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?