I’ve always had big arms and broad shoulders.
As my mom says, birthing these shoulders into the world wasn’t pretty. When I came out, the doctor said, “It’s a girl, and boy is she big.”
In elementary school, my upper body didn’t bother me so much. It was more my size. I wanted to be smaller and blonder like some of the other girls I was friends with.
So many of my friends were my size or taller or bigger. But, of course, I never thought about my normalcy. I went straight for the thoughts that invalidated my little body.
Then puberty hit, and it wasn’t just about being big. I started to notice specific things that were wrong -- my arms and shoulders, in particular, but there was more.
In the backseat of my mom’s car one afternoon, while driving off from Central Market, my friend started teasing me for how tiny and awkwardly shaped my breasts were.
I don’t think I wore a bra at the time, but if I did, it was one of those sad Limited Too training bras. Everything was out there.
In addition to big arms and broad shoulders, I could now add pointy, ant hill boobs to the list of stuff that had gone wrong with my body.
As a freshman in high school, my first try at dieting directly followed my longtime friend telling me that I had a little bit of a belly in middle school. I needed to erase that memory, and I thought dieting might make her and me forget about what I looked like back then.
After a high school breakup, I took the opportunity to use the grief to stop eating. I did the same thing again in my 20s. Shedding those pounds landed me compliments about how great I looked from both ex-boyfriends, which further validated my unhappiness.
Even as I got over both those boyfriends and learned that a man’s opinion about my body is irrelevant, I found that other people so often project their body fears on me. Friends and family commented when I looked “good” — a compliment I only got when I was trying really hard at losing weight. Otherwise, there were always the not-so-subtle hints that I should be trying harder, like a former boss in NYC who patted my belly when she thought I had gained too much weight.
Then something big happened to change the way I think about myself: you.
I quit that job in New York, moved back to Austin, and founded Greer Image Consulting in September 2014 — five years ago this month.
Pretty soon after booking my first clients, I noticed something: So many women I worked with were exactly like me. My clients had issues with their bodies, some of which were based on their own misperceptions and others based on people’s unfair projections.
Any time a client started to pour out her concerns, I felt defensive of her and her inherent beauty.
“I hate wearing shorts because my legs are so pale and gangly.” Her legs are strong and graceful.
“I always wear sweatshirts because it’s the only thing that doesn’t let my stomach protrude.” She has an hourglass body type, with a feminine curve to her waist.
Even today when I hear women mourn the fact that their body is different and hopeless, I’m still shocked.
How could anyone as lively, smart, beautiful, and soulful as this woman feel that way about her body?
In my heart of hearts, I believe every women is all these things.
As I continued working with more women over the years, I saw that belief validated with each client that learned to express who she is through her wardrobe and feel more comfortable in the body she was born in.
It changed me.
The negativity about my body started slipping away. I realized two truths that I always told myself — that I would never be enough and that every woman is enough — directly contradicted each other. Only one could be true.
I am exactly like the women I serve. I am enough. Every woman is enough. And her body is exactly as it should be.
Today, I love my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, and, even on those PMS-is-the-devil days, my stomach. It’s a process, and I think it always will be. But this body love has given me a new level of self-awareness and the ability to do the work that I love with the women I love.
If you feel like sharing any part of your story, leave me a note below. I would love to hear from you.
Love and joy,