Next Saturday — three days after Christmas — I will be standing beside my sister as she says “I do” to her chosen one. Given the journey she’s taken to this day, I cannot properly express the amount of joy I’m feeling about this occasion. I am so incredibly happy for them.
But there’s an additional thing.
I’ve spent the last several years feeling none-too-comfortable inside my body. (In fact, I wrote a whole series earlier this year about this very thing.) And yet on that day, I’ll be standing at the front of a big room, in front of family members and friends I haven’t seen in a very long time, and I’ll be wearing a strapless red satin dress that isn’t particularly flattering on me.
To say I’ve been feeling nervous about the prospect of this experience is an understatement. Terrified would be a more appropriate description.
And so I’ve been starting to face this.
About a week ago, I turned to Kirk as we were winding down for the night and said, “Do you know what I’m least looking forward to about our trip to California? That dress. Having to wear that dress and stand in front of everyone all day long.”
I thought about the way the dress wouldn’t properly zip when I’d tried it on the previous week. I remembered how I looked when I stood before the seamstress’ mirror the next day as she pinned and marked where to let the dress out, my decidedly untoned arms and upper chest exposed for all to see.
I told him about the voices I’d been hearing in my head about the prospect of that experience, and I told him what I imagined others might think — and perhaps even say to each other — about how I looked too.
Oh, how I dread what they might think or say.
Kirk is pretty good about letting me feel what I feel, and that night he certainly let me express my fears and dread. But then he looked at me and said, “When you tried on the dress the other night, you were stunning.”
Then he said, “The person that you are is so deep and whole and rich — you have so much to offer every single person you’ll see that day. Your very self and presence is a gift.”
I wanted to believe him.
But I wasn’t sure I could. The negative voices were so loud.
The next day, I met with my therapist, Debbie, and spent a portion of our time talking about all this. While describing my sense of myself in the dress, I pulled at the skin on my chest and squeezed my shoulders and arms. “They’re so soft!” I said. “No toning. Just flabbiness. Ugh.”
She looked at me and said, “Christianne, I don’t know a lot about your and Kirk’s decision to not have kids, but I can tell you this: You’re a mother. You’re birthing all the time. You help other people birth their stories and journeys, and you birth so much through your work at Still Forming. You’re a mother.
“And just like mothers’ bodies change when they bear children, your body is reflecting the reality of all those births. That flabbiness you see on your chest? I see it as a place of welcome, of softness, of nurture. When people hug you, they feel themselves enveloped in love — and they are!”
This was a very new and mind-blowing way to think about all this.
The next day I met with Elaine, my spiritual director, and processed some more of this with her. Her response was emphatic: “Christianne, you’re gorgeous. You just are. I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. You’re gorgeous inside and out.”
I don’t tell you all these things to toot my own horn about their compliments. (Trust me, it has been very uncomfortable typing out each of Kirk’s and Debbie’s and Elaine’s responses to me to share this story with you!)
Rather, I tell you all this because maybe you can relate to the body issues or self-consciousness. Maybe you have your own voices inside your head or anticipated voices of others that aren’t too kind. Maybe you, too, know what it’s like to believe you’re not enough because somehow your physical self is the only defining feature of your value.
I tell you this because maybe it’s time to trust the voices of those who know you best and truly see you — all of you.
I know that’s what has happened to me this week. I had a moment of noticing that three of the people who best know the truth and fullness of me in this world and wholeheartedly love and enjoy and celebrate me told me I am beautiful and that my whole self is a gift.
I am choosing to believe them. And already, by choosing to believe them, I find myself walking with my head held just a little bit higher.
Can you relate to this struggle at all? Is there anything that helps you through it?