written by Molly
I don’t remember exactly what point that my thinking about my body shifted. I have a general idea of where I lived and what I was doing at the time, but I don’t think I ever woke up one morning and thought, “Oh hey! I’m free to love my body now!” It seems more like it’s been a gradual shift and less like a lightening-bolt epiphany. But before I tell you what I think about my body now, I’ll tell you a little about what led me to where I’m at.
I grew up along the Georgia coast. It is beautiful there. The Live Oak trees grow tall and thick; their long arms reach haphazardly every which way (much further than you think they could without becoming uprooted and falling over). The Spanish moss hangs like royal robes from their limbs. Rivers and inlets snake along between the pluff mud banks and the beautiful, green marsh grass. It is truly a magical place to grow up. Like most places around the world, there are people there who hang onto their harmful ideas the way the pluff mud grabs onto your shoes if you try to walk in it. You aren’t ever getting those shoes back, and they aren’t ever lettin’ go of those ideas, y’all.
I’m not here to discuss the merits of teaching young girls that their bodies should be covered because boys cannot control their own thoughts, and it is a girl’s responsibility to care for her brother’s purity. Yeah, I’m not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole at this point, but I’m sure you can guess what I think about it. I’m am here to tell you that those ideas damaged the way I (me, personally) have thought about my body and my purpose as a woman, and I’ve spent years re-learning how to talk to myself about my body.
Not only did I have complicated ideas about my body being taught to me (not by my parents directly, but more often by the authority figures at my church), I also taught myself complicated ideas about my body. I’ve always been sturdy; I was the one you didn’t want to call over when playing Red Rover cause I was going to bust right through those weak little hands. There wasn’t a single boy in my Sunday School class who was taller than me until 4th grade. Now, I could be wrong, but I don’t think there are many little girls who take pride in being bigger than ALL the boys AND the girls—I certainly didn’t. No one wants to be different than everyone else, least of all Fourth-Grade-Molly. And then came 5th grade.
I’m pretty close to the same size I was in 5th grade. I’m 5 feet, 3 inches tall now, and I’m not any taller than I was in 5th grade. I can still fit into a lot of the clothes I wore then. If you’re wondering…yeah, I basically looked like a grown woman at 12 years old. Again, not ideal if you don’t really want to be different than everyone else. Even though no one ever said this to me, I carried with me the idea that no boys would ever like me because I was “fatter” than all of the other girls. Make no mistake, I was curvy and had stretch marks on my hips, but I was never fat as an adolescent. If I could go back and tell Adolescent Molly anything, it would be that “It’s ok to be different. It’s ok to have curves. It’s ok to be strong. Please don’t hide the really special parts of you just because they make you different.”
A Little Shift
In 2015, my husband and I moved to New Haven, CT. We had been married for about five years at that point, and I was just beginning to think about the world a little differently than I had growing up. It was a small shift, but a shift none the less.
After several years of my only physical activity being really long walks several times a week, I decided I wanted to try to get back into a gym. I wanted to lift some heavy things and maybe throw them around a little, so I searched high and low for a CrossFit-like experience, and one day, I stumbled upon Tuff Girl Fitness located in Hamden, CT. Now, this is a place unlike anywhere else I’ve ever worked out. Christa, and the TG team, taught me a WHOLE lot about what coming to the gym exactly as I was that day (tired, run-down, unhappy, whatever) and leaving the gym just a little bit better (stronger, more powerful, grace given) looked like. I will carry that concept with me to all of my fitness experiences from here on out.
Tuff Girl’s mission statement says this (and it’s a message I can get behind): “We like to call ourselves a community of awesome, committed to helping women realize their potential for greatness.
Because women are unique and different (and we LOVE that!) you won’t see a “type” at Tuff Girl. We look different, we have different lives and struggles, and we are at different places in our journey towards health and fitness. But we can agree on one thing: we want to become more. We want to become fitter, stronger, faster, more empowered, and have fun along the way.”
Tuff Girl was the first gym I’ve worked out in that truly celebrated strength over a smaller size. I learned a LOT about myself there. I learned to love what my strong legs could do, I learned how to push through something I didn’t think I could push through, I learned to really love all the parts of me (the muscles, the lumps and bumps, the curves, that pesky chin hair, and all of the parts that house my soul), I learned that really hard things eventually end, or you build the strength to get through them. I’ve always wanted to love all of me, and Tuff Girl gave me the tools to finally make it happen.
The shift in my thinking came slowly. I began responding to each harmful thought (“Your legs are way too thick and lumpy, Molly.” “You shouldn’t wear this top; it’s going to cause problems, and it’s wrong to feel good in clothes like this.”) with a redirection (“Your legs are STRONG, Molly, and they will only get stronger. Just look what they can do!” “Do you feel good and like the best version of yourself in this? If yes, then wear it and hold your head high while you do. It’s ok to feel sexy.”). The shift came because I stopped giving space to the negative and redirected to the positive (or to acceptance if I couldn’t find the positive) over, and over, and over again.
Now, here’s a little behind-the-scenes truth for ya: do I love the way I look in the mirror every single day? Nah, I really don’t. But I’ve learned to accept who I see in the mirror, I’ve learned to give her grace, and I’ve learned when to tell her it’s time to push a little harder. I have learned to tell her how grateful I am to her for what she does for me and the health she gives me. My body is not 100% perfect, but I love it just the same.
A Note to Young Molly
If I could go back and tell Young Molly anything, here’s what I would tell her: “You are not (NOT, NOT, NOT) responsible for the thoughts a man chooses to think about your body. You can feel proud of your curves and still be a good person. It is absolutely possible to embrace your sexiness AND love God at the same time. You can love your body as it is and still set goals. You can love your body as it is and still want better for it. You are imperfect, but you are alive AND healthy. It is ok to love your body, Molly, and it is ok to allow others to love it, too.”
I turned 30 years old last September, and for the first time in my life, I am choosing to love all of me. For the most part, I’ve always accepted me (something I’m really thankful for), but I haven’t always loved me (the inside and the outside). What a freeing thing to feel, and I think Young Molly would be really proud of who I am today.