What’s Happening to My Body?

Here are some things to consider: your size, your sex, your age, your strength, your flexibility, and your health, and how much significance you give to other peoples’ opinions of your physical being. Can others cause you to lose faith in yourself? Maybe the main question is: Does your image strengthen or diminish the “real” you. Does it help or hinder fulfilling your dreams?

Are you satisfied with the body you currently inhabit?

Until I became a pre-teen, the awareness of my body was limited. My friends and I played, and not one of us noticed our bodies. If I was hungry, I ate practically anything.

Olives and Chinese food were my favorites, with nuts and cheese coming as a close second. And eating lobsters were on the list sometimes, if offered. Another favorite was peppery noodles and cheese, my everyday comfort food.

As a kid, I went with my father to the original Chelsea market to buy uncommon cheeses. I remember those outings as being first-rate and exotic, cheeses from all over the world with tastings always available. Some were salty, and others piquant. They almost all tasted wonderful. I eagerly strode with my dad from one stall to the next and was fascinated by the assortment. Time flew by. Although we were Kosher at home, he deemed any cheese admissible, even though it didn’t conform to the rules of Kashrut (what’s kosher and what isn’t.)

My body was the available vehicle to satisfy every need my brain could think of. That’s what mattered. I walked and talked, and I took for granted all my senses even though I now understand they were outstanding. Naturally, puberty followed, and so, suddenly, I was introduced to my new body not by secretly studying my image but by comments from other people.

My body shape had significance in my decision not to study dance seriously. Ballet and modern dance require the ability to jump off the ground and stay airborne with lightness, called Ballon. Compared to my dance classmates, I looked too top-heavy to achieve it. I was not a skinny flat chested girl who danced as if to defy gravity.

In elementary school, we were preparing for an event that included my dancing. We were on a stage whose floor stood about four feet higher than the floor of the auditorium.

The Russian dance I was rehearsing required jumping from one foot to the other while crossing my arms in front of my body at shoulder height. My fledgling breasts were jiggling as I danced.

I paid no attention to my body until I noticed a few boys standing on the auditorium floor at the edge of the stage, staring up and under my crossed arms, leering at my breasts, poking each other with their elbows, and giggling.

I almost died from embarrassment.

I told my mother what happened, and we went out that night to buy a “training bra.” For the rest of elementary school and all of high school, I wore a bra, on top of that an undershirt — then a blouse — and then a sweater or vest to completely camouflage the front of my body. My posture became stooped over, another hiding technique.

Then, mom told me I was getting too fat and to eat fewer potatoes, bread, and noodles. Which part of my body was still OK? The problem was I had too much flesh all over me. The word “flesh” took on repulsive overtones.

My body which had been reliable for meeting any challenge and fulfilling all my desires, had morphed into an encumbrance.

My confidence waned, being replaced by revulsion about how I looked.

It took over fifty years for me to recover from that teenage angst. Maybe similar experiences explain people's current interest in piercing and tattooing. Studies have shown that 62% of people who have had piercings have done so to express their individuality or the opposite, to connect with a group identity. To what lengths will you go to please other people?

Even though the old Testament (Leviticus 19:28) prohibits piercing or other body modifications because the body is god’s creation, tattooing and body piercing are everywhere. Today, people choose to be tattooed for artistic, cosmetic, sexual, and sentimental reasons or beautify the image that looks too uninteresting to be loveable.

So, you are not necessarily stuck with your body. You can always change its shape, thinner or fatter, or decorate it in historical ways. Tattooing and body piercing have been around since the beginning of recorded history. However, if you choose one of these paths, be sure it’s because you want the change, not because someone else is displeased with your appearance and has destroyed your confidence in yourself.

If your confidence needs rebuilding, here are a few ways to do it:

Tips for building self-confidence

  1. Look at what you’ve already achieved. You may have lost confidence if you believe you haven’t achieved anything.
  2. Think of things you’re good at. All of us have strengths and talents.
  3. Set some goals. Make sure the goals are achievable and realistic.
  4. Engage your brain in something other than yourself, like volunteer work. The rewards are greater than you can imagine.

During my Life Coach training, we were introduced to a set of Coaching principles. Here’s the one that is relevant to this discussion:

Pain is unavoidable; suffering is optional.

In other words, we have the option of accepting that life, at times, brings us genuine pain: physical or emotional. The optional part might be adding internal self-talk, with thoughts like, “It’s not fair, or why does this always happen to me? Or, if we are dealing with our body’s aging and lessening of our faculties, it’s better to accept the changes than becoming frustrated and vent our anger onto other people. You know, old and cranky!

Understanding the gallantry exhibited by older people who adapt to changes in their bodies deserves applause. And, teenage apprehensions about their bodies deserve no less. So, be kind to the young just getting started and the elderly at the opposite end of living. Congratulate them when you notice their equanimity.

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Lynn Zimmering

Well, I’ve done it — I’m ninety! I can hardly believe it myself and still writing. Here’s the deal; I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Thanks.