Running Naked : The Process of Loving My Body
Updated: Jun 4, 2019
My mother, like any other mother, loves to tell embarrassing stories about me any time she’s given the opportunity. Family gatherings, Parent Teacher Conferences. You name it, she has a story concealed in the corner of her mind, always ready to tell. Her favorite story to tell, is the time I dressed up as a ballerina for Halloween, but decided to do a costume change mid-party.
“You were so cute with your little tutu and shoes,” she squeals as I sit on her bed one night. These late night talks always make their way back to the days when I was small enough for her to throw me over shoulder – which quite frankly, I wish she could still do.
“You took off in the middle of the party came back stark naked. All of your clothes gone!” she continues, kneeling over with laughter. “You were running all over the place! No one could stop you!” I can’t help but smile, because although I can’t remember this au naturel look I decided to go for, I like that as a kid I didn’t really care about who saw my body.
But snap back to reality, and I am 23 years old, sitting on my mother’s bed and I can’t help but be disappointed that this indifference about my body didn’t follow me into adulthood. These days, or these years is more accurate, I can feel myself clench up at the thought of going to the beach in a bikini. Or when summer comes around and everyone gets excited over their “beach bod” and knowing my body does not align with the image in their heads. It’s sad to me that this little girl who was once so unashamed of her body grew into someone who cringes at the idea of anyone seeing it.
I can distinctly remember the first time I was concerned about how other people felt about my body. I was in middle school, still tomboyish despite my growing body that felt new ,but still comfortable to me. In our school, the way a boy indicated to a girl that he was interested in her, was allowing her to wear his sweater during recess. All around me, my friends were securing their relationships with boys out in the field, and I decided that it was time I took a shot.
His name was Martin. He was one of the tallest boys in our grade, and was mean to most people. He wasn’t as mean to me.
Out in the courtyard, it was a chilly afternoon. I found Karl and asked him if I could wear his sweatshirt. He didn’t bat an eye or have a wink of hesitation as he fixed his lips to say
“No, you’ll stretch out the material.”
I remember the heat of embarrassment shooting through my entire body as I said okay and ran off to go find my friends. And to make matters worse, about 30 minutes later another (significantly skinner) girl was wearing his sweater, screaming with glee all over the yard.
That was the first time that I looked at my body as more than just a vehicle of getting me where I wanted to go. I hadn’t realized that other people were taking count and measure of the skin I lived in, and had disapproved of it in any way. The way I looked at my body changed from appreciating it, to criticizing and comparing to others.
And so began the on again off again, tumultuous love hate relationship I had with my body. I loved her when she was smaller and loathed her when she couldn’t fit into old clothes. Summer felt like I was holding in the longest breath for three months until I could finally exhale once the comfort of fall sweaters arrived. This went on for years, my quiet shame of not being thin enough, muscular enough, having too big boobs or too small ass. But that fear I’ve held onto since I was eleven years old is melting away as I make peace with my body.
Nowadays, I find myself in the gym some days and eating fairly healthy, but this comes from understanding that taking care of my my body, allows my body to do more for me. Not because I want to fit into the box of what Instagram says my body should look like. I want to speak to my body with love and admiration, and keeping it healthy makes it easier to do so. I don’t weigh myself. I don’t panic if I can’t fit into something I wore last year. I focus on doing what makes me feel good and makes my body feel good because those are the only things that should matter.
Today, I respect the little girl that ripped off her costume to run around a party naked. Although I don’t have any plans to recreate that exact scenario anytime soon, the certainty that my body is fine the way it is, is still in tact.