BODY TALK: Michelle Silverstein, Client Services
Welcome to Body Talk, an S-Life series for the month of February, where we will be fearlessly opening this portal of communication about self-love, self-deprecation, and touching on anything and everything in-between.
The aim here is not image-making, or perfection-seeking. Rather, it is image-wrecking, perfection-shattering, and infinite-purpose discovering in order to peel back the layers of the images we have each built of ourselves and who we are suppose to be, in faithful anticipation that we may unearth the absolute Love and Beauty that we have always been, and always will be. We each have unique bodies, and unique stories to tell. Here, we will be telling ours, in faith that you will be encouraged to tell yours. So without further hesitation, may we introduce to you, The #SakaraBodyTalk of:
Michelle Silverstein, Client Services Associate at Sakara Life
For as long as I can remember, I have been the tall girl. With an athletic build and curves, I have always viewed myself as -- and what I now can say with pride -- what I like to call A Big Girl. There is not a day of my life I can remember having stick thin arms, legs, or narrow hips. Looking at pictures of myself as a child, I was just always a little bigger than the rest. My memories of high school, hitting my current height of 5’11’’ early on, are always of being larger and taller than the rest of the other girls in my class, and not to mention, the boys as well. I constantly compared myself -- and my body -- to others around me, and struggled consistently growing up with being what I felt like was large. I was ashamed of my size and how much bigger I was, and generally wrapped myself up in a giant sweatshirt to hide my body.
Feeling unsettled in my own skin was always a huge struggle for me growing up, and it wasn’t until college that I started to gain a bit of familiarity with my body and grow comfortable within it. Not only had everyone else in college finally caught up with my outstanding growth spurt of 2001, but boys -- for the first time might I add -- were beginning to pay attention to me. Although this was amazing at the time, sadly it was also one of the leading causes as to why I started to feel comfortable with my height. They appreciated my size, and the figure I had. My feminist self hates the fact that it was the acceptance of the men that lead me to grow comfort with my body, but looking back, it definitely attributed to it. It wasn’t until my freshman year that for the first time, I started to gain self-confidence and awareness of my body, and own my height and build for what it was: beautiful.
However, my struggles with my body were not absolved in college. Fast forward to my mid-twenties when suddenly my struggles with size and body image resurfaced. Single for the first time in eight years, I was thrown into the harsh reality of the New York dating game. I found myself relating my body back to others around me: 'Was I as skinny as she? Am I too big for him? Do you think he thinks I’m too tall?' These were the types of things that plagued my mind and my self-confidence every single day. I realized that for the past seven years, I had completely related my body -- and my confidence in my body -- to the man I was with. Now that I was single, I didn’t have a body identity and this was depressing to think about mainly because my body is mine, and why was I comparing it to someone else's?
I found myself staring in the mirror every day, dissecting myself left and right. Working out as much as I possibly could, but really just continuing to get bigger and bigger, and gaining more weight. My skin was horrible, I felt sick, and was always stressed about my weight. I was facing a downward spiral of body shaming and disappointment, and was constantly viewing myself in comparison to the size of others around me. I wasn’t owning my Big Girl status for what it was -- instead, I was fighting it. I would go on dates, and rather than enjoying them and getting to know the person on the other side of the table, I just compared my size to his and felt uncomfortable the whole time.
It took a whole year and a half for me to finally realize the harm I was causing myself; that constantly identifying myself in terms of my compatibility to men and nitpicking my body wasn’t going to get me anywhere. It wasn’t until I was in a yoga class one day and trying desperately to get into a forearm stand that the teacher came over to help me. Thinking there was no way this 175 pound giant (yes, I just admitted my weight for the first time ever) was getting upside down on just the strength of her elbows, I was floored when she told me I could do it.
I remember her distinctly, in her raspy southern voice, saying to me, 'You are a tall, beautiful drink of water -- you are no shrinking violet -- but girl, that doesn’t
mean you can’t get upside down!' And, contrary to my belief, she was so right! Why couldn’t I do it?
I started to realize I had to have a serious conversation with myself about my body and who I was. I had to accept the fact that at 28, I wasn’t going to be this skinny little feather of a woman, and that I couldn’t see my size as I compared in front of a man, but rather, I had to start seeing myself as a strong powerful figure: A Big Girl. I finally started to own my size, and this was awesome. After all, a man can fit to me, not the other way around.
Once I let go of the stress and resentment over my body, I started to see change. I started to eat better, sleep more, and feel better overall. My skin started to clear up, my hair actually started to grow thicker, and I began to shed pounds, that honestly, I wasn’t even working that hard to take off. My body started to look healthier and I grew this confidence that helped me step away from the comparison game I played before. That being said, this wasn’t an overnight transformation, there are still days that I struggle. I am tall and big, and it’s easy to see myself in pictures and think I’m a lot bigger than them. However, I just have to remind myself that I’m okay with who I am and my size. I am healthy, happy, and beautiful. I am me, and that is all that matters.