One of the Bravest Things I’ve Ever Done

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G_Kathy

When I reflect on my life, I’ve done a lot of pretty brave things over the years. I’ve told my real story, the raw and shameful and so-hard-to-say-out-loud parts, to a bunch of people. I delivered five babies without drugs (including 6 1/2 pound twins. Yeah, that hurt!) I partnered with friends to plant and pastor a weird and wild incarnational faith community that’s still plugging along after nine years. I write online and in print and let me just say, that’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s incredibly vulnerable to put your thoughts and your guts and your heart out there for the world to see, critique, and judge.

But a few weeks ago I have something new to add to the list that I wasn’t expecting. Or planning. Or actually wanting to be part of my story, to be perfectly honest.

It’s not about a new exciting endeavor I dove into or a next goal for our faith community or some God-told-me-to-and-now-I’m-doing-it moment. Those would actually sound a little better, a little bigger, a little more “important.”

No, the brave thing I did that took grit and courage and guts and nerve and resolve and spunk and tenacity (and went against everything in my heart that screamed no! no! no!) was this:

I embraced pictures of myself in a bathing suit on Facebook, cellulite and all.

G_Kathy2

A friend of mine who is learning to be a professional photographer came out to the lake with us on our boat and had some fun snapping pictures of everyone who wakeboarded and surfed that day. When I was surfing, I wasn’t thinking about pictures on the internet. I was just thinking about how much fun I was having, what it feels like to catch a wave, the joy of being in the water, the freedom I feel when I am behind the boat. It truly is my happy place.

But, the next day, when I logged on to Facebook and opened up my feed, my heart started beating fast.

Like really fast.

Oh. My. God.

There I am, white thighs flapping in the wind for all to see. And not just a few shots, but a bunch of them.

I felt so exposed.

So vulnerable.

So fat.

And then I got really, really mad about my feelings, which were so familiar, so strong, so destructive. Why do I expect myself to be perfect? I’m 48 years old with 5 kids, and my legs are supposed to be toned and tanned, without a single flaw? Why is the first thing I see  everything that’s wrong with my body, instead of notice that I’m actually out there having a great time doing what I love to do? How can I have done this much personal work over the years and still sometimes feel like crying when I look at myself? What the $@#@$#! is wrong with our culture that we have created so much shame about ourselves in this area?

As I started scrolling through the pictures, everything inside of me screamed, “Delete them, delete them, delete them! Hide, hide, hide!”

But I felt this deeper thing rise up from a core part of my soul, the kinder, gentler, wiser part that I’m trying to listen to more than the crazy voices in my head. And here’s what I heard: “Don’t hide. Let it be. It’s just you. There’s something in here you need to learn. It’s time.”

So I didn’t delete them.

I took a deep, deep, deep breath and let them be.

I’ll admit, I didn’t share them, I didn’t “like” them. (Yes, I have my limits on guts here, only so much I can do in one day).

But I let them be.

I didn’t take them down.

They are still on my Facebook page for all my friends to see.

And every time I think about it now, it makes me smile.

Then gulp a little. Yikes, it’s hard to leave them there.

And that makes me smile again.

Because I know for me that part of my story is learning to just be me. To not hide. To let who I really am out. To not try to pretend. To be free. Just as I am. Not who I think I should be. Not who I think the world tells me I should be.

This is not easy work to do.

So many might say, “What’s the big deal about this? There are far more important issues in the world to be talking about like poverty and racism and equality and justice, and you’re writing about thighs on the internet? Come on, get over yourself.”

Yeah, I hear you. And you’re right, on one level.

But on another level, I will just say that real life is real life. And there are a helluva lot of us out here—women and men alike—who are trying to figure out a way to embrace our bodies just like they are and find a way toward greater freedom.

Plus, the guts we find in one area helps us find guts in another.

Your story of grit and guts and courage may not be related to letting your thighs go public on Facebook, but my guess is that there’s probably an area in your life that needs to be set free.

Where hiding isn’t bringing life. Where shame is trying to starve out what’s trying to emerge. Where dreams are scary to say out loud. Where letting ourselves be who we really are is uncharted territory. Where we need to listen to that deeper voice, the wild and beautiful beckon of the Spirit that says, “Don’t hide. Let it be. It’s just you. There’s something in here you need to learn. It’s time.”

_______________

Image credit: Kamla Miller

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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Kathy Escobar
  • Amazing post, Kathy! Amazing.

    I agree with you—embracing these kinds of very REAL life things, gives us the courage to go do other stuff.

    Btw, when I saw the photos, the first thought I had was, “WOW, Kathy’s having so much FUN! Look at her go!” I didn’t even look at your legs/thighs—all I saw was your amazing SMILE! Kind of a Meg Ryan moment a la “I’ll have what she’s having!” 😉

    Brave + beautiful + amazing.

    • YES! My first thoughts were the same, plus: “Wow, she is so brave to be doing that!”

      • i always tell people who try things behind the boat that it is so vulnerable; it’s why we always have a big cheering squad inside the boat 🙂

    • thanks, idelette. it’s interesting that after all these years of writing for sheloves, this was the post i was most nervous about 🙂 crazy! and yes, i must say, it’s pretty fun thing to do out there, so freeing, so forget-everything-and-just-enjoy-the-ride. love from colorado, dear brave friend.

  • Researcher

    Thank you for your courage. I struggle with this but as a guy. Not my self-image but my views of others, as to what they “should be” – about what is perfect and about hiding what is less than perfect. It is a constant struggle to correct wrong thinking I have inherited from my society, from my past. Why should perfection be judged as “tanned and toned, without a single flaw?” What are flaws? Why?

    Harry :-{)

    • thanks for sharing, so great to hear your perspective and how engrained some of this stuff is for both sexes. it would be such a great conversation to have out in the open with each other more boldly and so healing, i think, for both sides.

      • Researcher

        Yes, it would be great to have an open and frank conversation on both sides of the “gender gap”. Unfortunately, in my experience, there are land mines buried in the land of that gap. At least I have stepped on some mines in the past 🙂 but I still keep walking in the gap as best I can. I have 50+ years of wrong thinking, bad habits and hurtful comments to apologise for and to attempt to undo.
        Harry :-{)

  • You look so awesome, and trust me, coming from someone who has tried to get up on a water skis and canNOT, you are my hero!! 🙂 And thank you for encouraging us to un-hide little bits of who we are. Every year, I feel myself letting more of myself be known, and each time it is difficult work. (And of course, still having the wisdom to not over-share) But it’s good and true and important and at the root of all injustice like racism, poverty and all, isn’t it about dignifying the human experience?

    • thanks, cindy, yes, even though there is a part of me that thinks it’s superficial, i think you are so right, somehow it’s underneath it all in a deep place about who we are, people of dignity that is somehow so brutally hard to embrace. so glad to know you out here!

  • Kathy, thank you for not only sharing the pictures, but also sharing the thought process with us that brought your thinking around to the right (and biblical) perspective.

  • I absolutely love this post! We can embrace true beauty… but when the camera comes out, we tend to turn ugly – either putting on masks to get the perfect shot, hiding behind others, or deleting our shame. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful and inspiring – healthy you, active, uninhibited, real… and to be honest, STUNNING.
    Thank you for being real – we need it. Your freedom (and vulnerability) helps us all to move into freedom.

    • “deleting our shame” – i’m going to ponder that one for a while! such a great line. thank you!

  • SimplySuzi

    This is beautiful! YOU are beautiful! We are on holiday right now and my husband has snapped a few photos of me and it’s taking everything I have to be gracious about it. As a plump 59 year old, I’m much more comfortable being the one behind the camera, controlling the images and story.

    • yes, “i’m much more comfortable being the one behind the camera, controlling the images and story.” oh, can so relate to that! thanks for sharing, hope you have a good vacation! breathe and let those pictures be 🙂

  • Good God! On top of everything else, the woman can SURF!!!! I couldn’t see anything but that!!! Kudos!

  • Nicole Walters

    Wow, thank you! SO struggle with my self image. So many times I wish I could just be the writer behind the scenes, not in this online world where you have to put a face with a name. Can’t I just hide and be known for my words? I was a dancer since age 4 and have a completely warped body image. I so struggle with helping my 6 yr old, following in my footsteps, love herself for what is inside. Yes, there are big issues. But this is one we live with in our hearts every day that creates so much bondage. Thank you for your bravery in both the words you put out in the world and the BEAUTIFUL picture that goes with it!

    • thanks for sharing a sliver of where you are coming from. a gift to us. oh, you are not alone in that warped body image thing. it’s so painful, what happens to us along the way and glad we’re all trying to find our way forward…

  • First up: I applaud you for being ON THE LAKE… many of us withdraw with body shame. Second: thanks for leaving the photos (and sharing some here). It does take grit when we feel the way we do. But I love that you’ve put a data point on the map that says–much more accurately and beautifully–what 48 with 5 kids looks like. My personal stance has been a refusal to color my graying hair, believing that by allowing the “sparkle” to come through I teach my kids that they’re beautiful at any and every age AND that the world has to look at my 44 year old self and see that we have gray hair at this age! (BTW: grew up in Boulder and sure miss those CO afternoons!)

    • thanks, kirsten! your comments are so encouraging, and yes, the withdrawal, the covering up, the not-trying-because-it’s-too-vulnerable is so real. i know i was like that for a long time and even learning to surf was really hard for me even though i knew how to water ski it forced me to make myself vulnerable in a new way, a learning curve, a trying and falling and trying again, having the “you suck at athletic stuff” message roar in my head. pushing through was really healing for me. love boulder, and love seeing those mountains every day 🙂

  • I just love this whole post so much, photos and all. “Where letting ourselves be who we really are is uncharted territory.” This is my self-challenge for the rest of my life! I love how much fun you’re having in these photos! Inspiring.

    • thanks for taking time to share, yes, it is a lifetime challenge. so glad we can all practice together…

  • So proud of you, friend! This has been much of my journey, the battle between living as my true self and my mind waging war against myself because of images and reflections in mirrors. When I look back over the years of pictures of myself, I know in every picture/instant, which ones I was thinking to myself, “ugh, I’m so fat…I don’t want a picture taken…” As I’ve been on my freedom journey of loving myself, Garden pre-fall style, for the last 4 years, more and more I’m seeing my true self, my child of God self, in those pictures. Thanks for sharing openly about your bravery! Im ready to join the conversation, if opportunity arises. PS, I’ve been in a bathing suit almost all summer, swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, jumping off the high dive, walking between pools at the public pool, etc…because I want to play with my kids and soak in life, and be free from the lying messages the world sends as to what is beauty.

    I’ll tell ya, beauty is Kathy Escobar riding a wave with friends and family, without a care in the world! Bravo, girl!!!

    • thanks lovely friend, what a great summer of freedom…love hearing this and look forward to seeing you next week. xo

  • Oh my gah! You had me at “One of the Bravest Things I’ve Ever Done” but your courage to leave those pictures be, just love that. As women, we view ourselves so harshly and I especially am guilty of wanting the “good” pictures be the only ones. But I feel liberated when others, like you, are real and vulnerable and embrace the process of that vulnerability by letting those pictures stay. It really does help us all to breathe easier about our own bodies. Truly.

  • When I was at the Movies and Meaning film festival this year, Richard Rohr spoke about how Christians should CELEBRATE the body since we have the only religion where God became a human body. That comment almost made me gasp out loud. All the self-loathing conversations I’ve had with myself throughout life suddenly became such lies! My spirit felt released and my soul became joyful … at least in that moment. Still a struggle; but now I have a message of truth to fight back the messages of hate!

    • love that thought from RR, so good, so healing. glad it has lingered…hope to see you tonight!

  • Roos Woller

    Strong brave and real! Love this post! Let us be women that change what is seen as beauty. Our unique differences should be celebrated and our value lies within us, that we were created perfectly. It’s so easy to say but so hard to belief ourselves. I still have to make a conscious decision to celebrate my body instead of criticizing it.

    • “i still have to make a conscious decision to celebrate my body instead of criticizing it”. yes! thanks for sharing.

  • carameredith.com

    Kathy, you ARE brave – so brave and so beautiful. Our culture has done such a disservice to women, leading us to believe that our bodies are everything, our bodies – whether fat or thin or wiggly or toned – define us. So I’m proud of you. AND I’ll let you be proud of me, as I just bought a bikini to wear in Hawaii in a couple of weeks, even though I feel like my postpartum body disagrees with that decision. But here’s to embracing our beautiful, worn bodies with confidence.

    • i am so proud of you! that is awesome! aloha…

  • Susan Heiser

    Love this. I’m 58 and finally started wearing shorts again this year — instead of what seemed like the mandatory capris for “women my age.” And sleeveless tops. I am embracing my angel wings and cottage cheese legs and celebrating having lived long enough to earn both.If someone else doesn’t want to see that, then don’t look. We have to stop believing the lie that only 18-year-old bodies are beautiful.

  • Stacy

    Oh hell yes you did! So glad that the whole thing was able to transform into something so tangible, so healing, so beautiful. So proud! I have still been consciously dressing braver and less hidden since The Great Ski Pictures. 🙂 #waytopavetheway #again

  • Rana Soliman

    wow i love this. I must say, i Just experienced something very similar, i have straightened my hair for the past 6 years, ever since i was at college, i was to afraid to show up with my hair not straightened, but two weeks ago, i was at the beach and i decided i am going to take the leap and let it be , my hair. And its been three weeks now! back to work and all, and i dont straighten my hair. first day i wanted to hide, i didnt want anyone to notice at work, but if anything i got compliments, and oh i feel so free! to just be.. and to let it go ..this picture perfect. And i blogged about it, and i was thinking how silly it is to share it but you see, you got me at this statement “Plus, the guts we find in one area helps us find guts in another. Thank you for sharing so much!

  • pastordt

    Oh, honey!!!!! I SO get this. And it is a big deal. A very big deal. The truth you are writing here is one we all need to take in . . . deeply. Thank you, thank you.

  • Researcher

    Here is another article about brave women and the sea – http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33906368.

  • Researcher

    Here is a BBC article about three brave women – “The Grannies who had never seen the sea” -http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33906368.

  • I remember seeing the pictures on FB and thinking, “Man! That Kathy is just so stinkin’ joyful, radiant and (all caps) BEAUTIFUL. I need to eat/smoke whatever she is having.”

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