My daughter is 19 months old, and she is perfect. Her pale, almost see-through skin, her gray eyes, her chubby stomach and dimply arms and tiny little legs—it’s all perfect and completely beautiful. And this perfection isn’t just hers. Every body I know well is perfect: my partner’s, my mother’s, my own. Yes, as I see how beautiful others are, I am working toward seeing that same beauty in myself. All those changes my daughter made to my body: my round post-baby belly, the stretch marks on my hips and breasts and abdomen, the scar from the c-section. It’s all lovely and tender. As well as those parts of me that have not changed: my muscular calves, my bunion feet, the mole on my ankle, the scar on my neck from the neuroblastoma tumor, and the gray eyes and pale, see-through skin I passed on to my daughter.
Today I watched this video (be aware it contains nudity). I love Jade Beall’s mission and her photography. There is a photo at 00:37 of a mother showing her child the bikini-line scar from her c-section. I cried when I saw that beauty and that pain which I have known so well.
Each of our bodies tells a story. My daughter’s body speaks of her newness, her fragility, her impressionable mind. And my body weaves the tale of my 26 years—the scars of old injuries and surgeries, and the wrinkles of much laughter and many tears. Why do we hate our skin? Is it because it tells our story, makes us vulnerable to everyone who sees us? We are so good at hiding our pain; we don’t want our bodies to give it away.
But what a blessing, if we can learn to embrace ourselves! I’m not going to pose nude for one of Beall’s photos, but I am going to look in the mirror at myself and listen to my story and not be ashamed of it. My skin shouts out, Yes, I’ve gone through all that! And look at me now; look at all the beautiful, profound, excruciating, fantastic living I’ve done! Of all the thousand, million blessings I receive every day, one huge one is this body of hurts and strengths, of laughter and stories.
To tell those we love dearly the stories of our bodies is a wonderful gift. And to listen to our own stories and learn to love ourselves is profoundly healing. Be brave: embrace yourself. You are lovely.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
-from Psalm 139
PS – Also thought I’d share this, because I know it’s a bit crude, but it’s good to remember we are beautiful even though virtually no one has a “bikini body.” 🙂