A lesson I’m teaching myself about my body

I was standing in front of the mirror in my skinny jeans laughing internally at the irony that in these “skinny jeans” my thighs are ferociously large. It’s always been one of my biggest insecurities. At home, before I go out, I always ask my mum, “do my legs look big?” and then it often ends with me changing into genie pants and thinking, “if they can’t see my legs, they won’t know that they’re big”. This Christmas, as I was pulling up a leg of my genie pants, I decided that I was sick of always feeling this way. I made it one of my New Year’s Resolution that by the end of this year, I will be confident with my body because, quite frankly, no one cares about the size of my thighs – except me. There have been several hiccups since then, but I’m working on it. The thing is, I see people incredibly toned (basically muscle and bone) and a small frame and I wonder why they look the way they do and why I look the way I do. I mean, fair, I’m not sticking to a strictly healthy diet – but what’s life without a few guilty indulges.

Then I stumble across ESPN’s body issue covers of the fittest female athletes’ bodies, and while I already knew that there is a variety of body types for players of different sports – it never quite dawned on me like it did then just how much the world does not give a damn if your thighs are big when you’re good at what you do. I don’t know whether these sports covers have an impact on other women as much as they did with me, but I am so grateful for it. Don’t get me wrong, there is no way I’m comparing myself to them, because they’re in a league so far above me I can’t even begin to imagine. But it’s nice to always be reminded that our bodies don’t have to always adhere to conventional ‘aesthetic’ standards when it’s doing what we love to do.

As a football player, and a centre back, I believe now that my body was never meant to be as slim and swift and agile as wingers or strikers. I’m meant to be big and butch and strong. I’m meant to hold my ground and be aggressive and a bully (all well within the rules, of course, what’s a good game without good sportsmanship?). I’m currently writing this on the tube back from a two hour training session for our regional football tournament and I think that I gave one of my best performances. Whilst being relaxed and surrounded by friends definitely attributed to that, I also think that I’ve been playing better and better since the year started. Because it feels like I no longer care as much about my weight and all the extra fluff in the places I wish there weren’t, I can start to embrace it and use that as an advantage. I see the England Women’s team and they’re all strong and firm and I admire that so much. I do believe that it’s this gradual sense of comfort that I’m slowly finding in my body that converts to the confidence I have in myself on the pitch. After all, football is equally as much of a physical game as it is a mental game.

So I guess the point of all of this is that I’m sharing my journey to being fully comfortable in my own skin and slowly unlearning all of these social pressures placed on me, as cliched as that is. I am more (both in terms of, y’know, size and mentality) than what conventional society depicts as a ‘healthy and strong’ woman that I can probably never look like. Here’s to celebrating strong, healthy, athletic women of all sizes.

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