The complete truth has me out running again regularly. I get up, step into my short shorts, and head out the door.
My legs are short, muscular and stocky. I’ve wondered who I was from the waist down my whole life. I look down at my legs and think about how my life would have turned out better if they had just been thinner and longer. I should’ve just grown to the 5’7″ I was supposed to be.
I always run in shorts that come halfway down my thighs. I spend my entire run pulling my shorts down, and my shorts spend my entire run riding up. My thighs don’t have a gap, not even close, they have more the opposite of a gap, like a moosh. I train for and run a marathon like this. I run mile after mile after mile like this. Me, my shorts, and our eternal struggle. Me and my thighs, arguing with reality.
I tell myself that to be a runner your thighs have to be thin, and if they aren’t thin you should cover them up so people might think they’re thin so that you can be considered a “real” runner. That I’m not “allowed” to wear short running shorts because, well, how embarrassing. People see the truth. People think, because I am not lean and long, that I am not dedicated enough to be running. That I am an imposter. So I wrestle with my shorts. FOR YEARS.
Suddenly it dawns on me: the shorts aren’t hiding my thighs.
No one sees me and thinks “Wow, look at those really thin acceptable thighs!” The truth: my thighs are as they have always been: my thighs that are not thin. Another truth: I hate struggling with my shorts the whole time I run. A deeper truth: I am ashamed of my legs. Further in: I don’t have the right kind of legs therefore people won’t accept me. Deeper still: I want love and acceptance and I’m afraid that won’t happen because I look wrong. Complete truth: I want love and approval and a sense of belonging.
With the complete truth comes what I’ve been looking for.
I admit what’s behind my fear, what’s behind my hiding. I guide the fearful part of me into the light. And in the light I get found. I dig out the pair of Patagonia shorts I bought but never wear since they are too short, put Glide on my mooshy inner thighs, and go for a run.
It is awesome.
I tell myself a truth: I am a “real” runner because I run. I wear the short shorts since it feels good. I listen to my body saying “This is so much better with these short shorts!” I cringe some when I look down and see thighs instead of fabric but then I smile a little and look up. My big secret is out, yet no one dashes out from the woods to stop me, to drag me off the trail for violating the proper running thighs ordinance.
There is no tugging, no arguing with my shorts. There is me, my white jiggly thighs, and running. I don’t look like a gazelle, however that doesn’t matter because I feel like one. Here are my thighs! This is my run!
Deeper truth: I am not going to be thin. My body, all the way down to the DNA, is sturdy. A workhorse, a hearty sort of grace. In every magazine, in every ad, in all things adequate and admissible there are never women who look like me. I have to look at myself. I have to change and do the harder work of mustering approval from the inside out. For years I’ve struggled to shape myself into what is mirrored as acceptable, which strangely somehow seemed easier. To send myself out into the world as myself who isn’t trying to be someone else seems…unnatural. Almost wrong. If I’m not carrying around the disappointment of who I am every day, who am I?
Deeper still: I am tired of thinking about gluten and weight and validity. I out myself as who I really am: a kind, smart, sturdy woman who wants to belong. I want you to like me. There’s the complete truth.
How do you tell yourself the complete truth?
First, recognize what’s going on.
I make myself miserable due to a story I tell myself about my thighs. I recognize what effect that story is having on me.
See what you want to hide.
I hide from the fact that my thighs aren’t thin. I hide that I don’t feel acceptable, that I feel like my body looks wrong. I want a different reality. I want to hide from the truth.
Welcome the fear or discomfort.
Allow whatever you’re hiding to stay. Our tendency is to push it away since it’s uncomfortable, but be with it. I’m afraid I will never look right. I’m afraid, no matter how much I run, or watch what I eat that I will never be okay in the world. I want to get away from that, I hate it. I want to cover it back up and pretend like I forget I feel that way. I want to lie and tell myself I’m okay, to go back to the safety of hiding.
Go underneath it.
Here’s where to get deeper. By looking underneath my fear I found my complete truth. What was my original fear? That people would see that my thighs aren’t thin. What was under that? I didn’t feel acceptable. Under that? I am tired of feeling like I’m always struggling against myself. And under that? I want love and approval.
Which brings me to my complete truth:
I want love and approval, and so when I struggle against myself I don’t feel acceptable. My thighs aren’t thin. Backing out of the story leads you in.
This is so not my normal operating procedure. It feels clunky and weird, and fresh. Like catching my breath after I’ve been underwater too long. I have to remember to push myself into deeper, to go past the place where the fear hooks me and ease myself into what is completely true. When I get there it gently lets me open, and there the light gets in.