We are enough…just the way we are

My father recently found and gave me a photo I had thought long lost. As per our high school practice at the time, a professional portrait was taken when an athlete or team won a provincial championship. The photo was then framed and hung on the school wall of recognition. Since my gold medal was the result of being a 400 metre runner, the photographer had posed the 17 year old me in my track uniform - very brief shorts and a tank top -  crouching in a starting block. 

While one would think the photo would have surfaced emotions relating to pride in the reminder of a hard-won and unexpected victory, I instead felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and regret.

At the time, I had thought of myself as being sturdy and strong but not at all attractive or pretty. And yet, all these years later when I examined the photo, I saw a lovely, lean, long-haired, bright-eyed young woman and was struck by her vibrancy and attractiveness. I kept thinking, “If only I had known.”  How sad that I had been my own worst enemy and had distorted my body image in such a negative way. My eyes filled with tears as I viewed that photo grieving the amount of time I have wasted not liking who and what I was.

Sadly, things aren’t much better for young women these days in terms of their body images. Hard-hitting media, convinced they can sell more products if they persuade females their bodies are never good enough, has largely contributed to the fact that we typically overestimate our waist size by 30% and our hips by 16%. A frightening two out of every five women would trade five years of their lives to be thin.  More women are fighting anorexia and bulimia than breast cancer. 

There is, however, something we can do about it. As always, change begins with awareness and someone simply refusing to accept the status quo. In this case, a young American named Caitlin Boyle started a movement called Operation Beautiful. She started it with her blog in June 2009 at Operation Beautiful because she was tired of hearing negative self-talk. The mission of Operation Beautiful is brilliant in its simplicity. The idea is to post anonymous notes in public places like washroom mirrors and library books for other girls and women to find. The notes reflect such phrases as, “You’re beautiful exactly as you are!”, “Hello gorgeous…don’t let the mirror make you doubt it”, and “You are beautiful…smile and shine today!”

The point is that we are all beautiful. We are enough…just the way we are. As Caitlin suggests, our beauty comes from the inside, and the unique qualities that make each of us irreplaceable should be valued and celebrated.

For me that means continually working to avoid negative self-talk.  I have accepted that the passing years have resulted in the loss of that sleek athletic physique. However, after years of wasting far too much energy shaming myself and regretting that loss, I’m learning to be much more accepting. Most importantly, I’m getting better at being kind to myself. That kindness is reflected not only in consciously working at more positive and loving self-talk, but also in making it a priority to take care of myself. Healthy eating is a priority and three workouts a week are a mandatory part of my schedule. Along life’s journey I’ve also learned to celebrate and utilize the inner drive, strong work ethic, and stubbornness that got me that gold medal in the first place. 

Operation Beautiful is a simple but profound way women can reach out to one another to help transform the way we see ourselves and truly embrace that our real beauty is in our hearts, our minds, and in our spirits. 

Posted on 08-16-10


FANTASTIC blog, Brenda!  As a woman, I feel I am stronger and more confident than I have ever been.  To have been able to have chatted to my teenaged self to tell her to hold on there!  Body politics are such a complicated part of being a woman…

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  08/17/10  at  01:27 PM

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