I remember what it was like to be a kid, unaware of my body, free from the intellectual, examining relationship to it. Before I considered it in comparison to other bodies. Before I worried about what other people said or thought of it. Back when it was pure function and joy, a vessel for movement, love and freedom, and still deeply connected to a primal state of being.
At some point, we leave that innocent place and we become suddenly aware of the imperfection of our bodies. I remember being a teenager, my hips suddenly expanding, and other kids (especially boys) teasing me. I probably wouldn't have even noticed the change in my body if it weren't for others pointing it out.
My relationship with my body has not always been kind, to say the least. As a model I remember being ridiculed in Japan for having what seemed a very unusual body. (Yes, my hips again). I remember being told in Spain that they wanted to hire me because it looked like “I ate,” and for a model that was a huge insult (although I did get the job). I’ve been on every diet you can imagine, and to be free of that at this point in my life is a relief. To want to be healthy, to feel strong, and to feel beautiful is really a whole different way to look at my life and at my body.
I remember being at one of my best friend’s weddings. Never had she looked more beautiful, and of course she had worked hard to prepare for her wedding. She created the most beautiful environment for her wedding. Everything was gorgeous. And yet, as she was getting ready, I could feel her judging herself and her body. With all my heart I said, ‘If you can’t see how beautiful you are today, you will never see it’. And I wasn’t just talking about her body or her dress. She had worked so hard for this moment, and she had put so much energy into it. I knew that if she stayed in her mind of not feeling good enough (that ultimate distraction, that bad habit we can have to constantly criticize ourselves or wish things were different), she was going to miss the glory of her wedding. And she would miss out on feeling like the true, radiant queen that she was in that moment.
I follow a lot of exercise programs on Instagram and I’m constantly bombarded by women who have transformed their bodies. Sometimes I think it’s amazing and inspiring, and at other times I get really tired of it. I want to be strong and I want to be beautiful, but at what cost? Can I do that and feel in my body and loving towards myself? What if I am already strong and beautiful and I don’t need to transform? I’m not sure how we can discern these things as women.
You see, I want to be an example to my kids of someone who enjoys life and isn’t always in a state of Wishing Things Were Different. If my kids could hear the thoughts in my mind as I look in the mirror ... oh right, they can. They really can. That’s one of the superpowers kids have: knowing all the things we think we are hiding from them. Because of this, I’ve dug deep, reached in, and chosen to heal the part of me that doesn’t want to be anything for anybody else but myself. It’s an ongoing process.
Oh, and I’m turning 50 this summer. Perhaps this is the rite of passage that comes with 50. Maybe that’s what it takes (50 years?!) but i don't want to believe that. Does my daughter really have to go through this? Does it have to take this long for her? Or can she find it sooner? How can I help? Can she live in a world that values her? I believe she can love herself fiercely as she grows but I know not to rely on the world to teach her to value herself. We have to do that as renegades, because it goes against the system. It’s radical, in fact. Insurgent.
And truly the same goes for boys and men: can my boys feel good about themselves? Can they feel masculine enough and still be who they truly are? There’s so much nonsense, isn’t there? There’s so much that really doesn't matter. An entire industry is built on insecurity, self-doubt, fixing, never-attaining. God forbid you’re confidant, feel good about yourself, and don't feel like you need anything outside yourself! If that was true, the beauty industry (and many others) would crumble to the ground.
Listen, I love beauty. I love my essential oils and my elixirs, I love my green drinks and my adaptogens. I love new ways of taking care of my health. But it all comes back down to the same place (a marketing place) that I just can't stand.
And every day we are aging. If you’re 30, you’re "aging," if you’re 40, you’re "aging." And now I’m going to be 50. And finally I feel all of the pressure so much less. Maybe it’s 50, maybe that's what it really takes. I don’t know. But you see, my daughter’s 8. I don't want her to have to wait until she’s 50. So it starts with me, and it starts with you. It starts with really looking at where we put our attention. I danced in the kitchen the other day, tears streaming down my face, pain leaving my body, for a life filled with wishing and wanting to be good enough. I’ve worked through a lot of that—I didn’t even know there was any left—but as I danced away the last pieces, I wept.
I wept for all the women who had come before me, and for the men. I wept for the future. I want to live in a world where women are valued and men are valued, children are valued, humanity is valued, the elderly are valued, family is valued, nature is valued, connection is valued. And it starts with me.
And so now as I step over yet another threshold, crossing the line into 50, through this door I bring (as always) grace. I bring fierceness and strength. I bring all that I’ve learned, all that I’ve lost, all that I’ve gained. I bring with me truth and knowing, and I bring with me what it really feels like to know beauty on the inside, rather than just the outside. I bring with me the map of confidence, of being truly myself, of loving my family more than I ever thought possible. I bring it all with me because now it’s all who I am, there’s no separating it. And with each step, I’ll offer what I can to my daughter and her friends—these children with their lithe limbs and playful dancing—as they move through a world that snapshots their every move, asking them to be more and more beautiful, beautiful enough to be #trending or liked.
This moment in history, like so many others, demands an unforgiving feminine strength. One that sings only truth, the truth that hurts and illuminates. And I am here to give them that. Because now I’ve been through it, and I’ve come out the other side, and I’m still here, and the view is vast and clear.
Our theme this month at Annapurna Living is Softness. Want to go even deeper into it? Join the Annapurna Living Inner Circle where Carrie-Anne shares personal thoughts and conversations. Want to submit a themed story to us? Click here to view our themes and guidelines.
The photo in this post is by Michelle Gardella.