For almost my whole life I’ve been ashamed of my body.
It’s big and lumpy. It’s been described by others in every way imaginable.
In many ways, I’ve been trained to loathe it. For decades — yes, decades — I’ve viewed my body as broken. An eyesore that should be covered with as many layers as possible.
Which, I think is perhaps a shock to people to hear. Because, most of us view the male ego as something that doesn’t have time for body issues.
Now, I can only speak for myself here, but I’ve been littered with them. And I hardly think that I’m special enough to be the exception to the rule.
But these body issues have impacted almost every facet of my life — from relationships to venturing into public spaces, to any number of things. I’ve always felt as though I had to apologize just for being who I am. As if to say “yeah, I know I’m huge. I’m so sorry you have to see that.”
Last week, Caitlin and I hiked from Logy Bay to Quidi-Vidi. A section of trail that is just about 9km in length, and a truly challenging way to spend Canada Day.
It was, and this is no exaggeration, the most challenging physical act I’ve ever attempted.
Now, I’d love to sit here and tell you that I breezed through it tickety-boo.
But that would be horseshite.
It was hard. Real hard.
Prior to the final ascent I flopped down onto the ground and refused to budge. Mainly because I didn’t trust my legs to get me where I needed to go. Not my proudest moment.
At some point though, I got my bearings and stood. I reached the top of the ridge that overlooked historic St. John’s, and felt proud of the accomplishment…. that pride was somewhat buried beneath a layer of “get me off this fucking ridge.” But it was there.
Now, a couple of things happened on the hike. The first of which: I began the hike with a t-shirt and a collared short-sleeved shirt on. And during the initial ascent over Logy Bay to a place called Sugarloaf Head, I said shag it and just wore a t-shirt.
Here’s the thing: I’ve not worn “just a t-shirt” in public since I was 16 years old.
That was 21 years ago.
That’s 21 years of hiding.
And here I was, over two decades later, shedding a little piece of that. Not only that, but I allowed myself to be photographed wearing a t-shirt. Which, in my mind, is a huge step forward.
I know this may sound strange to some people. But this is the depth of the shame I have felt about my body for years. It makes me uncomfortable to even say these things out loud. But, that lack of comfort is all the reason I need to say it out loud. Because, I know damn well I’m not the only fish in this bowl.
The more you learn
This particular hike taught me to love myself a little more. My body impressed me. It got me through a tremendous challenge. If I could, I’d give it a gold star, or at the very least a purple ribbon for participation.
When Caitlin and I first began our walks nearly six months ago, it seemed impossible that a day would ever come whereby I could achieve these milestones. We began by walking around her neighbourhood, which was pretty much flat. And even then I would need to stop six or seven times to catch my breath. She was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get through it.
Fast forward to Canada Day. To this photo:
It makes my heart swell. And sure, my legs are still a little tired — and yeah, I may have lost a toenail. But I battled my way through it.
And a big part of what brought me to the end of this trail, apart from my desire to see another sunset, was this body.
This body that has shielded me in times of pain. This body that has held me back enjoying the world around me.
This complex creature.
This is my body.
And I’m learning to love it.