"She is a beautiful piece of broken pottery, put back together by her own hands. And a critical world judges her cracks while missing the beauty of how she made herself whole again. JM Storm"
My contemplation of this quote has led to some deep self-reflection and the sourcing of many inspiring individuals and collectives that I was excited to feature on instagram (see below also!).
While this quote could relate to men and women, personal growth, spiritual discovery, overcoming hardships – my focus over the past two weeks was directed at the physical ‘cracks’ that we have and how our cultural and personal perceptions of body image affects our concepts of beauty and self worth.
It is no new notion that most women struggle with body image. The trend of eating disorders and body dysmorphia is rampant, and even if our socio-cultural concepts of beauty don’t lead to severe physical and mental health issues, its rare that a woman feels truly satisfied and comfortable in her own skin. Our media and fashion industries continue to produce very narrow views of the female body that reflect less than 5% of the range of shapes and sizes that real, healthy, beautiful women may express. But, this is not new. So why did this quote affect me so deeply?
My closest female friends and I are in our early to mid thirties. In this age group a common topic of conversation centers on impending motherhood (whether single, dating or in partnerships all our biologic clocks start to tick!). While we all know having a brand new being in our lives will lead to changes in many realms of our life, a huge topic of conversation often orbits around fears of how our bodies will change – weight gain, stretch marks, sagging, widening, tearing… In contemplating this week’s quote, and in finding so many body positive mama blogs and instagram groups, the negative focus I have about transitioning into motherhood was really highlighted. What became very apparent to me was how little connection I have with people who are new mothers. Gone are the days when a new generation arrives every 20 years and homes are filled with youngsters from newborns to teens (thank you, birth control!); women are no longer the primary support for one another through pregnancy difficulties, labor and breast-feeding. Now when you are pregnant you see your obstetrician/midwife/doula, maybe go to a few classes, and read one (or 20) of thousands of baby books, bought of amazon and delivered directly to your door. This modern approach is personal and individualized, not communal. Variations of the norm are presented as possibilities which are often met with fear because the individual hasn’t met or seen the many women who have experienced the different manifestations of childbearing and rearing. There is little community around the experience, which adds fear for a young mama-to-be, and isolates young women who are future mamas from the process until it is their time. Meanwhile, women are entering this isolated stage of life, with many sacred and challenging implications, on the background of a culturally imposed, specific, youth-focused beauty ideal that has promoted a more and more specific body type that deviates from most female body types.
Change is often hard for people, but I have a lot of trouble with it. Perhaps it is my desire for control, or my future oriented mind-frame that makes it hard to let go of expectations, but I really struggle with change. So, it isn’t surprising to my partner or my friends that I fear the potential changes that could arise during pregnancy and in motherhood. However, speaking to new mothers and watching young women with their children around the city, I have begun to realize that my fears are likely way overblown. Due to the isolation of the experience of pregnancy and early motherhood (breast feeding in public is still a topic of controversy?!), this ‘change’ seems so distinct. Yet, more realistically, becoming a mother, and the bodily changes that accompany that, exist more on a continuum than as a new chapter. We live in our bodies all our lives and experience so many transformations – people get into shape, lose and gain weight, build muscle, get tattoos, have scars from adventurous accidents or surgeries… Our bodies are always changing, and they are resilient and powerful. It is medically unfounded that my body will be exactly the same after pregnancy as it was before. But honestly, after a heavy dinner of Indian takeout my body doesn’t feel quite the same either. That doesn’t mean that as a healthy, young, fit woman I wont be able to wear the same clothes, participate in the same activities or lift the same weights.
I have a long way to go to becoming completely comfortable with my body in the moment, loving it for its strengths and its imperfections – accepting that both make up its beauty. I am deeply inspired by the Japanese for their practice of kintsukuroi – the repairing of broken pottery with gold and silver, appreciating that these objects are more beautiful for their unique imperfections. When we look at the one’s we love it is the unique things that draw us in and fill our hearts with love - that speck of hazel in their eye, the scar on their chin, the birthmark between their toes. We all need to appreciate the unique aspects of ourselves that are both visible and within, and remember Leonard Cohens wise words – “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
If you are feeling my words and want to find more body positive groups I recommend starting with StyleLikeU and their “Whats Underneath” project, Tribe de Mama, All Woman Project, Raw Beauty Talks. There are also so many empowering individuals out there - @ihartericka, @tessholiday, @theashleygraham, @Mistyonpointe, @WinnieHarlow, @theimpossiblemuse, @littlelizziev, @mamacaxx