Out With the Spanx, In With Self-Love
A few years ago I was in the heat of a hardcore workout on the arc trainer, determined to melt away that jiggle in my middle region. I was panting, sweating, cursing the heavens and hating that moment in my life — while begging for Pandora to get it right with the next song — when an infomercial on the gym TVs caught my eyes. The commercial was touting a Spanx-like garment that claimed to make anyone, regardless of size, shape, age, or level of cupcake consumption, slender and sexy. Ahhh.
This particular version of the 21st-century spandex “girdle” sounded and looked better than the others: It went from the top down, cami-style, and reached over your hips. I hadn’t tried one like that before. I had only fussed with the bottom-up variety, like a pair of bike shorts that reached up snug under your bosom. I wanted it, had to have it. And if I hadn’t been short of my goal of burning 500 calories, I would have hopped off that arc trainer while dialing the 1-800 number and had the miraclewear overnighted.
When a Woman’s Done, She’s Done
A few weeks later, I was going through my beautification ritual in preparation for an event. Naturally, I was wrapped up tight in some Spanx; it had become a staple over the last couple of years as I battled body-image issues. As I was about to leave the house, I decided I couldn’t tolerate the Spanx apparatus a moment longer. I ran halfway up the stairs, and much like a toddler who suddenly determines their five-point harness car seat is pure torture, I wrestled my way out of the constraints of the garment.
The Peace of Accepting and Celebrating Ourselves
Determined to go “all natural” and, as a good friend would say, “just own it,” I didn’t intend to give myself the quick glimpse back toward the full-length mirror at the bottom of the stairs as usual (this mirror had made me late on many occasions). Nonetheless, my eyes habitually shot back over my shoulder to take a peek. I stopped right there, on the bottom landing in front of that full-length mirror. I blinked a few times because I really couldn’t believe my reflection. I looked better than I had in a while. I had a relaxed, “I’ve got this,” comfortable-in–my-own-skin look. Images flickered through my mind of all the times I had stuffed and contorted and fussed and picked at myself. Of all the times I looked for ways to reshape myself — inside and out — into something different.
How We See Ourselves
A video has circulated on social media for years that portrays women describing themselves to artists, who, on the other side of a curtain, sketch the woman based on her description of herself. The video then switches gears, asking the women to describe one of the other women they had met in the green room. It is bewildering to hear the description differences. At the end, the two sketches for each woman are unveiled, side by side, to a heartbreaking difference: While the acquaintance-described portraits highlighted the beautiful attributes of the individual, the self-described portraits accentuated her self-perceived faults. The shocking difference between how we see ourselves versus our true beauty and how we are perceived by those around us — strangers, lovers, family, colleagues, friends — is cause for reflection.
I have always taught my kiddos to be kinder, to extend grace, courtesy, admiration, and acceptance to themselves and to others … and it was about time I began extending the same kindness, grace, admiration, love, and understanding to myself.
No More Distortion or Contortion, Sisters
I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve left shapewear where I’ve left other breakups: behind me. Through all of my body (and mind) iterations, I have kept my promise to honor and celebrate myself as I am, without distortion or contortion. And I wish this for you, too.