Guest Post: Christina talks body image

Good afternoon! I just got back from the dentist. I hadn’t been in an embarrassingly long time. I was lectured. And I was informed that I have the gums of an elderly person. Sexy, right? Apparently I’ve been brushing my teeth too enthusiastically, and, in doing do, have wrecked my chance at a normal life. There was a lot of disapproval going on there in the dentist’s office. I made myself as small as possible and widened my eyes innocently and tried to let my guilt and repentance show through them. But he was having none of it. He said something ominous about, “By the time you’re thirty…”

And so I turn now, in abject despair, to Christina’s guest post. You may recognize her from her incredibly cute recent appearance on ETDC. She definitely puts me in a better mood, and reading what she has to say about life helps me stop thinking about my decrepit mouth. And my ultimate downfall. Plus she’s just super smart and thoughtful and right-on. Thank you, Christina.

My body image has changed over the years, but one thing has remained constant. I have always wished something was different about myself.

Here is me at about 4 and 5 respectively, with my older cousin Anne-Marie. We grew up really close and were in the same grade. Yes, you read correctly – Anne-Marie and I were in the same grade because she is only 7 months older than me. She’s the “normal” sized one – I was just a remarkably tiny child. A few family members would call me “Teeny Christeeny” or just “Teeny.” I was always a good head shorter than everybody in my grade and a lot skinnier.

This is my first memory of a poor body image and wishing something about myself were different. I was constantly teased at school for being small and I hated it. I wanted to be at least as tall as the other kids since I was only up to everybody’s shoulders. I remember feeling left out a lot because I couldn’t keep up with them in gym class or the playground. Red Rover was a nightmare for me because without fail people would run to break through my grip knowing I stood no chance in holding them back.

Adults in my life would tell me not to worry, that one day I would catch up. I’d hit my growth spurt and show them! I dreamed of that happening and thought it would solve all of my problems. Then puberty hit.

This is me at almost 15 years old. Puberty pretty much just made my legs grow. I was about the same height as everybody else now, but as you can see a few things were missing. The boobs and curves the other girls got skipped right over me. I was flat as a board and had the body of a 12 year old boy. Pants were ridiculously hard to find since my legs were so long, but I was still so skinny. My mom and grandmother would scour stores with me for hours, excited when we found a handful of “slim” pants. Nine times out of ten they still required alterations like my mom taking down the hem to lengthen them a few inches for my height. My grandmother would add elastic on the inside of the waistband to help them fit better if they were long enough, but too big.

About this time I was wishing for some boobs, any boobs. I also wanted to beef up a little bit and not be such a stick. I didn’t feel like I compared to the other shapely girls and would never grab a guy’s attention like this.

Here is also the point in time where those annoying women (at church, Girl Scouts, dance class, wherever) felt the need to point out “enjoy it while you can.” I cannot tell you the amount of times I heard some snarky comment about my weight, what I ate, and my metabolism. “It’ll catch up to you!” or “You won’t be able to eat like that forever!” followed by a cackling laugh because they honestly thought they were funny. I’ll never understand why women feel the need to point this out to growing girls. I hated it then and I hate it now. Luckily I just ignored them and realized it doesn’t work that way. Besides, I had two examples of women in my family that didn’t have it “catch up to them.”

My Aunt Carrie is 5’9” and has always been thin. That was me and her (on the left) Christmas 2008 and she is 38 in the photo. The second picture is my mom, taken Easter of this year and she is 51 and wears the same size as me. Now I don’t know about you but I look at both of them and think “I hope I look that good when I’m their age.” But see – that’s just the thing – they also have something they wish was different about themselves. You and I can look at both of those pictures and be envious, but they will look at those pictures and see things wrong.

This is me last summer. I know you probably don’t see anything wrong with this picture, but I look at it and cringe over certain parts. I know this is where some of you reading this start to hate me, but hear me out.

I’m just making the point that I, yet again, wish something were different about myself.

Despite finally being the same size as other people like I wished for as a child. Regardless that I finally got the boobs I hoped for and the curves I dreamed of all my teenage years.

I did get those things, just like I wished. But as soon as I got them, I found something else to wish for.

This leads me to a blog post, “I’ll be happy if…” that I read in January by a friend of mine. Cyndi at So Much More Than a Mom is a wife, mom of two boys, career woman, and studying to be a psychologist. Her post is about the times in our lives when we look ahead and think “I’ll be happy if…” and fill in the blank. If my boyfriend proposes, if I’m thin, if I were rich, if I could have a bigger house, the list is endless.

In reflection of the New Year, Cyndi was looking back at previous years of her life naming monumental moments that stood out from each. When she got to the year 2007 she remarked it was the worst year of her adult life and couldn’t find one good thing about it. The deep thinker that she is, Cyndi wasn’t satisfied with her summary and decided that surely she could find one good thing about the year 2007. So she sat and thought and realized a few things. She had lost a lot of weight that year and was really happy with her size. Also, she was making more money than she had before that year. These were two of her biggest “I’ll be happy ifs” and she wasn’t happy.

When I read that post it was like a light bulb. “I do that too!” I thought. Of course I do, we all do. Ever since then I think of this post often and realize it pertains to much of our lives, especially to our body image as women.

At each point of my life I showed you I had pin-pointed just one thing I wished differently about myself. Taller. Boobs. Curves. I got every single one of those things and still was not happy, I just moved onto the next thing.

How often does the voice in our head think, “I’ll be happy if” about our looks? If my nose were shorter, if my thighs were skinnier, if I didn’t have freckles, I would be ok with how I look.

But honestly stop and think would you be happy, or would you just move onto the next thing?

I know I would move onto the next thing, so I have a new “I’ll be happy if” about my body image. It’s easier said than done, but I am trying to be ok with me. All of me, every nook and cranny. And for once, I feel like this is a happy that can be accomplished. If I meet this goal, I really will be happy, there won’t be another something on the list.

**  **  **

Un-roast: My feet! I have always loved my feet, they’re dainty and cute. When I was little I’d walk tip-toe down the steps or pose thinking I was a perfect foot model candidate. Plus, I think as a woman it’s a great treat to take care of your feet and give yourself pedicures with a pumice stone, yummy lotions, and pretty nail polish.

10 Comments »

Kate on June 4th 2010 in guest post

10 Responses to “Guest Post: Christina talks body image”

  1. Christina (Dinner at Christina's) responded on 04 Jun 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    Aww sorry to hear about the dentist! I got the SAME talk last time. He even went into the possibility of needing to do skin grafting later.. eep! I went in b/c I thought I had a bunch of cavities b/c it was painful. Turns out I brushed away the gum until the nerve was exposed along the gumline of my molars. I had to get fillings along the gumline for a few of them and it feels a lot better now. He also instructed me how I SHOULD be brushing my teeth. I had been doing aggressive little circles, which also push the gum UP. Now I do a bunch of little “down” movements. It helps to close your eyes when you’re brushing – I know it sounds weird, but it helps me concentrate on doing it “right.”

    Thanks for letting me do a guest post! It was great to sit and think about body image and share my thoughts w/ you and your readers! :)

  2. Cyndi responded on 04 Jun 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    Hi Kate, nice to meet you! I’ve heard the same thing from my dentist too. No one ever told us we could brush too much or too hard!!

    Christina, this is a great post about body image. I grew up hating mine for the exact opposite reasons. I had too many curves too early!

    You are right, I think all of these pics are amazing and would LOVE to look like any one of you!! But when I was a size 6, I did love how I looked but I was miserable anyway and still wanted to look even better. I always thought that being thin would cure all. It didn’t.

    Thanks so much for mentioning my post here and I’m so glad you could identify (because of course if at least 1 other person sees the same thing I do I must not be completely crazy….right??!!). :)

  3. Kate responded on 04 Jun 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    @Christina
    That’s EXACTLY what they told me!! I heard “skin graft” and was like, “Oh my god. My life is over.” Now I feel a lot better. Sorry to distract from your amazing post with my dental issues. :)

    @Cyndi
    Hi!! Great to have you over here. I’m thrilled to find your blog through Christina.

  4. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday responded on 04 Jun 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    I’ll be happy if I can learn to be happy with myself.

  5. Kate responded on 04 Jun 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    @Samantha
    Amen!

  6. Aunt Carrie responded on 05 Jun 2010 at 1:07 am #

    I had the same problem with my gums. Guess brushing hard runs in the family. It is easily solved… first use an electric toothbrush and then see a gum doctor and if necessary they can graft skin in any place needed. I did both and now the dentist says my games are perfect. :)
    Another thing that runs in the family; the impossibly long legs and tiny waist that nothing seems to fit. First your mother, then me, you and now Taylor. My only difference was that I was 1 year younger than everyone in my grade and about a head taller. I hated it. I just wanted to be normal size… not Olive Oil or the Jolly Green Giant!
    Now, the one thing that I did learn over the years, is that those annoying women who said “it will catch up with you” were just bitter bc they allowed it to catch up with them by making excuses for it their whole adult lives. What I hate most about them, is that they felt it was ok to help send us all down this path of poor self esteem due to poor body image.
    And lastly, my favorite niece Christina, you are perfectly beautiful just as you!

    P.S. I am 38 now… I was only 36 in that picture. 13 years, remember… 13, 13, 13 and 13. But I still looked good at 36. :)

  7. Wei-Wei responded on 05 Jun 2010 at 10:58 pm #

    I’ll be happy if I was happy with myself. This is an excellent post and reminds us that the only way to be truly content is to ACCEPT yourself! I have some slightly “plump” friends who when hearing remarks about skinnier people calling themselves fat, say “If you’re fat then I’m obese.” Then they look down at their lunch and say, “I’d lose weight, but nah, food is more worth it.” Then they continue to eat without any guilt.

    Maybe those people have the healthiest mindsets of all. But somehow I have a feeling that everyone becomes “corrupt” somehow… it’s sad to think about how easy it is to put ourselves down and how hard it is to just love ourselves.

    Wei-Wei

  8. bobbie responded on 06 Jun 2010 at 10:30 am #

    So interesting… but word usage is different. I say that “I’m not enough…”. During my life I would say, I’m not thin enough…. to get asked out on dates, I’m not smart enough…. to get into med school, I’m not good enough, kind enough, strong enough, etc. True, as I’ve gotten older, these feelings come less. However, when I’m unhappy or angry, those exact words come back to me…. I guess I’m not “strong enough” to get rid of all that baggage yet.

  9. Sandy responded on 06 Jun 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    Christina, I know what you mean! I think we learn how to project our happiness into the future from the time we’re tiny – maybe we even pick it up from our parents? “It will be better when she can talk”…? And also all that “what do you want to be when you’re a grown up?” stuff – I guess it’s a human thing, to plan for the future. Somehow for us women it’s become I’ll be happy when I’m perfect – which of course we’ll never be – we’re so funny, when you think about it :)

    I guess the old advice to take time to stop and smell the roses never truer – I find that about a lot of the old truisms!

    Gummy diversion: I’ve recently been reading about tooth soap – the guy who came up with it did the work for his PhD, turns a lot of conventional thinking about healthy teeth and gums on its head, he reckons the toothsoap can even help gums to regrow – Google will give you info. Though I’m busy using up an Aussie alternative right now, will get the tooth soap next, sounds great!

  10. I’m Fine The Way I Am! « Run. Write. Therapy. Life. responded on 06 Jun 2010 at 10:09 pm #

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