I Found Happiness After Leaving The Man Who Body Shamed Me

Vranas stands me naked in front of the full-length mirror. He's fully dressed in black, standing behind me, looking at me appraisingly. He reaches down, grabs the inside of one of my thighs with one hand and the outside of my thigh with his other hand and pulls back. My saddlebag and soft inner thigh are pulled taunt, bunched up at the back of my leg. Now my thigh appears thin and tight in the reflection, instead of soft and curvy.

"If you looked like this, you would be beautiful," he says authoritatively.  I do not argue or resist. I am ashamed. I'm 33 and he's 58, and he's my husband

Throughout our relationship of nine years he has criticized my body; I hear the echo of my mother's voice from my childhood, commenting on my too-large butt, my too-round thighs. In comparing myself to popular images of women in the media, his and her assessment of my inadequacies is reinforced: my body is not acceptable ... I am not acceptable. 

Days later, my friend Mohammed tells me I'm too thin. He says I am beautiful, but too thin. He’s a Nubian fellucca captain and he has heard how my husband insults my body and disagrees. If I was his woman and I lived in his village, they would fatten me up. Surely I would be healthier if I put on some weight, he chides.  

I'm confused; who gets to decide if my body is beautiful?

How can I feel happiness and self love in my skin from the inside out? My journey to embracing my body started with asking these questions and seeking support in generating my own answers. 

First, I left Vranas and surrounded myself with loving and supportive friends who reflected back to me my authentic beauty. I worked with a therapist who helped me answer why I had chosen and stayed with a man who consistently made me wrong, in body, deed and word. I started dancing again, exploring the joy of being in a body, rediscovering the wordless wisdom of incarnation.

I focused on nurturing myself from the inside out: A naturopath introduced me to a holistic view of my wellbeing. I experimented with what foods energized and which depleted me, being curious and compassionate as I reconnected to the joy of eating and released my patterns of using food as a buffer to emotional pain.

I started celebrating the beauty I saw in the real women around me of all different shapes and sizes. I abandoned comparing them or myself to anyone else, especially images in the media. In honoring the beauty of every women, I experienced a peace and gratitude for my own inimitable and unique beauty.

My body is beautiful and so is yours. Each person's beauty and worth is intrinsic and unchanging, yet in our culture we collapse both with weight, shape and success in meeting an ideal, which largely doesn't exist.

5 Keys To Body Love:

  1. Remember that worth and beauty are innate.
  2. Stop comparing. Start celebrating your unique beauty and that of the women around you.
  3. Look on marketing images as fetishistic art having nothing to do with reality. 
  4. Seek out images of real women like those by photographer Jade Beal and her A Beautiful Body Project, and search for body positive images on Tumblr.
  5. Support and participate in body positive media, like Embrace, a crowd funded film currently in production by former bodybuilding champion Taryn Brumfitt.