Two years ago, I put photos on the internet of my plus size bod in a bikini. This past year, the curvy bikini thing has really taken off, and I’m honored to have been a part of that revolution. But between then and now, my self-love has slipped some. I’ve gained a little weight, coming back up to my extremely stable set-point. I’ve had an episode of depression. As part of that depression, I’ve been less active, so my body isn’t as healthy right now as I like to keep it, regardless of size. As a body love advocate, it’s hard when I find myself self-hating. It’s difficult to talk about. But yeah, that shit happens.
I’m part of a monthly women’s spirituality group. Once a month, we get together, make a meal, eat, share our joys and challenges, and do an activity. On Friday night, I was the host, so it was my turn to come up with our activity. In the past, I have done groups on trance dancing, the tarot, Zen meditation. Over the years, we have explored everything from feng shui to past lives, dreams to Isadora Duncan.
I knew I wanted to do a group on body love. I needed it. I know most women need it. As I was brainstorming activities, I remembered posing for my sister, who is an amazing artist, as she sketched me nude. I had seen her sketches of strangers, the lines of their bodies, the wrinkles, the rolls, the curves and shapes. I had seen how the “imperfections” were the most beautiful parts. So I asked her to sketch me. I watched her click into artist mode, where she was no longer looking at my body as a body, but only as shapes, lines, curves. In that space, there is no judgment. There are only shapes. I wanted to see myself that way.
Before the group met, I tried it. I took a photo of my nude torso in the mirror, and then used the photo to sketch myself. I don’t know if it would work for everyone, but I am enough of an artist that it worked for me. My belly was no longer this sagging thing to be judged or hated. It was a shape, a curve, that I was trying to accurately capture with my pencil. It was a completely non-judgmental space and a very transforming way of seeing my own body.
When I finished the sketch, I looked at it as a whole. It was the kind of body I would wish for. And it was mine. As a set of lines, it was easier to see the beauty. The perfection of the imperfections came across in a piece of art in a way that doesn’t happen in the mirror. I decided to write over the pencil lines with my thoughts about my body. I intended to do affirmational positive body talk, but what emerged was just… what is. “This is my fupa, my apron, my flap. It used to hold my precious children.” “This one [my right breast] is smaller and lower.” No judgment. Just… what is. When I was done, I erased the pencil lines, and was left with my body shape, created out of my language about it.
I was left with a sense of peace. And this incredibly powerful piece of paper.
|My body, in my own words|
The next night, the group met. We ate and drank and talked. And then it was activity time. They did sketches of their legs, their bellies, their smiles. I watched as they clicked into artist mode, trying to capture the beautiful lines of themselves. I did a second piece with the group of my face in profile. I have struggled with my nose for as long as I can remember, and more recently with my neck, which hovers just on the cusp of a double chin. As a piece of art, though, my nose is the best part. That roller coaster curve of bridge, bump, and ball. That’s me. It’s one of the defining curves of my body. Although slightly larger in person than it is in this drawing, that curve of my nose is what makes this image identifiably me.
|Faces are way harder to draw. If you try this at home, maybe don't do your face. Because dude, hard.|
If you struggle with body image, I encourage you to try this activity yourself. In the aftermath of it, I feel a kind of calm acceptance I haven’t felt before. It’s different from the exuberance, the “I am one sexy bitch,” of the bikini project. This is a quiet love. An acknowledgment of what is, without judgment or the desire to change it. These curves are me. These words and thoughts are me. I am a perfectly imperfect piece of art.