Yesterday I read an article in the Huffington Post about a controversy with the Swedish fashion company H&M. Their new catalog is out, and in its “plus size” section the plus sized model did not look the way that label suggests. Pictures of the model lit up social media. People complained that this is one more way the fashion industry gives the message to women and girls that the ideal body size and shape is a size 4 or less. In my opinion this model is gorgeous. Tall. Leggy. Gorgeous. I’ve seen other models that look more plus sized (whatever that means) who are also tall, leggy and gorgeous. According to what I read, the company said the featured model wears the size of clothing that is the industry standard for plus size (14 in the U.S.). I agree with the growing number of voices that are calling for the fashion industry to drop the plus size designation. If you’re a model you’re a model, whether you wear a size 2 or a size 14. But here’s what really got to me. This plus sized model may be a size 14, but in terms of Small, Medium, or Large, she wears a Medium.
Medium is plus sized? I wear Medium. In fact, I worked damn hard to wear a Medium. I was beyond thrilled the day I walked out of a dressing room in a Medium. Yet reading that Medium is considered plus sized was that proverbial last straw on the camel’s back of my insecurities. These insecurities have been on the rise lately, and my initial response was to give into the despair and self-loathing that they bring about. But something inside me said, “No! Enough is enough.” So I took a step back and thought long and hard about my body image.
At the CREDO conference and retreat for clergy I attended last May the faculty person for health and wellness, a brilliant and beautiful woman, quoted these three statements.
How do we exploit creation?
How do we enjoy creation?
Do we accept creation with awe?
Then she said to substitute the word “creation” with the words “our bodies.” How do we exploit our bodies? How do we enjoy our bodies? Do we accept our bodies with awe? In my notes from that lecture I wrote, “What would it mean for me to see my body as creation and accept it with awe?” I remembered this question yesterday, and I realized something. I have spent approximately 36 of the 48 years I have lived on this earth NOT accepting my body as creation and NOT seeing it with awe. Instead I have hated my body. I have wished for any other body type than the one I have. I have mistreated my body. I have starved my body one minute and gorged it the next. I have spent the majority of my life looking in the mirror and seeing nothing but flaws. That isn’t just time misspent, that is sad. Horribly, terribly sad.
So I asked myself these questions, “What is so wrong about my body? What is so wrong about me?” It occurred to me that my questions are wrong. What I should have been asking all these years, what I should be asking now is, “What is fabulous about my body? What is fabulous about me?”
Here’s my answer.
This body begins with an incredible brain. Someone I love and admire very much described me as being “smart as a whip.” And so I am. I can stand in a pulpit and make words written thousands of years ago come alive. I can open people’s eyes to hope in the most unlikely of circumstances. I have a heart that’s compassionate and kind. I can make people laugh. I’m a good friend. I’m a good mom. And in this last year I’ve proven to myself that I am brave.
And let’s not forget this actual body. Last night I took another look at myself in the mirror. Instead of seeing abs that will never be a six-pack and hips that I’ve bemoaned as being too wide and the general sagging and change that comes with life and gravity, I saw an amazing creation. This body has been fortunate enough to carry and give birth to two incredible kids. I nourished them with this body, cradled them in my arms and carried them on these wide hips.
This body is healthier and stronger than it’s ever been. It’s not a skinny body; it’s a medium body. And maybe some would consider my medium body to be plus sized, but if that’s true so be it. I rock these curves!
What would it mean to see my body as creation and accept it with awe? I think it’s time for me to find that out.