Recently, I was looking through photos from this summer, and realizing what an amazing life my kids have! We live on a ranch with lots of opportunities to work hard, open spaces to play, and oodles of cousins that are a part of their every day. Each morning, they get up, and after breakfast and family scripture time, they head to the barn. The three older kids all have 4-H steers that they work with each day, preparing for fair. The two little boys typically tag along as well, playing and exploring every corner of every barn. After that, they do some chores at home, and then are pretty free to do what they want, which includes working with their dad on the ranch, helping me in the yard, riding bikes all around the ranch, or playing all kinds of imaginative (and impressive!) games, typically with a couple cousins. Evenings are full as well—with baseball games, cookouts, trips to our fishing pond, or just more playing outside. And the best days are those that end at a movie party with cousins, complete with a bowl of ice cream!
As I thought about this synopsis of their lives, I realized that I could tell the story another way if I chose. I could see their lives in a whole different way. They don’t get a lot of one on one time with me or their dad since there are so many of them. They don’t have a lot of nice things, and often look a little scroungy. Baths probably don’t happen as often as they should. They aren’t involved in any summer educational programs. They engage in a lot of risky behaviors, most of which I probably don’t even know about, due to the lack of supervision they get. They are probably overworked for their age, and are often in danger around those large animals. They don’t get to do very many of the fun things that city kids get to do, like amusement parks, jump zones, going to the movies, the mall, or out to eat. Really, they’re pretty deprived in many ways. And they for sure are eating too much ice cream!
So which is true? Honestly, probably both. However, whichever story I tell gains power for me, and becomes my truth.
As I considered this, I realized how true this is for body image as well. Really, there is very little “truth” about my body. I suppose there are the statistical things that could be measured with a blood test. But we spend very little time thinking about those things. And all the rest? Optional thoughts, really. So, let me tell you one story I could tell about my body.
I’m short. I don’t have long legs, a long waistline, or long anything, really. My skin is far from perfect. In fact, I have a lot of red spots all over it, and my wrinkles are deepening daily. I still have acne on and off as well. My hands are quite un-manicured, and I often have dirty fingernails. I don’t have an hourglass figure. In fact, my waist-to-hip ratio actually puts me in a category of unhealthy. Not that either is that big, but I guess my waist is just too thick, or my hips too small. And both are about the same size as my chest, which resembles a 10-year-old girl’s, except with zero perkiness. Basically, I’m pretty uncurvy and anything but sexy. I don’t have long, beautiful, shiny hair. My eyelashes are short. My eyebrows are too thin, and too far apart. My lips are not soft and smooth. Rather, they are typically chapped or cracked. And when I part them, you will see that my teeth are a little yellow. Basically, I’m a “Plain Jane” in every sense.
But there could be another way to describe me. I have toned legs that are strong from years of exercise. And I don’t have to shave them very often because my leg hair is fine and light-colored. (My favorite!!) My heart and lungs are efficient and healthy, and I have energy to do anything I want to do. My skin tans decently in the summer, and has a healthy glow to it. I have nice feet that rarely get dry. My hands are feminine and pretty. Although not curvy, my body is strong and has a nice shape. My chest size is the exact badge of motherhood that I would choose, and is also perfectly convenient for being a runner. My shoulders are broad and straight. I have a nice smile with straight teeth, and when I do smile, happy lines appear to the sides of my eyes. My hair is cut in a cute short style that I wear well, and I have pretty blue eyes. Overall, I am strong and beautiful.
Which is true? Likely both. But whichever one I choose to focus on will become more true. How? Well, our brains naturally want to be right. So whenever we take a thought and decide that it is true, our brains will look for evidence to support it. If I believe I am a “Plain Jane,” I will be able to find all kinds of evidence to prove that I am right. And if I believe I am “strong and beautiful,” I will find plenty of proof as well. One or the other will become my truth—my body image—completely backed up by all kinds of supporting facts.
How do you view your body? What story are you telling? Have you found plenty of evidence? Could there be another story? I’m not asking you to be delusional or make up lies. But, as Jody Moore says, “You’re already telling a story. Why not make it a better one?”
Love your body, and your body will love you. ♥