I have been self conscious about my arms since I was about 13 years old. For years I wore hoodies and cardigans over my tank tops during the sweltering summer days, waiting for the moment I’d be safe at home and able to peel away the layers in order to be comfortable. Heatstroke is no stranger to me.
I have a very vivid memory of one summer afternoon when I was about 14. My best friend and I were waiting for my dad to take us to Great America (a theme park in San Jose, Ca) and I was staring at my profile in the mirrored doors of my closet. Staring at my arms, plump and bare. Debating on whether or not to brace myself for comments from my friends and any potential boys we might meet that day about them. Although she assured me that I looked “fine” I could not take the chance. More comfortable being uncomfortable than wearing my weather appropriate tank top alone, I chose to wear my dad’s oversized red windbreaker on top.
I was just 14 years old and a size 11 and already felt ashamed of my body. Of these arms.This is a theme that lasted throughout the rest of my adolescence and well into my adulthood (as in, up until about 3 months ago).
In 2007, after having had 2 children in 2 years, I was at a low point in my body image and self esteem. I tattooed both of my arms, thinking that the art would detract from their size. It did not. (side note: I love these tattoos and do not regret them one bit, but I do wish I had gotten them just for my love of the art, not because of my shame) Somehow it seemed like a good idea to try my hand at modelling. Because of my tattoos and general affection for retro kitsch, I fell into the pin-up genre. As you may know, this means lots of lingerie and strappy sundresses. I had the great fortune to work with some marvellous photographers and models, all of whom did a great deal to help bolster my self esteem and help me feel beautiful and vibrant. I began to feel confidant in my sessions, bold and even sexy and never self conscious regardless of how skimpy whatever I was wearing happened to be. I was elated every time I had the chance post new photos to my Model Mayhem account. And then, just one little comment took the wind from my sails. In retrospect, it was truly pretty harmless, but given my lifelong sensitivity about my arms, it cut deeply. It was something to the effect of “wow, you’re really pretty, but those arms are huge“. At least that’s how I remember it. I can recall the blood rushing to my cheeks and that knot in the pit of my stomach as I read it. Instantly I hit delete. This one fairly innocuous comment eclipsed all the sweet, supportive and flattering ones. This comment lead to the speedy demise of my would be modelling career.
|The infamous big arm shot|
I still worked at building my portfolio for about a year or so, but I was always so very aware of posing without my arms showing.
|2008 The last shoot I did. Not the twisted posture to hide (what I thought were) my hideous arms|
It’s been five years. And in those five years I have continued my lifelong summertime self torture. 3/4 sleeve cardigans are where I usually landed. It felt like a happy medium.
|2010 Australia in the summer wearing long sleeve sweaters!|
Now, in the summer of 2013, at 37 years of age I feel that I may have finally overcome this ridiculous and hurtful self hatred. I’ve recently found myself opting to not grab that cardigan as I exit the house; and when I do, it’s for the outfit’s benefit, not to appease my fragile self esteem’s fear of being judged.
|May 2013 in Las Vegas. Finally comfortable in my own flesh.|
I don’t know what’s changed. Maybe it’s just a benefit of growing up. Maybe it’s the love of my amazing husband and two kids who tell me everyday that I’m beautiful no matter where I jiggle. Maybe it this blog and all the wonderful new people it’s helped me get to know. Honestly, I don’t care. I’m just so very happy to be free from this lifelong battle with myself.
|And just to prove my point, I had an all arms photo shoot this morning in my nightgown!|