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Spirit over Body & Mind over Media: A State of Physical Grace

Note: This is a post about body positivity and body image inspired by Cortnie at That Cortnie Girl. So thank you, Cortnie. You are an inspiration to women of all shapes and sizes. I hope this post makes you proud! Because it sure made me proud!

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I want to share something pretty intimate yet incredibly rewarding and meaningful with you. Something happened for the first time…well, maybe ever, today.

Before each and every shower I have ever taken, I peak into the mirror before getting in. I usually can find flaws at first glance. I have four surgical scars my eyes tend to gravitate toward. The most pronounced is the scar that extends from one side to the other, all the way across my stomach, dividing my torso into two. I received it when I was only a few days old: a results of bad intestines due to my three months’ prematurity. I have a smaller incision just below that point where my feeding tube ended. On my neck, I have a scar (most often mistake it for a hickey) from where said feeding tube was inserted. A scar on my right breast from an old central line. 

My eyes go there first. They always have. Most of the time, I find myself daydreaming of having the scars surgically removed or covered up with more tattoos. This time — for the first time — I didn’t. For the first time, I appreciated them. I think I might have even subconsciously thanked them for saving my life this time. For the first time.

The way I view my body has always been an odd, contradictory hurricane of emotions. I feel beautiful — I always feel beautiful — thanks to my hair and eyes and face. But everything below the face I’ve always felt neutral about or negatively toward.

Not today.

As I did my typical glance in the mirror, I found myself smiling. I looked at my scars and smiled. I looked at my tattoos and smiled. I flexed an arm and smiled because I knew the muscles that now grace those once-twig-like arms have been a labor of love: they come from days of hard, manual, laborious work on my feet. I lift and lift and lift bins and baskets and tubs — most weighing in at more than 60 pounds — high over my head: I stack them in the warehouse, I organize them to be reviewed and looked over and bought in. Yes, they’re just full of clothes and shoes, but trust me, you’ve never seen so many clothes and shoes in your life. That’s a women’s resale shop, for you. You have to get on your hands and knees and lift, lift, lift and shove, shove, shove and squat, squat, squat to be able to fill your store — no one delivers the clothes for you; you have to find them yourself by sifting through these women’s lives. It’s rewarding and exhausting.

I never in a million years thought my body was capable of doing a job like this and doing it well. Having fibromyalgia, I thought I’d be able to sit at a desk all day clicking keyboard keys for the rest of my life. Or bed-ridden. Whichever came first…or last.

But no. My body has impressed me beyond explanation. I am proud of my body. For the first time. I am proud of this body — my body — and all that it does for me. It is able to be stronger than I ever could have dreamed, this body of mine. It is capable of more than mind-numbing, mind-blowing chronic pain. It is more than chronic fatigue. It is capable of so much more. My body showed my spirit this before my heart even had the chance to realize it.

So when I looked in that mirror, I was proud. I couldn’t pick any flaw. I couldn’t pick anything I’d want to change. I didn’t pinch my stomach to see how much flab was there or pat my hips thighs in frustration. I didn’t glare at my stretch marks. 

Yes, I have gained more than twenty pounds since my trip to Paris last year. Yes, sometimes this makes my fibromyalgia symptoms worse — more weight to carry typically equals more physical pain — but did I want to change anything because I thought I was less than beautiful? No. For the first time, I saw my whole body as beautiful, and not just from the neck up. For the first time, I acknowledged its strength and knew it had grown stronger than I could’ve predicted. And it wasn’t stronger because of dieting or disordered eating or hours on a treadmill.

It was stronger from working hard at a job I love. Stronger from early afternoon and late night dance parties with my boyfriend. Stronger from more movement and from harder work. How could I not be proud of this fibromyalgia-ridden, chronically-and constantly-in-pain body of mine? It was 20 pounds heavier, but it was functioning and adapting in ways I never thought it would. 

Because my body has been so good to me, I want to love it back. I want to start doing yoga again and meditating. I want to work to eat organically, healthfully and holistically. I want to go for long walks and swim. Because my body has surpassed my expectations, I am so inspired to raise the bar even higher for what this body of mine can do. 

I thought of all these things as I glanced into that mirror. And I smiled, in shock, and hopped into a shower like any other day, but I knew something had changed. I knew I had changed. I was capable of doing whatever I set my mind to, just like my mother had always taught me. And for the first time, I had proof.

When was a time you felt proud of your body? Do you struggle with a negative self image? What has helped you overcome this struggle? What inspires you to feel and know you are beautiful? Please let me know! Let’s inspire each other. I want you to join me in this road toward body love. Leave a comment below!

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