As we grow there are periods of awkwardness that begin at a fairly young age, when we first start to develop our self body image. Moments where you'll catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror and think "is that what I look like?" These moments can be negative or positive, and, depending on their strength, can have a large impact even through adulthood.
The last few weeks I've watched my body change. I have been so excited to see the development and growth of various muscle groups, and mildly dismayed at the disappearance of places that for too long I let dictate my self-worth. I've watched young women check themselves in the mirror and judge their changes in a positive or negative manner, I thought that I could be one of the ones who wasn't worried about what I looked like. I was happy with the appearance of my obliques (I haven't seen them in years!), I was happy with the way my arms, shoulders, and legs have taken new shapes, and I was even able to deal with the fact that my finally B-cup sized breasts fell flat and now barely fill an A.
But then yesterday I went bra shopping for the first time since my changes have happened, it was a blow to my self-image to realize that I, as an almost-30-year-old woman needed to buy a bra meant for young, developing pre-teens. My normal abhorrence for the "sexification" of young people transformed into a "why isn't anything in my size sexy?"
The moment passed as quickly as it came. I recalled my nickname since returning home "new hot ass", admired my abs and my arms, and reminded myself that despite my lack of cheasticular real estate, my husband has always loved me for who I am.
What you see isn't me. This is my body.
Fast-forward a few hours after shopping. I was taking pictures with my son because we've taken so many over the years and I want him to have some to remember my first trip home from the Army. We looked through pictures together and I really liked one where both of us were smiling. He told me I couldn't post that picture on Facebook because he didn't like his teeth. I didn't say anything right then, but didn't post the picture.
Later last night at bed-time I had forgotten about the teeth comment until he mentioned that he was "getting fat." I realized that at 8 years old my son is starting to be uncomfortable and awkward in his own body.
Being the mom that I am I began to talk to him about these things. The first thing I addressed was his weight. My son is a slender boy, he's always been tall and thin for his age. I imagine he began thinking he was fat because he is finally starting to fill out (as he does each time before he shoots up another few inches). So I explained to him that for his height he would have to weigh at least 30 pounds more before he could even be considered overweight. Then I began talking to him about his teeth.
The teeth thing I understand 100%. I trained myself to smile with my lips closed because I was so upset about how big my new front teeth were when I was 8. I told him this, and explained that everyone gets huge front teeth because they have to grow into them. I showed him my front teeth and explained that I was smaller than him when I got them (he giggled). I told him to look at the teeth of the kids in his class and see that they also have big front teeth, it's normal!
I explained that as we grow it is completely normal to feel awkward or uncomfortable in our body as it changes. You have to get acquainted with a whole new you several times throughout childhood and on into adulthood. Every single person faces these phases of transition and most feel out of place at some point or another.
My son seemed to understand, he seemed to be happier as he went to sleep and grinned widely at my husband & I. We told him to talk to us whenever he felt like that so we could help him understand the changes he's going through and help him feel less "weird." I do hope he remembers.
And I made the resolution not to down-talk my body. I am perfect just the way I am. There are things I can change and things I cannot. But this is the body in which I dwell, I will maintain it, care for it, and treat it with respect.