This month I am focussing on regaining intimacy. It can be hard to even go there when you are feeling a bit crap about your body. My body has changed a great deal since having kids. Some parts I don’t mind – a new kind of softness. Other parts – generous hips and bottom – are harder to embrace. But I wonder what purpose being critical serves. Whether in years to come I will look back on that criticism and wonder what on earth I was worried about.
I look back on photos of myself as a much younger woman. All cropped blonde hair and long tanned limbs. I don’t remember thinking myself beautiful.
I thought myself awkward and I hid behind a purposefully ditzy persona. My skin wasn’t perfect and, at size 10, I thought myself larger than I should be. When I look at those photos now I see a gorgeous young woman, naive as to what life will deliver her. I see what society deems as the ideal and a girl who had no idea she embodied it. I see it in those photos and I saw it the other week on a very rare night out. The 10:30PM tide was turning in the bar and those over thirty were filing out as the young pretty things started their evenings. There was a group of young women, each of them breathtakingly beautiful, but it was clear they were unaware of that beauty. Nervously looking around, wondering their place, seeking validation. In time, those women will look back on photos taken that evening and wonder why they didn’t realise how beautiful they were.
I look at photos taken recently. More often than not, with one or both of my kids in arms. I see hair hastily scraped back into a ponytail because life doesn’t offer time for anything else. I see sallow skin and hollow eyes, the tell-tale signs of months without proper sleep. I see a little too much baby weight still hanging around the edges. Why don’t I see the huge smile on my face mirrored in the faces of my children? Why don’t I see the joy we are sharing? Why don’t I see the wonder of making these little people? Why don’t I appreciate a healthy and fit body that allows me to play with my children? Are these the things that will grab me first when I look at these photos in the years to come? Will I be looking at them and wondering why I wasn’t appreciating the best days of my life rather than worrying that my hair looked awful?
I wonder, does it always need to be this way? Do we, as women, only ever appreciate our beauty in retrospect? Is it acceptable to look at a photo taken years ago and wistfully comment on how pretty we were then but unacceptable to give that compliment to yourself in the now? I am going to try harder at being positive about my body in the now. It has given me so much, I should probably be a littler kinder in return.