When part-time breaks my heart

January 27, 2015

There’s a women’s clothing store in my hometown that I spend quite a bit of time in. Not because I love shopping, but because I work there. I’ve been there for awhile now and there are parts of mu job that I love. The women I work with, the impact I can have, and the smiles I get to see. But, there are definitely moments that I dread. It’s not what you think – I don’t dread the frustrated customers or those who need more help than the average shopper. It’s not that at all. 

I dread the moments when a woman is standing in front of the three-way mirror, looking fabulous, and she says to me…

“Well, I don’t look like you so I don’t look THAT good in this.”
“I wish they looked as good on me as they do on you.”

“I could never wear that. I need to hide more than that.”

Or, it’s the moment when I overhear a mother sharing her body-bashing with my coworker or a fellow customer and I can’t help but feel the need to take her daughter’s hand and walk away for a few minutes.  

I’ve  been struggling to find the words to write this blog for some time now because of the frustration I’m  feeling. I faced this conversation yesterday as a kind, funny woman was searching for a comfortable pair of jeans. She came out of the fitting room in a new pair that looked great. I looked at her and said “They fit you really well! You look great!” Her response: “Ha! If I looked like you they would look great. I need to hide more.”  For some reason, that comment brought me to a place of deeper frustration and exhaustion than I had experienced before. 

It took everything I had to walk away without looking in her eyes to say:

“It’s not a competition! My body, my existence, does not change the value of yours. You have NOTHING to hide. What you do have to hide from is a society trying to convince you that one body is better or more beautiful than another. Comparing your body to mine doesn’t do either of us any good. In fact, all it does is make you feel self-conscious and inferior, while I feel uncomfortable and ashamed of the fact that my presence did anything to lessen the love you have for yourself.”  

As women, we so easily forget that everyone has an insecurity or a discomfort with our bodies. I’m fortunate to be really comfortable with my body, but I’m reminded almost every day of one “inferiority”: I have a flat butt. I do. It’s a problem when I’m shopping for jeans or a skirt with a certain cut. Based on the songs I hear on the radio and the comments I see on social media, flat butts are not the “in” thing. But, here’s my secret to my love of my very flat butt – I have my grandma’s body. I have her shape and, in a strange way, I feel a strong connection to her now that she’s gone because of it. I get to walk in her shoes because of this body I was given to live my life in. Because of that, I LOVE my flat butt. 

Your body is a gift. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that and I’m sure I’ll say it again. We have a very serious problem when our society is filled with women who have no idea how to love their bodies. We have an even bigger problem when I can see our future forming in the eyes of the little girls who listen to their moms talk about her diet and the weight she’s going to lose so she can fit into a dress and love herself. 

Moms, one of the greatest gifts you can give your daughter is the ability to love herself and her body for exactly what it is. She’ll learn how to do that by watching you. When you’re shopping, when you’re looking in the mirror, when you’re standing on a scale, when you’re eating, when you’re exercising. She’s watching and she’s learning. What are you teaching her?

I can’t tell you the last time I was on a scale. I have no idea what I weigh and, honestly, I don’t care to know. I do know that I feel strong when I run. I know that I feel good when I eat better food. I know that I need 7 hours of sleep to function.  I know that I’m healthy. I also know that the shape and weight of the body standing next to, across from, or behind me has no effect on the value of mine. I’ve shaped my life around listening to my body, around loving it rather than hating it. I own this body. It’s mine and the beauty of it is entirely dependent upon the way I choose to live and the level of confidence I choose to exude. 

It’s your life. You’re the only one who can choose who you’re “competing” with; the other women in the room or that voice in your head. Rock what ya got.