A couple of months ago I published a photo carrousel on my Instagram account which changed the way I see my midlife body.
Well, midlife is actually a super positive term for a 56-year old. That´s me. Am I thinking I will live to be 112? Hardly. But I do know that in 10 or 20 more years, if I´m still around, my photos will look quite different.
All the pics in that Instagram carrousel, and on this blog post, were taken with an Iphone. My initial intent when taking them was simply to have a few yoga photos in a bikini. It was going to feel empowering.
Or so I thought.
The entire purpose changed when I took a good look at them later that day.
Why I almost didn´t post these photos
I cringed when I first saw them. I felt they looked like the awful tabloid photos that expose celebrities at the beach, just when they are enjoying being their imperfect selves. When they are probably the realest they will ever get.
My first thought was … wow, look at that loose skin on my belly!
Although of course I know I have sagging skin -I see it every day- I felt I´d be letting down others by showing that, despite my daily workouts, I´m still aging.
Thankfully, after my initial shock, I came to my senses.
I thought, wait, these photos are actually great. I can´t just tell my daughters to love themselves. I need to show them I love myself. My girls are wonderful at learning from good examples
You see, I need to do my best for my daughters to love themselves early on.
I had a horrible eating disorder when I was younger. It lasted 20 years. I did not love myself more when I had younger skin.
I also had severe body dysmorphia. I finally see myself pretty close to the way I look, I think. And I like myself so much better now.
I don´t plan to love myself less as I hopefully turn 60 and 70 and 80 and beyond. Why do I say “hopefully”? I´ve lost three dear friends to cancer, only this past year. Two of them were younger than me.
One of them, Belinda, was honestly my best friend. Oh, how she would have loved to grow old and come to the beach with me in a bikini.
My beautiful, kickass, full-of-life Belinda. How I miss you.
What happened when I posted the photos on Instagram
So, I posted the photos on Instagram, and braced myself for the comments. I´m used to being told I´m too thin, called a “skinny bitch,” asked “have you lost weight?” and a bunch of other nonsense that I try to brush off.
I knew some people may feel I just don´t have the right to promote body love just because I´m not curvy or overweight. Guess what though, I’ve been both at some point.
But, here´s the thing, I can only share me, because that´s all I got. And I´m tired of actually paying attention to other people´s opinion of who I am and how I look.
The truth is that I finally feel good in the skin I´m in.
Just when it´s starting to sag.
Just when my boobs decided to stop being perky.
Just when my legs show more and more varicose veins.
Just when my body is in the middle of this mess called menopause.
But guess, what, better late than never.
My youngest, 15, reposted my IG photo carrousel with the best body-positive caption ever. That alone was worth it. She was proud. And I was grateful.
Many women thanked me for posting those photos. They, like me, like all of us, are tired of seeing overly retouched photos of women of any age.
I stopped being scared of my peers realizing I didn´t look as good as they thought I did if we ever ended up at the pool or the beach together!
I also questioned why I even cared in the first place.
The main drivers behind my journey towards body-positivity
I know that pregnancy and childbirth can actually trigger body loathing in many women. Maybe I´m a freak. For me, pregnancy and childbirth made me feel real and true awe for what my body was capable of.
I mean, this sagging skin is partly the result of two pregnancies that produced the most inspiring human beings I know, my daughters Chloe and Alexia.
They both make me strive to be a better human being each and every day.
Practicing sports, dancing, and more recently, becoming a certified yoga instructor (RYT-500) have all played a significant role in self-love. Not because any of those activities make me look better, but because they all positively impact the way I feel about myself.
There is nothing like pulling off an arm-balance or working towards mastering a free-standing handstand in my 50´s, to feel like a freaking goddess.
And it certainly doesn´t have to be a physical feat. Simply realizing I´m a much more tempered and compassionate woman than I was in my 20´s or 30´s also helps me cope with the passage of time.
Why I finally shared the photos and will probably take professional quality photos of this nature
I spend a lot of time online, because that´s how I make a living. I love admiring other women´s photos. I love the wild carefree look of youth, but I´m also drawn to the allure of the confident older woman.
I believe we end up appreciating what we spend most time looking at. If we only admire flawless young skin, we will believe that´s the only true version of beauty.
If we get used to sharing and admiring photos of mature bodies, I feel we´ll all start to see the beauty in that too. As the editor of a webpage for women over 50 I can tell you it´s really really hard to find stock photos of mature women, photoshopped or not.
There seems to be a jump from 20´s or 30´s to 70´s and beyond. But, where are the faces and bodies in the middle?
We say society needs to change. But we are society. If we want to be seen and heard, we need to show up at all ages, imperfections and all.
Life is too short. Wear the bikini. Take the risk. Love yourself. Stop the excessive photo filters. Now.
What are your thoughts?
Read also: 7 Actionable steps to love your midlife body