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My Body Isn’t Perfect. Get Over It.


Carl and I had our engagement photos last week, an endeavor that undid me completely.

For someone who has been the subject of photo shoots for most of my life, this reaction to the impending shoot was out of character.My mom is, and always has been, a photographer. She has the lights, the backdrops, the fancy cameras complete with lenses. I know because I was the one carrying her heavy camera bag on every vacation we ever took. I know just how fancy that thing is.

The Lipstick Gospel

This provided for many a beautiful picture of my life growing up, with especially lovely senior portraits that I still kind of love. It also provided me with an education—picking up little bits and pieces about shot composition and lighting.

But it also provided me with a lifetime of resentment and frustration at the woman pointing the camera in my face.

I’m not sure what it was about my mom and her camera that was so irritating to me, but picture time before school dances was the absolute worst.

While other people’s parents pulled out a point-and-shoot for their kids and their dates, my mom had us off in a corner, the perfect lighting warming our faces, her taking a few shots before lunging at me to move a piece of hair, then taking a thousand more.

The Lipstick Gospel

While now I must admit that my homecoming and prom photos were pretty great (and perfectly lit), and while I can see my mom’s sweet love for me, and desire to photograph the moments in my life as they unfolded, I can still remember the particularly vicious brand of adolescent fury that would arise from me as photos took longer than I wanted them to.

And lucky for all of us, there are several photos from each dance in which I’m scowling through the camera at my offensive photographer.

But, her incessant photographing of me as a kid helped me become quite comfortable in front of a camera, something that’s proven exceptionally useful in my career as a storyteller and my schooling as a broadcast journalist.

(Thanks mom!)

All of that to say, my nerves about our engagement shoot were totally unlike me. Cameras don’t phase me.

But the day before our photos, I went on a frantic shopping spree to all of the stores in our tiny little town, looking for some outfit that would photograph well, or miraculously produce the photos that I wanted but didn’t even know how to picture, let alone describe.

And it was in one of those dressing rooms that I had a particularly horrible moment.

Can I just say that dressing rooms are one of life’s cruelest forms of torture?

Why in the world would stores that are trying to sell you on the fact that you look good in their clothes create such a tiny space with such a horrible mirror, and even worse lighting that brings out every single flaw until you’re crawling out of there, hands empty and insecurity dragging sadly behind you?

But that’s what happened in that dressing room. The body that I’ve been trying to care for, that I’ve been making do Pilates, and forcing to run three days a week, stared back at me and was imperfect beyond my ability to even really look at it for more than a second.

“It’s the lighting and the mirrors and the angle,” I tried to tell myself soothingly. But still, the body that stared back at me in the mirror did not reflect the progress I thought I’d made towards being healthy and strong, and did not reflect the kind of body I wanted to claim as my own.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

And so as I walked out of the store, swimming in self-pity and frustration, I had one fleeting, possibly life-changing thought.

What if I never had a perfect body?

It was this daring thought, something I’d never really allowed myself to think before.

I’ve always been the person who is striving to improve, believing fully that there’s going to be a day at some point here when I look like a Victoria’s Secret model without even trying. I believe there will be a day when cellulite has magically disappeared, when I look absolutely perfect in every outfit, every mirror, from every angle.

And in that tiny, fleeting moment I wondered what would happen if I just gave up.

I’m not talking about health, I know the benefits of water, and broccoli, and exercise. What I’m talking about is the incessant pressure I put on myself to become perfect, like one day I’ll finally say the magic words and all of my physical insecurities will be a thing of the past.

Really, what would happen if we just gave up?

What if perfection wasn’t the target anymore? What if health was? What if we accepted the things about our bodies that are totally normal and totally imperfect? What if, instead of restricting ourselves from all of the delicious food in the world and exercising obsessively, we just accepted the hips that have a bit of womanly padding to them? What if we loved ourselves even with our thighs touching? And what if a lack of cellulite wasn’t the requirement for beauty and love and sexiness?

Every single woman has something they don’t like about their body. My skinniest, most stunning friends have qualms about their legs, and butts, and love handles.

And if they can’t feel confident, then I think we’re all just screwed.

Or, maybe we aren’t.

What if the bodies we fall in love with weren’t the strategically placed ones on the covers of magazines, and instead were just our own? What if we got over the fact that we’re short, or tall, or heavier in the middle, or too skinny up top? What if we just decided that good enough is good enough, and that we’re going to take care of our bodies instead of refusing them love until they conform to our idea of perfection?

What if we never had perfect bodies, but learned to love the ones that we do have?

(Maybe you’ve had this thought before, but it’s currently blowing my mind.)

Bodies do miraculous things. I’ve seen ordinary women create tiny humans — the cutest little darlings I’ve ever seen — seriously, a miracle.

My body is able to love Carl, it’s able to wrap its arms around his neck, able to slow dance with him in the living room, and able to kiss his perfectly soft cheeks.

My body is able to run a 5K (see how I slipped that in there?) and do Pilates and take long walks.

My body is able to sleep and digest food and heal itself when I’m sick, and look pretty darn good in a pair of jeans.

We are all different. We, as women, are all shaped differently, all molded uniquely, and all have quirks that make each of us unique.

And I just wonder what would happen if we if we gave ourselves a pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card, and allowed ourselves to just enjoy how we are?

Our bodies aren’t made to be statues of perfection. They’re meant to make babies, and make love. They’re meant to dance and to sleep and to snuggle. They’re made to eat cookies and eat icing with a spoon, and run, and be strong. They’re made to work and hold and kiss and love.

Our bodies are amazing, and I just wonder what would happen if we started treating them that way.

My body isn’t perfect, and I’m learning to get over it. Want to join me?

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Add a Comment
  1. Kelsey M. says:

    Amen! And I like your title because I think the other half to this problem is not judging others, too. I think it’s equally as easy to judge others and put yourself higher on the bell curve when we say “at least I don’t have that/those hips/butt/boobs” etc. We need to choose as women to not put other women back in the prison of self condemnation, under eating, and over working-out, and into a place of body “freedom” where self worth, or rather “God worth”, is understood. That God made us with [insert dislike here] and we not only accept it (on exceptionally good days) but we LIKE it. Doesn’t that sound like a slice of heaven on earth?

  2. YES YES YES! Resounding yes! to everything in the post! well done, friend! I really have no words beyond, yes and amen! I will join you!

  3. Bethany says:

    What a lovely (and well timed) concept! I am working through this very thing after Baby #3. I realize one day that I want to enjoy this precious season of life instead of obsessing about the way my body is (inevitably) not the same. These stretch marks and scars are evidence of three beautiful lives that I am forever intertwined with… Why can’t I see these marks as beautiful, too?

  4. christina dombrowsky says:

    loved this post, steph!
    forwarded it to some friends 🙂
    reminds me of Brene Brown’s book “I thought it was just me” that I’ve been reading. We have to learn to love ourselves and have self-compassion and be happy! To love each other and empathize to share…that’s what our bodies can do — and that’s something to celebrate!
    AMAZING engagement photos, girlfriend 😉

  5. Heather says:

    I love this! For the last month I have been trying to eat better & workout more. In doing this, I have met women that just won’t be happy until they reach this certain weight or look like “her”. That makes me sad. I love my body, even when it does sometimes refuse to work the way it’s supposed to. Even in those hard times, I know my body & I are bonding – growing closer together & stronger through the pain & frustration. Rather than paper my walls with half naked women “for motivation”, when I grab my weights, lace up my shoes for a run or reach for carrots instead of the potato chips (side note: I used to be addicted to potato chips. When I bought a bag this week, I wound up wishing I was munching on a juicy carrot rather than a dry, tasteless chip. Who IS this girl lol??), I think of my “Why’s”. Why am I looking to make changes? To just share a few: to honor God. He has given me one earthly body & I want to care for it & be a good steward of it! I want to be a healthy wife & when we have children, a fun and fit mom. I want to hike with my husband & run around with my kids without getting winded & worn out. I also want to show all those people that told me I couldn’t that I CAN!! Lol wow. I was just going to comment on your post because obviously it’s something that’s been on my mind, but I didn’t mean to write so much! Maybe I need to turn this into my own blog post 🙂

    Those photos of you & Carl are beautiful!! As are YOU! Please don’t let anyone (especially those crappy dressing room mirrors) make you believe otherwise!

  6. 🙂 This post makes me want to run around my living room singing “Let It Go” hahaha. Thank you for posting such an encouraging reminder that attaining the “perfect” body is not what is important or what will make us happy in life! I need reminded of that quite a lot! We are made to love, to enjoy, and to experience!

  7. This spoke to me!! I, too, am not all that anxious about photos. However, when my engagement photos came around I was a total mess. I think I spent close to a hundred dollars on different curling irons because I was convinced that my hair would look terrible. I agonized about what I should wear, and (even now) I still look back at some of the photos and criticize myself. It is ridiculous. It is especially ridiculous because I am never sure who is judging my looks. It isn’t my fiance-he loves me (and my body) just the way it is. He has never expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that my thighs touch or my arms aren’t perfectly toned. I know that God isn’t judging the extra pound or two I put on around the holidays. He made me a perfect creation. Then, I realize that I am the one judging myself so harshly. I am the one who takes on the task of comparing myself to every other woman on the planet. I am the one who beats myself up over an extra slice of cake or a skipped day at the gym. The real issue with self-esteem is one that comes from within. How much better would my time be spent if I took all of the time I spend criticizing my own body and instead spent it on encouraging other women, praising God for a body that is able, and focusing anything other than myself and my crazy belief that I am not good enough. I don’t have any hard facts, but I think I would be a lot happier for it. By the way, your engagement photos are BEAUTIFUL!! You are a lovely couple!

  8. Vanessa says:

    Such beautiful and powerful words. And as always, the most perfect timing.

    I’m in.

    Here’s to drinking wine and talks about how awesome we look and how delicious the dessert is all in the same night.

    You’re beautiful woman. And those pictures are stunning.

  9. Love this Steph. This is something we all struggle with and your photos are gorgeous!

  10. Denise Ross says:

    Oh my goodness, I’m right here with you in this too. I’ve always noticed that anyone whose had a life threatening illness and has been given A second chance at life never frets over the way their body looks, but is so thankful for having one and being alive! They go out and grab life by the horns and really live it. I love love love what you’ve said here. Could we broadcast this around the world because we women need to hear this message over and over, so we get ‘it’!

  11. I have cried many tears in fitting rooms. I’m so glad I’m not alone!

  12. Courtney G says:

    You know those moments where you didn’t realize what was wrong until someone else said it? Yup. Just happened. So good.

  13. […] The post title: MY BODY ISN’T PERFECT. GET OVER IT. Well…I be john brown if she didn’t take the thoughts on my heart and put them right into words on this blog post. You can find the post here. […]

  14. Yes I want to join you!

  15. Annie Heathorn says:

    Beautiful Stephanie- this post was exactly what I needed to hear. I can completely relate to you and have been super hard on myself lately (especially being back in California with bathing suit season already upon us out here). So encouraging to hear your thoughts. And you are literally one of THE most beautiful ladies I have ever seen- inside, outside and ever bit of who you are. You are radiant. I love you so. -Annie

  16. Jane Forest says:

    Thank you, I really needed to hear this right now. You’re post helped me a lot.

  17. […] you haven’t read this post on body image by my girl Stephanie May, please do yourself a favor and read […]

  18. Stephanie says:

    Stephanie, first of all I have to say that I’ve been reading your blog since I was in college, I am now a graduate and have been out of school for a year. I have always found encouraging post and enjoy the great things you write and how you share and express your heart. But I have to say that I disagree in a lot of the things you share in this post. I think women should love themselves 100% but I also think that is really easy to stay in you comfort zone and say well this is the way God made me and I am just gonna get over it and deal with it. Because the truth is God gave us a PERFECT body, but is the things we do that shape it to either have cellulite, love handles or fat OR muscle and definition and curves. I don’t want to bash the message you are sharing here but I was that girl that didn’t like my body, we all have been in those shoes. However I chose to work for that perfect body that most people don’t want to put in the work to achieve. Learning true nutrition, how to fuel your body with nutrients, having the discipline and the drive to go to the gym everyday and the reward is LEARNING TO LOVE YOURSELF, to love it so much that taking care of it is part of your life. After all it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Some call this obsessive. And they’re wrong. An obsession is something you have no control over. But striving to build a perfectly strong body , on the other hand, demands complete discipline – both inside and outside of the gym. Learning this kind of disciple, seeing what you can achieve EMPOWERS you to do the same in many areas of your life. I agree with loving the imperfections but I don’t agree with taking the easy route to just leave it as it is. I believe in being a WHOLE person, strong in body mind and spirit. Having the courage to look at yourself in the mirror and decide to kick ass & do what others don’t do and become that person you think you will never be. Oh and about those girls in the magazine, they are inspiration/motivation or whatever people call it. Because you have NO IDEA all the work they’ve put to achieve those bodies. -> This goes in response to Heather’s comment. They deserve to be recognized for their commitment and dedication. Once you have put it the work they have and achieve the physique you so desire (which is not impossible btw) then you can look at your own self for motivation, because if you know DEDICATION you will get there. We are all built different, so for us to compare ourselves to others can throw us off or beat us down! But – for someone who is just starting, it’s great to have inspirations!
    FIND someone who inspires you and use them as your motivation,
    but make sure you realize how far YOU’VE come and only compare yourself to you and your journey!
    I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but I had to share this, because I have been there.

    • Stephanie May Wilson says:

      Hi Stephanie! Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to share your thoughts! I totally hear where you’re coming from. I think what we’re talking about is a “yes, and…” instead of an “either or.” What I’m not saying is, “be unhealthy, don’t take care of your body, and love yourself anyway.” What I am saying is that we all have physical realities about our bodies (naturally bigger boned, naturally short, naturally tall, naturally petite,) and that we should not discount ourselves from self-acceptance, or feeling beautiful if our bodies don’t look exactly like someone else’s (or even our own) version of complete perfection. I love, love, love that you’ve been working so hard, and have been so dedicated to health. I think that’s something we all can strive for an be inspired by. 🙂 I’m just advocating for more self love, and less self criticism. 🙂

  19. […] so incredibly inspired by this woman’s beautiful soul – LOVE THIS X ONE-THOUSAND – let’s talk about authenticity – […]

  20. Lilly says:

    This was beautifully written! As a teen, this is a constant struggle. I can look myself in the mirror and say, “You are a beautiful, radiant, child of God.” And, yet, the moment I step in the school building, my brain becomes a mess of, ” If only I had her smile, ” or, “If my nose looked like that, they would like me.” But, as you so wonderfully titled this article, my body isn’t perfect, so I should get over it. God created me with all my flaws and imperfections for a reason, and that reason is because Lilly would not be Lilly without those flaws 🙂 And God loves them all. God bless, Ms. Stephanie!

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