Last week I did something that many women do around this time of year. A spring ritual full with strong inhales to imagine an ideal and deep sighs once the discouragement of reality sets in.
You see, I was going on a weekend trip to the lake. So the time had come. The time had come to dig my swimsuits out from the infamous bottom dresser drawer. The time had come to discover what still fit. I dreaded this day. I procrastinated until the night before our trip, and I only had the garments purchased for my pre-pandemic, pre-multiple quarantines, pre-getting-laid-off then-hired-then-quitting-that-job body. They were bought for a summer of freedom that now feels foreign, and I worried they could no longer hold the version of me that exists today.
I remember every year of this ritual going back to sixth grade, and I can count on exactly two fingers how many times I walked away feeling good about myself. One was in college, after months of unhealthy dieting. The other? Last Thursday. So what changed?
Hint: not my BMI.
Something different happened. My mindset changed. I didn’t realize that it had until I stood there, in front of my mirror, smiling. My stomach and my cellulite and my pale skin didn’t worry me anymore. They encouraged me.
My stomach: evidence of my newfound love for cooking, and the beginnings of a relationship with a man who buys the chocolate bar at the register, then gives me half once we get in the car. That makes me smile.
My cellulite: a reminder that 80–90 percent of women have the same dimples I do. My cellulite stands as evidence to that heritage, the history of women before me who lived strong, brave, adventurous lives, even with textured fat on their thighs. That makes me smile.
My pale skin: evidence of a year keeping myself and others safe. A year staying home and building deeper relationships with the people under my roof. Those friendships make me smile.
I discovered that my body no longer serves as a tool to be whittled down to perfection, but rather as a treasure chest—ornate and beautiful in its own right but inside containing something of far greater value.