Visible: Reflecting on BARE

BARE is one of the few words that I’ve given thought to prior to the week it occurred. I had plans for BARE. But as the date approached, I chickened out.

You see, a couple years ago I came across an art project consisting exclusively of beautifully lit, black-and-white photographs of women’s thighs. Not in a sexual way. I hesitate to say even in an particularly artistic way. But in a completely, undoubtedly, beautifully real way. There were thin thighs, thick thighs, cellulitey thighs, stretch marked thighs, thighs gaps, thighs that didn’t even separate near the knees. No thighs looked just like mine. Because none of them looked the same. And much to my surprise, for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel ashamed of my legs.

If you were to ask me what part of my body I’m most insecure about, it’s my thighs. Always has been. Even as a small child I tended to sit with my feet pointed so only the balls rested on the ground. I thought it was weird and gross that my legs spread so much when I sat down. I assumed if I could tell this flaw from my own vantage point, surely others could, too. My peers never let me forget that I was heavier than most, so I routinely posed at school to disguise my girth as much as a seven year old can.

When I hit puberty, my thighs grew so quickly that they were striped with deep purple stretch marks. They chafed against each other when I wore skirts. Pants that fit my waist couldn’t accommodate my legs and often I’d have to buy a size or two up (which is particularly traumatic for a girl suffering with anorexia). I don’t know if my ex-husband ever saw the back of my legs in the full light of day during our eight years together. That’s how deep the disdain runs.

So after seeing that art project and becoming so deeply riveted by my lack of insecurity — I wanted to take and post a picture of my bare thighs for this post.

But y’all… I couldn’t do it.

As evident by my other recent posts, I’m struggling with my body right now.  And while an aspect of my head thinks it’d be partially healing to dive in and just do it anyway, my heart is begging for respite. For a small break in the trial.

And as HRH Brene Brown preaches, you should never share a source of shame until you’ve owned it. If I shared such a picture now, I suspect I’d hear lots of love about my bravery, my vulnerability, my beauty. But if one person made the slightest of negative observation, I’d be ruined. And my hair can only be a life preserver so many times before it drowns with me.

So this is my BARE post. This is me telling you that I’m not strong enough yet. That I’m damaged and scared and insecure. That despite the body positivity accounts I share on social media, the beauty myths I deconstruct, and the small steps of allowing my current boyfriend to watch me walk past him naked… I’m still not ready to be quite so bold.

In the meantime, please enjoy these amazing individuals who did what I couldn’t. It isn’t the same project I discovered so long ago, but it has the same heart. Cheers.

This week Steph and I devour Brene’s new book and PROTECT what’s ours…

Check out Steph’s wonderful #VOWbare post here

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Reflecting on ELEVATE

Tonight I sat down to write about the 5+ mile hike I took on Saturday. I looked over Birmingham. I broke a sweat. I got fractionally lost and repeated the same trail loop twice. It was good fun and I was looking forward to telling you about it and sharing some pictures. I had this entire line about “spring is sproing-ing” I gleefully anticipated using.

Instead what came out is this stream of consciousness. And, for better or for worse, I’m choosing to post it. I’ll likely never open this page again in fear of a vulnerability hangover. But I did write it.  So some part of me needed to share…

Historically I’ve had a hard time with the concept of enough-ness. For a large part of my life, “satisfactory” and “average” were dreaded adjectives. I wanted the plus after my A’s. I wanted to be the thinnest in every room. High praise only felt earned when it was heaped onto already high expectations.

The idea of living a life where I wasn’t special, famous, unique, and celebrated was terrifying to me. Because, what? I supposed to settle for an unrecognized existence?

Such a concept was unacceptable. So I worked tirelessly to try to set myself apart. As a Leo and a youngest child, it wasn’t difficult to captivate attention. And the more attention I got, the more it became essential to my self-acceptance.

Needless to say when I didn’t make the grade, the fall was hard.

(This was all self-inflicted, by the way. My parents were and remain incredible people whom I adore. They did, in my opinion, as good as any two people can hope do. They raised functional, socially conscious, generally responsible, happy and well-liked children. I may not be a parent myself but I can recognize good practice when I see it.)

Through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood I struggled with a fear of scarcity in the form of eating disorders, perfectionism, overzealous Christianity, and a generalized anxiety disorder. I can still very acutely describe the panic attacks I endured nearly every night from ages 15 to 18 and the utter conviction I had that I’d die before leaving for college. Because I wasn’t good enough to have a future. And if I ended up being gifted one, it was because I’d somehow signed an invisible contract to make it really count.

And worse than the impossibly high expectations I held for myself, I held others to an equally high standard for which they themselves had never signed the contract. Steph can attribute to this, as can my ex husband. I didn’t know any better because, well, I didn’t know any different.

After plenty of self-reflection (and therapy) both during and after my marriage, I found that I needed to loosen the grip I had on those self-protective ways. To grant myself permission to live a small life. To not be The Absolute Best at things I set my mind to. To gain comfort in my tone deafness, my round tummy, and a normal-person job who makes changes a single stride at a time.

That’s what ELEVATE has become in recent years. Small steps upwards. Being fractionally only better only part of the time. Finding stability in  that dreaded enough-ness. And finding there is nothing to dread after all. And recognizing that you can make large strides in a small life. And there’s nothing wrong in not being outwardly noteworthy because those in your inner circle see it.

Just try to be better.
Try to empathize with others.
Try to be better than yesterday.
And grant grace when you’re not.

It’s in the trying where you ELEVATE.

PHEW. Well there’s that.


Let me distract you with some images from my hike…

This week we take a CHANCE

Lin’s VOW mantra: Success is never earned. It is only rented, and rent is due every single day.

Lin’s Song of the Week: Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show by Neil Diamond^

^Chosen exclusively because this is my JAM when I need to take things up a notch

Be sure to read up on Steph’s post on #VOWelevate