes. Sometimes it’s easy to do (not buy fitted dresses), and sometimes it’s not (hiding full upper arms in August). What you need to decide is how much you’re going to let your so-called flaws rule your life.
You’re a moving target. You’re laughing, you’re commiserating, you’re providing a shoulder to cry on. You sing and dance and gesture with your hands. You’re not a statue that people surround and analyze. You are so much more than your “figure flaws.” When you obsess over your flaws, others then notice those flaws. When you accept your figure, others accept it too.
I used to make self-deprecating comments about my “mama pooch” after Emerson was born. I was extremely self-conscious about my belly, and swore that every reader saw it, thought it gross, so if I called it out first, I wouldn’t look like some clueless idiot putting my gut out on display. And a reader called me out, but called me out for the self-deprecating comments. It was such a wonderful lesson learned; we decide what people will focus on.
That reader put me in my place and I am forever grateful to her. I stopped mentioning my “mama pooch” and with that, embraced my midsection. So it doesn’t look like it did 15, or even 5 years ago and it never will. So what. SO WHAT. Do I let my belly rule my life? Do I let it keep me from beach weekends and cocktail dresses and being naked in front of my husband in broad daylight?
So I wear booties that cut off my ankle and make my legs look thicker. I wear short skirts with bare legs. I’ll rock a halter or racerback top and go sans-Spanx if I feel like it. It’s MY body, not society’s. Accepting and embracing this body as-is has made it easier to care for it, to dress it, and to feel more confident on a daily basis.
I don’t expect women to read this, look in the mirror and scream, “I LOVE ME!” and run around town in a bandage dress, but to take baby steps. My ankle-based baby steps took place in 2010 when I bought my first pair of ankle booties. I never would have done it myself, but a person I trusted (my sister) said they looked good. And then a stranger (salesperson not on commission) agreed. I took the plunge. At first, I only wore them with black opaque tights to not cut the line of the leg, but with wearing I gained confidence. And now, I’m on my third pair of those same exact booties and rock them all the time, even though almost each time I do I get a comment that they aren’t as flattering as classic pumps.
I encourage you to take a baby step. Try a different cut of shoe, a skinny belt, a new neckline, an unexpected color, a bright lipstick. Go small, low-budget. Don’t give up after one wearing, give it at least two attempts. If you feel dreadful, then give it up, give yourself a chance to bounce back, and try something else. Dip your foot into the pool before hopping off the high dive. Some of us just like to wade in the shallow end, some like to swim laps in the 4’ section, and some love to do cannonballs off the high dive. No one is better, each started with that first step.
Much love to Nicki, Andrea, and Claudette for inspiring me.