How a body painting model helped me love myself again

How body painting helped me love myself again
By: Zoe – CC BY 2.0. (This isn’t the author)

I’ve got quite a butt. And my hips are, shall we say, very conducive to child-bearing. I play roller derby, so my thighs are nice and thick. I’d like to think they’re all muscle, but I’d be kidding myself. I’ve also been pregnant once, so I’ve got a bit of a pooch, and my boobs are huge.

But hey, I’m actually okay with all of that. In fact, I let the entire city of Portland see my naked body during the World Naked Bike Ride, and I was damn proud of how I looked. I wasn’t ashamed, self-conscious (well, maybe a tiny bit at first), or embarrassed.

For the first time in my life, I was proud of my body and I was ready to show it.

How did I get there? How did I, someone who has always either been on some kind of diet or wracked with guilt and shame for not sticking to one, finally feel good about myself and proud of myself enough to stop hiding my body?

It’s been a very long time coming, and all it took was one afternoon watching a model get body painted to turn my whole view around…

I spent the last seven years of my life being in a relationship that was not good for my self-esteem. Years of constantly falling short of someone I loved started to chip away at what little self-esteem I started with. I hated looking in the mirror; I hated taking showers and having to wash what I thought of as my disgusting body. Attempting to dress up and feel better usually ended up in me dissolving into tears and changing back into my pajamas. I was a mess. This spring, I left that relationship, and shortly after, entered into a new one.

I assisted my new fella, the creator and editor of a Portland-based magazine, in securing an interview with a body painter I had met during one of my derby league’s fundraisers. Being the self-conscious person I was, the thought of volunteering myself for this project was brief and fleeting. I figured there was no way my body could look good being painted like that, as it requires the model to be naked (ie. no Spanx to hold everything together).

However, over the six hours it took to paint her from start to finish, I started thinking very heavily about what I was seeing and feeling, and my epiphany started taking shape.

The model being painted was gorgeous; she had an amazing, athletic body, and talked with pride about how much weight she could squat in one set. She was tight and toned all over, and clearly had the perfect body for being painted up. To my surprise, as the afternoon progressed, it became clear that she still had her own hang ups about what she looked like. I got to thinking, how could this beautiful woman have the body most people would envy, and yet still not feel “perfect”?

So many of us are critical of ourselves, and we manage to find flaws where there are none. Why is that? What are we afraid of? Why are we hiding? I decided that day that I would not hide anymore. I broke up with the diet I was on. I stopped obsessing about my weight. I decided for myself that I am good enough for me, and I was done trying to impress people I would never meet. I was done killing myself to make others feel more comfortable with my appearance.

I emailed the body painter and said I would love to be a body painting model, and in return he said he would love to paint me. He said everyone has a perfect body for painting, because in the end, it’s all art and bodies are beautiful.

And with that, I’ve grown from someone who would cover parts of herself with her arms to hide her flab, to someone who proudly struts around the streets of Portland naked, with nothing to hide. That confidence and pride is incredibly sexy.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have hang-ups from time to time, but I can laugh at how ridiculous they are now. I take care of my body. I eat what I want, in moderation. I stay active by playing roller derby, belly dancing, riding my bike, and going on walks with my kiddo instead of busting my ass at the gym. I am worth more than my looks or my housewife abilities.

This life is a wonderful life, and I am done wasting it worrying about my body fat percentage and counting calories.

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