I see you.
I see you there, in a group picture, behind the woman with the long blond hair and the one with the oversized glasses.
I see you smiling. You look like you’re having a good time.
I see you’ve placed yourself behind the other women in the photo so that all that I can see of you is your face, your body hidden by the other bodies in front of you.
At first, I thought your placement in the picture was because it was crowded and you’re a little taller than your friends. Perhaps you went to the back so that your graceful height didn’t block someone else from view.
But then I saw you again. In another picture.
This time, behind your children when they were toddlers. You pulled them to you in a loving embrace, in front of your body, so much so that you looked like a smiling floating head in between their little faces.
Your body once housed them and protected them as they grew, now you use them to protect you.
You are still smiling.
I thought it was a sweet photo and familiar. I had certainly seen many many photos of other mom’s proudly displaying their beautiful children in front of them. This is not an abnormal thing for mothers to do.
But then I saw a new photo.
This time, behind a group of your high school friends, at a reunion I think, where this time you were not the tallest one, yet there you were politely moving to the back in order to make sure more of the others were seen.
And again in a group photo with your girlfriends at a party. Everyone is having a good time and there you are, again, all I can see is a smiling head.
Then again at the beach. This time, you are not hidden by people but by towels. Completely wrapped up in a towel at the beach on a 90 degree day, and behind a chair.
Your face is all we can see of you physically in these photos. And you do look happy, which is great. But I can’t help feeling sad that you seem to be trying to hide yourself.
Not Fit to Be Seen (Unless Photoshop is available!)
I see women who are underweight, average weight and overweight do this and they’re all doing it for the same reason – they don’t want their body to be seen. They’re not the size they want to be. They’re not the shape they want to be. They’re heavier than they were in the past. They haven’t lost the baby weight. They don’t feel like they are fit to be seen. They don’t want to see themselves and they don’t want others to see them either.
One thing that isn’t helping is this photoshop, “waist trainer” and plastic surgery obsessed society that we live in. If you own a smart phone, odds are you spend at least a portion of your day looking at carefully curated celebrity profiles or your friend’s profiles. It’s hard to look at that stuff day in and day out and not feel a little ashamed about how we look. But most of what people post on social media is FAKE. These people don’t look like this in real life. Their photos are so doctored up with filters and makeup “apps” that we wouldn’t recognize them in person. We’re feeling bad about ourselves while we compare ourselves to something that isn’t even attainable in real life! It’s completely crazy!
If we physically hide ourselves in photos because we believe we aren’t fit to be seen, what else might we be hiding from?
Where else are we hiding in our lives?
Where else are we only playing part way?
Where else are you putting limits on yourself?
Where else might you be holding yourself back?
Make no mistake, the self-consciousness we have about our bodies drips over into other parts of our lives and affects a lot of things. I want more for you. I want more for all of us.
Messages Sent and Memories Made
If you run to hide every time a camera appears, I worry that your daughter is getting the message that if her body isn’t the “right” size or shape, that it shouldn’t be seen. And since you share genetics, she is likely to end up with a shape similar to yours someday and will remember that it’s not one to be comfortable with.
I worry that your son is getting the message that shape and size are more important than who someone is. Or that women with imperfect bodies should move to the back.
I worry that your kids will look at photos of their childhood and wish that they could see you better because they love all of you, not just the part that looks pretty or neat or small.
I worry that there will be a lingering sadness when you or they look back at your family photos because instead of remembering being in the moment, you’ll remember that your mind was more on your bodily position in the snapshot.
When we look back at old family photos of relatives or friends who are no longer with us, what do we see? What do we remember about them?
In my experience, you remember the twinkle in their eye, the way they laughed with their entire body, the way they made you feel like the most important person in the world each time you saw them.
You remember their delicious cooking and their love of ghost stories.
You remember how when they played video games with you for a moment you saw what they may have been like as a child and it made you feel closer to them. It made you understand them more.
You see how you actually look a little like them and how your daughter is like a carbon copy of them. You suddenly see that your brother has their nose and your cousin got their smile. You all have a little bit of their spirit.
You see that they loved to wear bright colors and prints and how their jewelry glistened so much it looked like it had been stolen straight from the Crown Jewels.
You see that they loved life and were living it without self-consciousness.
You see who they were through the photo.
You know what we don’t see, what we don’t remember?
Their size. Their weight. When they last colored their roots. What state their body was at different parts of their lives.
We don’t care if Grandma was 100 lbs overweight and had thinning gray hair – she was amazing. She survived horrific things we only read about and still managed to laugh daily.
We don’t care that Aunt Mary was built like a brick shit house (that was one of my mother’s favorite sayings actually!). She was a powerhouse of love and force to be reckoned with. And also incredible meatballs. She fucking loved to make meatballs.
Despite the craptastic amount of energy the Instawhores spend on creating unrealistic photos, I know on some level most of us do recognize that the physical appearance of our bodies not very important – but sometimes it seems we don’t really get that until someone isn’t here anymore. That sucks.
You know who doesn’t care what your body looks like? Little kids. Little kids will think you are the most beautiful person in the world if you are kind to them and care for them and play with them. I don’t have kids but I have nieces and nephews and I have been a blonde, brunette, and a redhead, I have been skinny, fat and somewhere in between. I have had crazy rosacea eruptions on my face and acne and they’ve seen me without makeup (and coffee). And they think I am beautiful. They see who I am inside – they see me for me, not for what I look like. But give kids a reason to pay attention to the size or shape of our bodies, by hiding them (or commenting on how much we dislike something) and they will learn really quickly how to judge a body and the person inside it. That also sucks.
Can you look at yourself the way your kids would look at you, before they learned that they should be judging everyone by their bodies?
Can you look at yourself the way you look at your own children, seeing all their amazing potential and beautiful humanness? If you can’t, why can’t you? What’s the harm in giving that kindness to yourself?
Which is it? Is my body important or not important?
I know it sounds like on one hand I’m telling you that your body isn’t important, so you should stop hiding it. And then on the other I’m saying it’s important so you should stop hiding it. Haha. But bear with me. It’s both.
It’s not really about whether we actually see your body or not. I know a lot of people judge us for our weight and it feels even more so with social media these days. Fuck them. Fuck all of them and their judgey selfs. It’s really more about the messages you are sending by hiding – the message you are sending your kids (discussed above), to yourself and to your sweet body. Nevermind the message you are sending to others – it’s like a beacon telling others that you value yourself less. And some assholes will see that as permission to treat you as less.
Your body lovingly and carefully carried those children for 40 weeks. In many cases, it physically provided food for them in their first year. Your body enables you to do all the things that you do. Go to work. To and from school events. You wake up still breathing each morning. You, at whatever current size you are at, whether it’s big or small or somewhere in between, care for your family, your friends and everyone you meet in some way. You go the extra mile anytime it’s asked of you. You are a rock when necessary and a teddy bear when called for.
As a side note, this isn’t unique to moms. Even if you haven’t had kids, your body too, it also does amazing stuff every single day! Maybe it’s run marathons, works double nursing shifts or has beaten cancer. Maybe it’s gotten you through heartbreak and back again. It literally stands up for you, every single day. It’s the BEST friend we can have.
I am amazed by how generously loving my body is to me, still, despite the abuse I have put it through! This thing keeps on giving back to me. It’s self-less. And doesn’t that deserve some respect?
Doesn’t your body, don’t YOU, deserve more than to be hidden?
Your body is a prize. It’s award winning. It deserves applause. It’s beautiful as it is.
This is the body you have. This is the only life you have. You should enjoy both while you can.
Your heart beats. Your eyes open. Daily. Just that it exists at all on this planet, in this universe is a miraculous feat.
Please don’t hide yourself.
Please put down any shame or discomfort you may have about getting your picture taken. Jut out your hip like you own that body the way you want to (because you do whether you believe it yet or not).
Flaunt it like you respect it. Like you already KNOW how amazing it is.
And what’s great is when you do that enough, when you “fake it until you make it” with your physical posture – you actually will start to feel more confident (and you may even take better care of yourself – which will be reflected in your appearance). Don’t think about it. Just do it. Treat your body like it’s a trophy worthy of being on display. If you want to practice this, please watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are and do the poses she talks about. It’s ridiculously powerful.
Show your kids that you love yourself, that you are unashamed and unabashedly YOU, that you are living your life and not thinking twice about filtering it for the masses. Your body is amazing as it is right now and you don’t have to hide it anymore.
I see you. I see who you are inside. I don’t think she is someone worth hiding and I hope that after reading this you agree.