What is your biggest fear? Something that truly terrifies you. Some might say they’re afraid of the dark. Or even terrified of heights. What’s my biggest fear? *Dun dun DUN* Wearing something without sleeves…showing my arms. I know, scary right? As ridiculous as it sounds, wearing my arms out is something that has truly scared me. so much so that I haven’t worn a sleeveless shirt, dress, or tank top in the last 15+ years.
Until now. Let me explain…
I’ve hinted at this a little bit before in Tiger Stripes. I was that girl who would wear long sleeves in the middle of summer, just to cover up and hide the ‘flaws’ that I perceived of my body. You see, like most the women in my family, I was blessed with what we like to call pillow arms. Big, thick arms.
And I hated them.
I thought they were ugly and unattractive. And being the shy, body conscious girl that I am, my arms were something that I felt shameful about. I was the wrong type of plus size.
We live in a society of ideals. The ideal job. The ideal wife. The ideal skin color, body type. Even in the plus size community, there is the ideal image of being plus size — between a size 6 and 16, thick but not flabby, tall and voluptuous, etc. So while its awesome seeing representation of plus size women in major publications, fashion shows, etc., it’s very seldom that you will see a girl who looks like me.
Looking at these images, and comparing them to my own, aided in self-defeating thoughts that controlled my self-esteem and fashion choices for 15 years. I finally decided that enough is enough. I have suffered through the dog days of summer for long enough. It’s time to show some skin. Skin, that I am finally learning to feel proud in.
Over these last couple of months, I’ve really made an effort to learn who I am, gaining a new appreciation for my body. And let me tell you, it’s been a scary process.
I’ve learned that the only way to conquer my fears, and especially this fear of showing my arms, is to just do it. So that’s what I did. And it was such a fulfilling experience. At first I was self-conscious. Was everyone looking at me? Were they noticing my stretch marks? But as I continued to walk around, I realized, no one paid me any attention.
That was absolutely mind blowing. For almost my entire life, I’ve covered and tried to hide who I am, out of fear of what people thought of me. And for what!? I came to the conclusion that how I look, or what size I am, really isn’t anyone’s business besides my own. Once I shifted my mind from caring about other people’s opinions, to only caring about my own, I began to relieve myself of the pressure of having to live up to ideal and unrealistic standards of beauty. I began to focus on these three main facts:
- I have big arms.
- I have stretch marks.
- I am beautiful — fearfully and wonderfully made just as I am.
Yes, I have big arms and stretch marks, but that does not define my beauty or who I am. I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. These big arms have shown love to friends and strangers, giving hugs and comfort to those in need. These big arms have shown strength, wheeling chairs and maneuvering crutches when my legs were brittle and broken. These big arms will one day hold a child safe and comfortable, just as my mother held me in her own pillow arms. These big arms are beautiful. As long as they keep loving and strong, they are something to be proud of. And proud of them I will be.
Until Next Time,