When you look at your NAKED body in the mirror, what is your initial gut reaction?
Is it kind, gentle and loving?
Or is it one of shame, horror and sadness?
For far too many of us, we tend toward the latter.
In fact, when WAS the last time you looked at your naked body in the mirror? In a FULL LENGTH mirror, where you could see every bit of you, not just the parts you want to see in your bathroom mirror? When was the last time you REALLY looked?
I’m always shocked to learn how many women don’t have a full length mirror in their home. These women look at subsets of themselves in tiny bathroom and hallway mirrors, but they never see themselves as one whole human being.
Many of these women will say it’s because they don’t want to waste time looking at themselves in the mirror because what they look like isn’t important. They laugh, and say they’ve moved past all that nonsense. And though that may be true for some, I KNOW that for most, it’s an unintentional rationalization to hide from the truth.
They don’t have a mirror because LOOKING is HARD. And it can bring up BIG feelings of sadness, anxiety, disgust and anger.
Those are BIG feelings. Hard feelings.
Feelings I’ve struggled with for most of my life.
My body confidence ebbed and flowed when I was younger… mostly linked to my body weight. When I was thinner I felt great. When I put on a few pounds, I felt terrible. And when I felt terrible, I hid. I didn’t challenge my expectations or think it could be different. My body wasn’t perfect, and it deserved to be hidden.
But nowadays, since my body weight has been holding steady with those “extra” few pounds and puckers, my body confidence is linked to whether or not I’m truly SEEING myself, or if I’m hiding and pretending “it’s what’s on the inside that matters”.
Once I hit my 30’s, I pretty much quit wearing bathing suits to the beach because I was so ashamed of my body. I was thin. With saggy cellulite. And it didn’t make any sense to me.
When we’d go to the beach, my daughter would BEG me to swim with her, and I’d say no…
Mama’s too tired.
The water’s too cold.
It’s not hot enough outside.
Except I wasn’t tired. The water wasn’t too cold. And girl, it was hotter than a biscuit outside!
I was very comfortable seeing my fully clothed body in the mirror… but naked? No way. And a bathing suit in public?! Maybe… but always with a “coverup” on that would NEVER come off.
Once I became a Personal Stylist, I realized I couldn’t go on hiding anymore. I needed to SHOW UP, in my perfectly imperfect body.
So I went bathing suit shopping. And I trained for that shopping event like an Olympic athlete. I didn’t lose weight, start climbing stairs, or go on a cabbage diet. I did the sensible thing and figured out which suit would work on MY body shape, picked out a shopping dress that made me feel STRONG in my body, donned the biggest bling I owned, and puckered up with the hottest pink lipstick I could find at the drugstore.
Heck if I didn’t have the BEST SUMMER EVER in a suit that made me feel fabulous!
My body didn’t change. My attitude did.
I sailed through fall and winter (in tights) feeling great.
Until one day last spring, when I was at my local thrift shop, standing in the fitting room in my bra and undies, getting ready to try on some dresses. When I caught a glimpse of my half-naked body in the mirror, my initial reaction was Ugh. Disgusting. Cellulite.
It was a critical moment.
I wanted to turn away and quickly put something on, but instead, I stopped what I was doing and I stared. I just stood there, half naked in front of the mirror, and stared at my body.
I looked up and I looked down. I pulled my eyes away from my thighs, and I stared at my hair, face, neck, and clavicles. I stared at my arms and my wrists. I stared at my breasts, my belly and my bum. I stared at my legs, my knees, my calves. I stared into my own eyes, until I saw that I was a whole human being. I stared until I didn't just see the cellulite on my thighs and my jiggly belly.
I stared until I saw my daughter’s exuberance, and my son’s expressive and sassy grin. I stared until I saw my husband's gentle smile and loving eyes. I stared until I saw a sisterhood of women, staring back at me, telling me my body was beautiful, just the way it was.
I stared until I could see ALL OF ME. And you.
And I felt better. And I SHOWED UP. And I bought another new bathing suit.
This summer, my family and I vacationed in Kennebunkport, Maine. I put on my hot pink suit, flopsy hat and big jewelry and I - felt - fabulous!!
My husband took a picture of me at my favorite beach, and when I saw the picture later that evening, I collapsed into an overwhelming and completely unexpected personal assault of body shame.
I was in public like THAT? I must have looked like a fool, smiling for the camera. Disgusting.
I was ashamed of myself. I know better than to think like that. I know that when I body shame myself, I am also shaming you. But the next day, I couldn’t put my bathing suit on, and I became overwhelmed with another kind of shame. A shame that far exceeded my body shame. I was ashamed of myself for being ashamed of my body. I was double-ashamed.
I spent a lot of time thinking about WHY now. Why this trip to the beach. And I realized it was because I WAS an anomaly at the beach. All the gals that were frolicking in the waves were tall, muscular and slender. Where in hell was everybody else?! They were sitting in their beach chairs, under their coverups, that’s where they were!
And then I got mad.
I spent weeks staring at my naked body in the mirror. And I spent hours looking at that damn photo. Until everything normalized, and I could see all of me, once again.
And then I put on my bathing suit, and I went swimming. Again.
Though I’m in a moment of FREEDOM now, I know that those voices aren’t far away, and that they could whomp me at any moment. But I also know that I have the POWER to see myself as whole.
And I know you do too.
About The Author
Stasia Savasuk is a Personal Stylist (with a twist!) and founder of Stasia’s Style School. Her unconventional-transformation-motivational approach to style leads women of all ages and stages on an intuitive journey of letting go, knowing what they know, and embracing a life filled with confidence, courage and (inside-out) congruency. Stasia knows that changing your pants will change your life, and has ushered hundreds of women away from years of body-shaming and muffin-top jeans to a place of body acceptance and pants that fit-to-flatter thankyouverymuch.
Stasia can be seen frolicking in the backwoods of Vermont with her two kids, wearing a skirt, big earrings, bold lipstick and the world's best accessory, a friendly smile.