Recently, I signed up for a five day course in improving body image put out by Molly Galbraith and Girls Gone Strong. I’d previously taken a 28-day Love Your Body Challenge from Ms Galbraith back in 2014, and it really helped me to change the way that I viewed my body. I’d been skeptical, and was thoroughly impressed by the end, and so I went into this five-day program without reservation. I’m not going to talk about the entire program here – it’s free, and available at the link above – but it was a good refresher course and did teach me some new things. Also, it made me realize just how well that course from six years ago penetrated my thought patterns and permanently improved my body image, because there were some activities in this five-day course that I’d already completed and had no more to do. Woohoo!
I took more than five days to do this program. Some days are pretty intense, and the actionable items took a lot of thought. What I want to talk about today is an item from Day 2, which was the biggest and toughest day for me. Essentially, we were asked to cleanse our environment of items and images that make us feel bad rather than inspiring us. Personally, I don’t read magazines and I don’t follow social media accounts with unrealistic and/or professional body images. Most of who I follow online are friends, with a few accounts of folks who inspire me (everything from body positive folks to animal rescue shelters). However, there was one place I immediately knew that I needed to clean house.
A few years ago, I set up an image folder on my computer that I labeled “insp.” In it, I put roughly 150-200 photos from 2011 to 2014, all of a thinner, fitter, happier me. It was meant to inspire me rather than shame me, but as time has passed and I’ve seen those hundreds of photos over and over, I’ve grown numb to them, if not discouraged by them. Clearly, they didn’t help me as I originally intended. I spent two days, then, curating a new image folder for my computer wallpaper. There are 400+ photos in there, and growing as I get new ideas. They include:
- photos of myself during happy times of my adult life, regardless of body size
- photos of gatherings with friends and family
- photos of proud moments and accomplishments in my adult life
- photos of family and friends (pic –> is my sis-in-law Emmy, who has the best style ever!)
- photos of Jason and the boys
- photos of actresses and celebrities that I find particularly inspiring, especially those who have body types and/or faces outside the typical norm of beauty
- runners of all shapes and sizes
- overweight and obese women confident in their bodies
- different ideas of beauty from all around the world
- trans, androgynous, and gender fluid folks
- women of multiple ages, skin colors, body types, and abilities
- an array of postpartum bodies
- plus size yogis and yoga poses
- particular locations that I love, with or without people in the photos
- places I’ve traveled and things I’ve seen in my adult life
- moments of laughter in those around me
- girls’ nights out
- acts of service
- meeting authors and other people I admire
- interesting faces
The best thing about this new, curated “insp” folder is that I made a personal discovery as I put it together. This discovery should have been obvious to me long ago, but wasn’t. I’ve been an adult now for a bit over 20 years, and I feel like most of that time, I’ve done nothing. I never finished school, never had a career, never published one of my books, and spent most of my time taking care of my house and children. But the thing is, I have done a lot in my life:
I gave birth to three children and raised them. I traveled to so many places: France, Italy, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Israel/Palestine, Niagara Falls, many of the smaller Caribbean islands. I’ve traveled to a giant chunk of the US as well. I’ve ridden a camel, gone ziplining, swam with dolphins and manatees, ran a 10K, published several short stories, written over a half-dozen novels and countless stories, kept a book blog for over 12 years, attended ALA and BEA, was a speaker at Book Blogger Con, met bloggers from around the world, kayaked, hiked mountains, learned (a bit) of several languages, taught myself to read tarot, ran a book club for six years, xeriscaped a yard, learned how to crochet, ran multiple writing groups over the last decade, done mud runs and color runs, rescued six cats, volunteered at the library and humane society, gotten several tattoos, taken three cruises, done unassisted pull-ups, been an LGBTQIA+ activist, tried out a fish pedicure, learned calligraphy, took classes in stained glass and ballroom dancing, read thousands of books, and donated my hair to Locks of Love. To name a few.
My life has been very full, and somehow, with day upon day of the mundanity of being a stay at home mom, I’ve somehow failed to realize this…until putting together this new photo folder. I’ve spent most of my life judging myself a failure because of the things I haven’t done – finished college, built a career, kept the weight off, published a novel – rather than seeing all the things I have done, and all the good I’ve built and brought into the world. So this was a wonderful project – not only did I get to curate images that would broaden my exposure to all the different kinds of bodies and faces in the world, but I created a place to celebrate personal achievements and happy moments, rather than just skinny ones.