My “Problem Area”

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School camp in 2002 (far left)

School camp in 2002 (far left)

One night as a young girl I looked down upon my body when I was lying in bed and lamented, “I can’t wait for the day when my boobs are finally bigger than my tummy.”

Tournament in Rockhampton in 2004

Tournament in Rockhampton in 2004 (foreground)

A few years later and I was blossoming into a well-endowed young woman, but it didn’t change how I felt about my tummy. Every woman has insecure parts and for me, since that night, it has been my stomach. I was exercising every morning, playing tennis after school each day, and playing in tournaments on weekends, yet I still believed that my stomach protruded too far and that I was fat. The insecurity magnified when the man I shared about in last week’s post confessed that when he placed his hands around my waist, “It doesn’t feel nice.” In that tiny, insignificant moment he confirmed the lies I’d been believing all those years: that I was fat and therefore I was not beautiful.

In 2009 on a year of mission

In 2009 on a year of mission (far left)

After breaking up with him I settled into learning how to be comfortable in my own skin. Time passed and I thought that I had gotten over it. Whilst I wasn’t particularly fond of my middle, I could dress in particular ways to hide it and I was an average size 12, so I figured I was fine.

But then my friend got engaged and I was asked to be a bridesmaid. Echoing Katelyn’s sentiments in her guest post a few week’s ago, the expectation arose as we ordered our dresses, “Will you be losing weight for the wedding?” only it was targeted not just at my friend, but the entire bridal party.

She and I decided that the answer was yes (whilst the other two bridesmaids opted out), so we began doing a Saturday morning boot camp. It was physically tough and reminded me of my tennis days. Eventually it wasn’t just physically tough but mentally tough as I started to question why we were putting our bodies through the rigmarole. To look good? Why did it matter? I’d been told enough times at church that God created women as beautiful, that I was beautiful as I was, as God created me.

A few months passed and we all went for a second round of dress fittings. I was the last to step into my dress and the dressmaker said unthinkingly as she pulled at the lace up back, “Oh, you’re the only one who hasn’t lost any weight.” The other three girls stood there, not knowing what to do, what to say. I choked back tears and tried desperately to play the good bridesmaid as my heart fell into a thousand little pieces. I was so disappointed and confused – the other two bridesmaids hadn’t joined us for the boot camp and yet they had lost weight – while I’d been shedding blood, sweat, and tears for weeks, yet the kilos remained. It felt unjustified, but more seriously, it solidified in me the need to lose weight. Like it was a requirement and I’d failed by not having done so.

Bridesmaids in 2011

Bridesmaids in 2011 (middle)

I continued to fight with myself about why we were doing the boot camp until one Saturday the voices in my head became a yelling match, a war, back and forth. We were on a grass oval next to a park and it had been raining the night before so the ground was wet and muddy. I was in the midst of a circuit and mid-push up, as a raging lioness roared out from within me against the other voices in my head, “I AM beautiful.“ I could feel the other women’s eyes burning into me but the tears had clouded my vision, not that I could look at them anyway. “What was that, Michaela?” the trainer asked. In my minds’ eye I could see his face – my ex-boyfriend – as I spat at him even louder,
“I AM BEAUTIFUL AS I AM!” And then I broke down in the mud, crying exhausted tears as my friend and the trainer came to me and celebrated like I’d won some great victory.

Shawn and I on our wedding day

Shawn and I on our wedding day in 2015

Now, five years later, I’m married myself and the healing continues. I came to bed one night wearing my big, baggie old Ignite Conference t-shirt. Size XXXL. “This is my favourite,” my husband said to me. I glanced in the mirror and thought I looked frumpy and ridiculous, but he persisted, telling me that I was beautiful and that he loved it when I wore that particular shirt. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how he thinks me beautiful when I wear it – but I don’t need to know the how, only that when he says it I know that he means it. Oh and he likes that my tummy is soft. So the healing continues.

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