When I was a teenager, there was a store in the mall called 5-7-9.
I guess it was the Abercrombie and Fitch of the 1980s. Certainly the name said it all. The store only sold sizes 5, 7, and 9. They were very clear in their assertion that no one outside of their idea of the “best” size should bother shopping with them.
Unlike A&F, they didn’t catch a lot of flack for this. In fact, in the 1980s, it was almost virtuous to shame people who were of a larger body type.
Having blown through size 9 (a “junior” size, whatever that is) by the time I was 12 and before I even HAD an allowance, I never even went in this store. And I think not being able to shop there formed a big part of the idea of who I was and what I could expect from others in terms of acceptance.
Yesterday I went shopping. I found this really cute outfit. I found my size but it was still a little loose so I asked if I could try the next size down. “I don’t think they make them that small.”
I’m not saying that to brag at all. In fact, what I want to say is the opposite.
Because, when I look in the mirror, I still don’t see that body type that I dreamed of as a teenager. I don’t have the boobs of Barbie or the rear end of Kim Kardashian. In fact, it’s still hard for me to believe that this body I see in the mirror fits in the size that I wear now. Somewhere in my head, the scale, the clothes, and everyone else’s eyes are lying, and I’m still the same large size I was when I started this journey a year ago.
I also know I’m not alone. I know women who are just as cute as can possibly be, who just don’t like themselves. I have had perfectly amazing women in the studio who almost have to force themselves to look at the photos.
I don’t think it’s a huge coincidence that so many of these women seem to be from the “5-7-9” generation.
Ladies, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is, that picture you have in your head about what you “should” look like? That’s probably never going to happen, even with extensive surgery, diet, exercise, and some very good skin care. Younger women, brought up on a steady diet of body acceptance and the exposures of egregious Photoshop retouching — they seem to understand this more. But our generation still has this picture in our heads. And, quite honestly, most of that picture is based on lies.
That’s not to say that really great composition, lighting, and posing can’t make you look amazing. It’s to say that no one has huge boobs that just stick straight out by themselves, that skin is not pore-less and plastic looking, that everyone has a few small differences between the two sides of their face, that lips are usually normal lip-size and not plumped-up-pouty. That, in effect, there is a lot of crazy Photoshop stuff that goes on and has always gone on (in the case of our generation, pre-Photoshop, it was airbrushing) and so when we look at those images we should know they aren’t true.
The good news is really good.
It doesn’t matter.
We are still loved. We still have great friends and amazing relationships. Our kids think we are amazing. We can do incredible things, whether it’s packing the perfect lunch, making a cute birthday cake, decorating our house, or participating in the physical activity of our choice.
We have incredible lives. We are intelligent, capable. We run businesses and we run families.
I am learning to focus on what I have, what is right in my life. It was focusing on the love and joy that I already had, that inspired me to make a few changes, and then a few more.
In one year, so many things have changed, and it’s fabulous. But it started with celebrating myself, right where I was, with all the good and the bad, the fat rolls and the crazy hair, the beautiful hugs from my youngest and the goofiness of my oldest, the laughter with my husband and the delight in life that we all share.
It really doesn’t matter how you look, and it never will. Most of us aren’t walking the runway or baring skin on the cover of Sports Illustrated. What matters is love, and laughter, and health, and living, and being able to DO the things you love.
So know what? Do them. Do them now. To whatever extent you can, do what you love. Then a little more. Do something great. Then a little more. Make a difference. Then a little more.
It will all add up to something truly amazing and enviable: the true, honest, incomparable YOU!!