I stopped hating my body today. I had to. It was fogging my vision about who I am. Why today? Because after only being married for 3 weeks, I hated my wedding pictures. Someday they may be all I have to remember that day, and if when I’m 80 and I need to use pictures to reflect on one of the most beautiful times of my life, I do not want my first thought to be “look at those thighs! I can’t believe I wore that dress!”
I can’t let that happen, because that’s not how I felt. I felt beautiful, more beautiful than I ever remember feeling. Some of that feeling came because I pampered myself that morning. My nails and hair were done with much more care than I normally give. My dress was a flattering fit and color (no white for me, royal blue was my color). I took extra time with my makeup, going beyond the normal mascara and lip color I’ve been getting by with lately.
That was all just a small part of the feeling that made me feel beautiful. The icing on the cake, if you will. A large part of what made me feel beautiful that day was the way my husband just knew I was beautiful, inside and out, and never hesitated to tell me regularly. He loves everything about me, and if for only a moment, that loved consumed my being and shined through every part of me that day. I was marrying the love of my life, my soulmate. My life was beautiful. How could I not be? How could I not think that I shined like that every day?
Then after we returned from our honeymoon, I saw the pictures. Hundreds of raw photos taken throughout the day from many different angles. I had gotten what I asked for, a photographer to snap, but not edit, pictures of everything and everyone. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe I wore that dress. I couldn’t forgive myself for not trying to lose 40 lbs during our 9 month engagement. I couldn’t stand to look at that fat woman standing on the stage with such a handsome man. I thought how naïve I was to think myself so beautiful that I didn’t need to wear three layers of shapewear, from chest to calves two sizes too small, and just hold my breath for 4 hours so that I could look gorgeous and thin.
Then I realized, that is all I was seeing. Instead of seeing the beauty of a marriage ceremony celebrating the love between two deserving people, taking vows and praying in front of the people in our lives whom we love dearly; I saw a wide butt and fat thighs.
I kept going back to that. Instead of seeing the beauty of the day, I saw my imperfections. Instead of being grateful that I found a wonderful man with whom to merge two loving and caring families, I scrutinized how I looked.
I wondered, is that what everyone else saw? Did I look so hideous on that amphitheater stage exchanging vows with an amazing man, that everyone out in the audience was embarrassed for me? Then I worried even more. Why would they think that? Couldn’t they see how beautiful I felt and admire what a lovely ceremony it was and be happy for me? Then I realized that, yes, they did see how beautiful I felt and they did admire the lovely ceremony. Because I have genuinely loving people in my life who would never be so shallow as to think or see anything else.
It was a beautiful ceremony. My two grown sons walked me down the steps of the amphitheater in the botanical gardens, to a stage where a man waited to take me as his wife. My sons hugged us both and when they returned to their seats on either side of my mother, the pastor had us join hands and performed a very special service that united us as husband and wife. Beautiful words captured the very essence of our beautiful and blessed lives.
After we were pronounced husband and wife, we proceeded to the seats where our combined 11 immediate family members stood (5 children, 2 son-in-laws, 3 grandchildren, 1 mom). One by one, we handed them each a white rose as a symbol of family unity. We then stood and greeted all of the guests who came to witness our love that day. A fabulous reception and after-reception party rounded out a magnificent day filled with love, laughter and togetherness. It was a perfect day.
A perfect day so very fitting for an imperfect life. Which is what life is; imperfect. I couldn’t ask for more. The time has come for me to stop being so hard on myself for imperfections that do not define who I am. My worth is not measured by the numbers on the scale or by the size of my dress. My beauty is not determined by my ability (or inability) to pour into shapewear and hold my breath. Not every picture of me reflects the image I see in my mind’s eye, that’s why photo editing tools exist. Better thing is that love exists! Love overlooks those shallow imperfections. I don’t see flaws when I look at someone I love, but yet I spent too much time seeing flaws when I look at myself. It’s time I love all aspects of myself with the same compassion and grace with which I love others.
Now that I stopped hating my body, what will I do with all of this extra time? Once I dump a bunch of unedited, unflattering wedding photos, that is. Who’s got room to keep that many pictures, anyway?