Theresa Boedeker shares a story about learning to appreciate her body. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
I am slouching against my sister’s kitchen counter. Talking, before we tackle making dinner. I am Happy to be in her presence, as we live 3000 miles apart.
She is 13 years younger than me, but we both share red hair, an abundance of freckles, and the urge to tell stories to make a point.
“Just a week ago I was standing in my kitchen with three of my friends,” she begins, “complaining about summer and swimsuits and how much our bodies have changed since childbirth.” She pats her no longer svelte tummy, running her arm mid air up and down her womanly torso and thighs to illustrate her point. Her willowy teenage body has matured.
“We were right here,” she gestures toward the table, “analyzing and complaining about how self-conscious we were as teens about our stomachs—back when we didn’t even have a stomach or know what stretch marks were. Imagine us bemoaning our bodies—our perfect breasts and thighs as teens?”
Her animated face breaks into a giggle. “Little did we know that compared to now, we looked like rock stars. We didn’t even appreciate what we had.”
Our laughter mingles, and our heads mirror in nodding. We have stepped back into our teenage concerns that seemed so earth rocking back then.
“If we had known as a teen or barely twenty-something that our looks and body were changing and fading faster than dandelion seeds in a strong wind,” she adds, “would we have been so loathsome of our bodies? So quick to find fault, compare, pick apart, and expect perfection? We were closer to it then than we would ever be again!”
“It’s only in hindsight we realize,” I say.
She nods, waving her expressive hands.
“That’s when I said to my friends,” she continues, “We need to stop comparing and complaining about our bodies right now, because they sure aren’t getting any younger. Any fitter. We need to appreciate and love them the way they are right now. Because tomorrow they will be one day older. One day more wrinkled. One day more everything.”
“So true,” I agree.
“That day my friends and I made a pact that we won’t be in my kitchen ten springs from now complaining about how our thirty some bodies were so superior to our now 40 some bodies. There will be no bemoaning the fact that we didn’t appreciate our bodies the way we should have. That back then our bodies had more tone, glow, and elasticity of youth. Because we can’t go back.”
I laugh. “Good for you.”
“We need to be thankful for our bodies and appreciate them in their—-” she pauses and makes quote marks in the air, ” ‘good-as-they-are’ state. Because each day they get one day closer to check-out.”
I smile at her wisdom and look down at my good-as-it-gets body. I am hit by the futility of complaining about our bodies. Moaning never changes their shape or strength; It just changes our opinions and thoughts about them—causing us to dislike and loathe these gifts from our Creator.
She looks at me. Gives her benediction. “Enjoy your good-as-it-gets body, Theresa. Because I am enjoying mine.”
“l will,” I promise, dancing in place, waving my hips and pointing at my face.
We laugh at ourselves. The silly focus we have on beauty and our bodies. And because her words are so wise and piercing. Her story so perceptive.
I also laugh from discomfort. From a forgotten memory. Each week we teens gathered in the ladies’ bathroom lounge at church. When we had all arrived, we stood in front of the long mirror and went down the line, complaining about something related to our appearance. At first there were Sundays I made something up. Soon, I didn’t need to.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who is looking back at me. I turn sideways and bemoan my baby-stretched stomach. My less than tight chin. My developing wrinkles.
I hate to admit it, but I have bought into the many ways magazines and ads tell me I am not good enough. Beautiful enough. Tall enough. Skinny enough. That if I only did these exercises…used this toothpaste…wore this bra…rimmed my eyes with this eyeliner…then all my problems would be solved. Every lie accompanied by a photo-shopped girl few resemble, but everyone should aspire to.
Why have I been picking myself apart like that? I wonder suddenly as I look in the mirror. I wouldn’t do this with my children, my friends, my pets.
I don’t want to hate aging. Or dislike parts of my body because they don’t fit someone else’s beauty standard.
Can I enjoy the gift that my body is and thank the Giver for all the amazing things it does and allows me to accomplish? Can I be thankful and not critical?
I stare into the mirror. Remember my sister’s story. “Enjoy your good-as-it-gets body. One day you will be enviously looking back at your current model” I say, starting to laugh and wiggling my hips. Yes, my body is good, does good things, helps me enjoy life. It is a gift I need to appreciate. Remind myself that my future self will be enviously looking back at this current model I occupy.
I remind myself to quit believing the lie that a lack of wrinkles, whiter teeth, a tighter stomach, and less leg hair will improve my life, make it smoother and pain free, or create a perfect me.
The truth is this: those who love me don’t judge me based on my appearance.
Late last night I was leaving my teenage son’s room wearing my unglamorous pj’s and sporting a full crop of bed hair and he said, “Love you, Mom, and appreciate you.”
I am tired of being my biggest critic. I absorb his words. Let them sink deep into my good body.
Theresa Boedeker likes to tell stories, write, and laugh. A mother and wife, she works hard at being thankful for and enjoying her good-as-it-gets body. She blogs at TheresaBoedeker.com and is passionate about helping women replace lies with truth, give themselves and others grace, and learn to laugh at themselves and life. She enjoys people, flowers, being creative, reading, and tea with milk and honey.