I have always wondered whether or not I would go through a mid life crisis. As I approached and then passed age 40, I thought “what could possibly happen?” Then whamo! I was hit square in the stomach with a major personal crisis in November. When I was explaining this experience to a friend at Starbucks one day, she likened it to being clanged on both sides of the head with large cymbals. She said it was a wake up call and she was right.
Since then I have done a lot of thinking about who I am and how I see myself.
I have had a negative body image for most of my life and this started at a young age. My sister is two years older than me but I have been larger than her the majority of my life (until recently since she is into body building!). I would get her hand-me down clothes because she was older so logically they should have fit me; that was not necessarily the case. I have fair sized bunions on both of my feet from years of wearing shoes that were too short for me. I can remember feeling my hot bunions pulsating while crossing through the field on my way to public school.
I reached puberty at a young age and one day when I was coming down the stairs my mom made a comment about my ass. She told me that it was a weird shape and stuck out too far. I believe that the term “bubble butt” was being used in the house at some point. Another time she saw me with my shirt off and said: “I have never seen breasts like that; they are a weird shape.” I still remember the look on her face as she stared down at them with bewilderment. These comments stung and I used to wear my hair long in an attempt to drape it over my body.
Just yesterday I was admiring my ass in the mirror. I have only been running for a few weeks but I can already see the improvement. Never once has a man told me that my body looks weird. In fact when I was 16, I remember not understanding why the boy next door used to stare at me every time I went for a swim. It was both creepy and confusing.
My daughter is currently 8 and when I was close to that age my mom would make my sister sit on the stairs that led down to our unfinished basement with a stop watch. Her job was to time me as I jumped rope or used the lemon twist next to my older brother’s red hockey net. I remember being thankful that I had a choice between the skipping rope and the lemon twist and I concentrated on the sound that it made as it spun rhythmically around my ankle.
This enforced situation was unfair to both me and my sister and I know that she feels sorry for this when it wasn’t even her fault. But it was harmful in many ways and affected my relationship with her. I am grateful that one day when I was about 20 years old, we made a conscious decision to change the dynamics of our relationship and she has been one of my best friends ever since. She has also been very inspiring to me. She has gone ahead and created a career and is a great role model for many women.
When I was approximately 16 years old, my mom decided that I should eat only diet pudding. I would go into the cellar at our second house where I hid my stash on the shelf behind the door and I would shamefully shove it into my mouth while the rest of my family ate dinner upstairs. I would then go into the dusty furnace room beside the cellar and ride the exercise bike for as long as I could manage. It was years before I enjoyed the taste of vanilla pudding again.
I am very careful about what I say and how I act around my daughter. She saw me naked one time and made a comment about my stomach sticking out. I said: “I think I look great. Also, remember that I had two babies in there.” I quickly changed the subject and we started our day. I have never commented on her weight or appearance except to compliment her. She once revealed that she thinks she is fat and I told her that she is just right and beautiful. I want to be a positive role model for her. She sees me eating well and exercising. I love her and I know that she is listening to me.