Thursday, August 6, 2009

Naked Beneath my Clothes

We are all naked beneath our clothes, but we hide who we are in multiple ways. And sometimes we hide from who we are.

I've had readers tell me they feel they know me very well after reading my books. It makes me feel terribly exposed, but they're probably right. A writer can't help but bleed all over her manuscripts. We all work through our issues one way or another. I suspect my characters wrestle with many of the same things I do.

One such issue is building in my current WIP-STROKE OF GENIUS. My heroine Grace is grappling with acceptance her own body. My personal issue is and always has been carrying more weight than I should. While I firmly believe in torturing my characters, I didn't want to give that problem to my heroine. No, I gave Grace a problem she has very little control over.

She is tall.

Now, wait a minute, I hear you say. Being tall is a good thing. Maybe it is now. Standards of beauty change over time.

Grace is very tall, at least 5'7" in an age when it was rare for a woman to top 5 feet. If you've ever seen the inauguration gowns of America's First Ladies you were probably as amazed as I at the bird-like smallness of those earliest ones. Grace feels like a Great Auk next to those little sparrows. She's mortified to be able to look down on some of her suitors. She longs to feel petite and delicate.

It doesn't help that her mother constantly admonishes her "not to slouch" one minute and "don't stand quite so tall" the next. Crispin Hawke, the artistic genius who's engaged to sculpt her hands in marble, is a very tall man and tops her easily, but he doesn't help matters when he pronounces her hands merely "capable." She wishes she were entrancing, mysterious, fascinating. . . anything but capable.

How can Grace learn to love herself just as she is?

For one thing, she'll need to turn off the noise around her. We're constantly bombarded by images that convince us we're not good enough in dozens of ways. So is Grace. She will have to give up the notion of trying to conform to someone else's preconceptions of beauty. She'll need to learn that she is far more than the house of clay where she resides. More than that, she needs to love that house of clay. What will it take for her to reach that conclusion? I'm not sure yet.

For me, it took a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, I loved my body very much. It may not be a size 2, but it's mine and it's lovely to live in. And unlike Grace, I can always hit the treadmill and do a few "push-aways" (from the dinner table) to make things better.

We are all naked beneath our clothes. Are you working on accepting yourself? If you already have, I'd love to shake your hand. You must be the most well-adjusted person on the planet. For the rest of you, let me just affirm that you are a precious, unique, beautiful individual. Love yourself.

What will you do to be kind to yourself today?


PS. If you haven't entered my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST contest, please pop over. The winner gets her pick from my backlist. (If there's anyone out there who's read everything I've ever written besides my mother, I'll do a backflip!) So why not enter today?

15 comments:

Heather D said...

Oh geez I had several issues about my body that always made me feel bad and created a very low self esteem. It didn't help having 5 older brothers, who would constantly pick on me about my "flaws". Then add those horrible little boys and the mean girls in school. I was very tall, at least in the 5th grade, and I was a string bean. I was constantly called Jolly Green Giant and Granddaddy long legs. I wasn't comfortable with my height or how thin I was until I was about 14 (I was 5'7 then, now 5'9) when my mom put me in modeling. I still had other issues. I have small boobs... almost microscopic. lol I can crack jokes now, but back then it was horrible to stand next to other girls because I had the chest of a boy. If it weren't for being overweight I have no doubt I would still have not chest. I have overcome my insecurities about little boobs. I figure I wasn't meant to have them. Now I just beat myself up over being over weight...which is definitely something I can remedy if I would just eat breakfast and exercise.
My daughter is now dealing with the same issue of being smaller than everyone else. She is constantly "Thanking" me for those genes. I keep telling her that they they aren't important and she has so many other outstanding assets. I hope it helps her out. At least she doesn't have an older brother adding to the hurt of being granted less than most. (my step brothers still give me crap about it) I spend extra on her bras to help give her a boost to her self esteem... hubby hates it, but that is one area I won't give in on.

EmilyBryan said...

Your daughter is lucky to have you!

But unfortunately, the boob pendulum swings both ways. (LOL! Now there's a picture!) When I bloomed early, I was so envious of my friend's flat chests. It was very uncomfortable having a child's heart in a rapidly maturing body.

Heather D said...

LOL in a way its nice to know that the pendulum swings both ways. None of my friends ever complained about it.

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Emily,

What a lovely post and what a great reminder. Yes, there are some things that we can change but more often than not, we let them get to us and bring us down. When what we should be doing is just being the best person we can be and working with what we have.

My issue isn't necessarily body image but more with not being as strong as I would like. I avoid confrontation at all costs. Even the little things, the minor stuff that gets to us day after day after day.

I also see it in my writing...I worry about what others will think when they read it and have I gone too far or not far enough? To help with that I have finally chosen a "pen name" and I hope that will allow me to write and to write from the heart.

Barb writing as Elle J Rossi

EmilyBryan said...

A pen name can be liberating. It's a thin shield, but it may be just what you need to let the real you shine through your stories!

Heather D said...

Emily, I just got home from running some errands and while in the car I heard this song that brought your post to mind. I just put the YouTube recording up on my blog of Fight Like A Girl by Bombshell. If you would like to take a listen head over to heathersreadingromance.blogspot.com

Jane L said...

Hi Emily! I do't have the issue with how I look, I really don't after all this is the way the good Lord created me, there is not much I can do with it! LOL! But mine does come within, mine is, I feel like I am never good enough, YUP! comes from a mother that NEVER said I did anything good! Thats another blog. But I try to do good in everything I do and everyone I meet. I just want to be good enough for someone. At the end of the day I want someone to say "Hey good job today!"
I really think this reflects in my writing, if someone critiques it and says its crap I just smile and say"OK, I will do better now!" So I think it is definately a naked part of me I like to keep covered.

EmilyBryan said...

Heather--Thanks for sharing that powerful song and for giving my blog a shout out on yours!

Jane--I think those inside issues are the really hard ones. Thanks for being brave enough to share yours.

Keep fighting the good fight, girl. You are definitely good enough!

2nd Chance said...

Great blog, Emily. So much that I swam ashore from the Revenge where I'm the bloggee today ta comment.

Body image is such a quagmire. Sometimes I gots it, sometimes I don't. So much depends on where I am on any given day.

The 'enoughs' that Jane speaks of? One of those words I'd like to see wiped off the face of the earth. Nothing positive from that word, ever! Tall enough? Thin enough? Good enough? Loud enough? Polite enough? Enough with enough!

Maureen

EmilyBryan said...

Chance--How about silly enough? That seems sort of positive to me. ;)

vicariousrising said...

What a beautiful post.

I have large breasts that I have often had a, well, hate-hate relationship with. I'm tiny (5 ft. & 100 lbs), and for whatever reason, those are the last place I lose weight and the first place I gain it. Very aggravating and not great on my back either.

I'm so glad that some good came out of your cancer scare and you've come to love your body more. It reminds me that I should be more in awe of what my body has done, including giving birth to my amazing kid and giving me the ability to live, learn and love. Pretty freaking amazing.

Thank you for this post.

Teddyree said...

You really do share the most wonderful posts Em and whether you know it or not they come straight from the heart, it's that gift that encourages others to share in return!

I really do believe things happen to us to enable us to grow. When my baby girl died I didn't think life would ever be worth living again. I have 'inside' issues of failing as a mother and a woman but the strength I gained from my tragedy & the blessings & support I received and still do from people who don't even know me has shaped me into the person I am today. Now when I feel like it's all too hard or I'm having health issues or problems with my teenage boys or I'm overwhelmed with grief over my mother's death, I look at how far I've come and tell myself "see, you can do it." There will always be down days but I never thought I'd get to a point where I could honestly say I gained more than I lost with my daughter's death.

Gawd now I'm analysing, thinking wow where did that come from, what'd you say all that for, TMI, delete it, delete it. All your fault Em lol, I'd better hit publish before I change my mind.
Inside or outside issues, they can certainly open a can of worms LOL

EmilyBryan said...

Vicarious--We are all miracles with feet. Isn't is wonderful when we finally realize it?

Oh, Teddy--I weep with you for your precious lost one. As a mother, I can imagine no more desolate place than a child's grave.

But thank you for sharing your deep pain and for giving encouragement to others who may be going through a dark way. I admire your strength of spirit and giving heart. There is always hope. Life is not static. We go on, not forgetting, but finding new joys that are all the sharper for the pain. I'm sending you many cyber-hugs.

Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

PS. For as long as I can remember, people have felt like telling me the most amazing private things. I don't know why they do, but it always humbles me when people trust me with their hearts.

Ashlyn Chase said...

Spectacular blog today, Emily. I've always thought I had a little too much meant on my bones. And the hell of it is, looking back when I weighed 130 I thought it was too much. Now I'd give my eye teeth to weigh 130. What gives? Are we just never to be happy?

I'm inflicting this particular torture on my heroine Roz. I have kept her exact proportions a secret on purpose, because it's such a universal issue, that I want women to identify with her internal struggle, whether they with 130 or 230.

Odd thing, just now. I wrote whether they ARE 130 or 230. Like we are what we weigh? Yikes! I had to go back and fix that.

Ash

EmilyBryan said...

It is the curse of human nature to want what we don't have . . . This goes not only for material things, but for bits and pieces of ourselves as well.