My Pear-Shaped Self

Like many women (as well as men), I’ve suffered with body dysmorphia throughout my life. Not just unhappiness with the way my body looks, but preoccupation with that unhappiness, as well as a biased, almost “caricature” view of what my body actually looks like. This is my story.

Weighing In

I am 30 years old, and while I don’t weigh myself very often, I average around 150 pounds. I’m 5’7” and my measurements are 32” (bust) 27” (waist) 43” (hips). My inseam is a mere 29”, meaning I have short legs and a long torso. According to the fashion magazines I read when I was younger, this makes me pear shaped.

 

I’m considered both “skinny” by some and “plus-sized” by others. Regardless, what’s on top and what’s on the bottom are crudely jammed together like pieces from two different puzzles.

I wear a size 10 – 12 pants, depending on brand. I wear a size “small” shirt. I’ve always worn bikinis, in order to select tops and bottoms of different sizes. When I buy dresses, I have to find a size that fits in the hips and then alter the top on my sewing machine to fit. Frequently, dresses that are large enough to fit me in the hips have a scooping neckline to accommodate a woman with a much larger chest. Don’t get me started on trying to wear a strapless dress.

Kids Can Be So Cruel

I remember a kid on the playground making fun of my “big butt” in fourth grade. In middle school when the other girls developed, I remained “flat-chested.” I distinctly remember wanting to disappear as I heard snickers and taunts behind me in Middle School Gym class, as we ran laps to Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s ubiquitous hit. In high school, a girl told me that my “jeans [were] so tight, [she could] see my tampon string.” I don’t feel like I was a victim to bullying any more than most, but I’ve been out of high school for 13 years and I still have vivid recollections of these hurtful sentiments.

Looking back, I wonder if I became “the weird girl” to avoid being compared to other girls. When I started high school I was very interested in fashion — I remember phone calls to my best girlfriends discussing the latest trends — but by graduation I stuck to jeans and t-shirts, usually adding an extra layer of a hoodie or oversized army shirt on top.

My younger sister did not have the same body type. She was certainly never called “flat-chested,” to put it… mildly. My well-meaning mother once stated that I was “the smart one” and my sister “the pretty one.” My father, repeated this sentiment as he introduced me to someone just a few months ago. He assured me he was only joking. Horrified and humiliated by the implications, I meekly informed him that I’d rather be referred to as “the artist.”

I’ve been reduced to my body-type by men: both those I was in a relationship with and complete strangers. When I broke up with a boyfriend, his words were, “Goodbye, Corey’s ass.” I inferred that was the thing he’d miss the most about me. Even more debilitating was a boy who turned me down outright, with no pretenses, by telling me he only liked “curvy” girls with bigger breasts.

Starting in high school, I wrote zines and published blog posts about being anti-label, anti-fashion, anti-make up. Sometimes identifying with feminists and sometimes not, I rejected and rebelled against an idealized female body type, a crusade made easier since I was too broke to have a TV. My chosen uniform of t-shirts and jeans continued and was further cemented in college when I got into punk rock, first dyeing my hair hot pink, then bright blue.

Perhaps dying my hair was my subconscious request to the rest of the world: “Don’t judge me by your preconceived standards of beauty!” it shouted to whomever would listen. But louder still was the harsh inner critic that still lived within my head.

Years later, when I got married, and later became pregnant, I felt increasingly aware of my body — and in less control of it than ever, thanks to the adorable little parasite growing in my womb.

After my son was born, I was happy to lose the baby-weight fairly easily, and more or less returned to my pre-pregnancy size before his first birthday. Motherhood came with new things to dislike about my body (wider hips, stretch marks and a tummy, to name a few.) I felt more confident as an adult, but somehow I still didn’t like how I looked.

Over the last four years I have started to carry myself with more pride and even learned to “dress my body” better, (that is to say, to use fashion to “trick” the viewer’s eye into believing that I’m closer to the beauty standard) and yet, when it comes down to it, I’m no happier with this body than I was at 14.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I can place the blame on society, on the media, the status quo. I can cite examples of bullying both from mean girls in middle school and misguided ex-boyfriends. But placing that blame doesn’t earn me any self-respect. It doesn’t change what I see when I look in the mirror. Unfortunately, neither do the plentiful and sincere compliments from my incredible husband. As the popular Buddhist tenant goes, “Change comes from within.”

I welcome change. I’m working on that change. It’s hard. I first imagined this blog post over a year ago. As many of the craft and DIY blogs that I followed seemed to switch their focus to fashion, the part of me that had drafted so many ‘zine articles years before began to fidget uncomfortably once again.

Many of my friends and colleagues within the blogging world started featuring “What I Wore Today” blog posts, and deciding that I could represent an alternative style and body-type, I followed suit, telling myself I was sort of a “Punk Rock DIY Fashion Model.”

“If I’m wearing things from thrift stores,” I justified, “it’s OK.” My husband took an interest in the photography side of things and I found that I actually enjoyed posing and editing the photos. I actually felt a little bit like a fashion model, and the response from the small number of photos I posted made me feel great.

What made me feel less than great was looking through the failed shots that didn’t make the cut. Each photo shoot yields maybe 10% of usable photos. What had started as an exercise to improve my own self-confidence and represent an alternative to the media’s standard of beauty was, in actuality, making me focus even harder on my body’s flaws.

My inner critic screamed louder than ever.

And it’s still screaming as I write this. After posing for photos in my underpants today to illustrate this post, I was in tears when I previewed the images, in spite of the empowerment I felt at the start of the shoot. It’s very difficult for me to look at my hips and thighs and not utter the “F-word” (you know which one I mean.)

But it’s time to change the way I look at my body.

Today, I’m posting photos of myself in my underpants. Because it’s high time to shut that inner critic up. I presented this challenge to myself, as I said, over a year ago, and it’s taken me this long to build up the confi– no, let’s say willpower to actually go through with it.

I’m not seeking support or fishing for compliments. The goal of my personal challenge is self-acceptance and these photos are intended to represent a non-sexualized, non-edited view of my body as it actually looks. Today, I will scream to whomever will listen, “This is what I actually look like and I’m OK with that!” The point of this sudden burst of exhibitionism is not a decision to show off my body, but instead, a decision to NOT hide or camouflage it.

This is what I look like.

This body, the arbitrarily assigned flesh and bones determined by my genes is what I look like. It is not who I am.

Who I am, the person I am inside, is the book reading music lover who laughs too hard at cartoons and loves both code and poetry. Some of these traits may have been influenced by my genes, but ultimately they make me who I am because I have decided they do.

According to wikipedia, “In clinical psychology and positive psychology, self-acceptance is considered the prerequisite for change to occur. It can be achieved by stopping criticizing and solving the defects of one’s self, and then accepting them to be existing within one’s self. That is, tolerating oneself to be imperfect in some parts.”

Change comes from within.

I cried when I first looked at these photos, but the more that I looked at them, the more I began to recognize something truly unique: I began to recognize myself.

 

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24 thoughts on “My Pear-Shaped Self

  1. You’re a damn rockstar, Corey Marie, and you always have been. It’s good to hear you gaining some of the inner confidence that you have always shown to me on the outside.

  2. You are crazy inspiring and courageous!! Ohmyword. I totally identify with your entire post, just with flip-flopped measurements…being ‘the smart one’ in the family = annoying! And not true. And I had boobs when I was 11 and the gawking that goes along with that is disgusting. Disgusting! I was teased incessantly by boys in junior high, so I did the wear-giant-t-shirts thing and cut all my hair off and dyed it blue and tried to separate myself from those girls who enjoyed being gawked at. Ugh! I want to give you a big hug for this post. :) You rock!! And you’re not alone… :) I’m writing a paper on how society encourages us to cover up what’s natural, so it’s been consuming me, this is a breath of fresh air. :)

  3. Ah! I feel/have felt the exact same way… Actually, as I type this, I am wearing the *exact* same pair of underwear (from Target *Gilligan & O’Malley* in teal – I hope you got the 5 for $10 deal or whatever). I prefer only the boyfriend/low cut because it makes me feel better about my bottom/pear half.

  4. You are as beautiful as you are strong. Your determination to stand up to your inner critic is inspiring. You could have kept this triumph to yourself, but thank you for sharing it with the world. It is so inspiring and so appreciated.

  5. I believe that if we would just measure ourselves by our impact in other people’s lives we would be giants. I can never thank you enough for the profound impact that you have had in my daughter’s life (Mara). That’s what really matters. I know that what Mara sees when she looks at you is a beautiful, compassionate friend. Your pear shape does not even register as something of importance.

    Offering a Sincere, heartfelt Mother’s Thanks!

    Natalie Beaton

  6. This post is incredible. Kudos to you for having the courage to post it! (What’s a stronger word than kudos? How about “kudos to the tenth power”. Yeah, let’s go with that.)

    It always amazes me how evil kids are to each other, and how much that ends up shaping us later. While I don’t think much these days about the times when I was bullied in middle school, I think that a lot of my insecurities stem from the mean things that were said to me during that time. It’s an incredibly hard thing to shake.

    Self acceptance can be difficult, and it’s something that (as far as I can tell) requires regular maintenance. I applaud you for wanting to change your inner monologue and how you see yourself.

  7. Body image is not just a teen struggle. Even if we don’t watch tv we are bombarded with images of the “ideal body”.

    You are beautiful in each of these pictures. Thank you for sharing, Corey.

  8. thank you for writing this. thank you for your courage and honesty. more people relate to these feelings than not. When I was a child, I wanted to have my face marred in sn accident so they would have to reconstruct it into something I could like. I was teased about my body as a kid and still hear those people in my adult mind.

    I have not reached a point of total self-acceptance or even self-tolerance yet, but I will keep striving for it.

    Thank you for this.

  9. I think this is the bravest thing to expose yourself inside and out. You are so beautiful and I am so inspired by this post.

  10. Thank You for posting this. I really needed this today. Please know that you just made a stranger smile today. Someone who looks in the mirror every morning & cries even though she would never admit it to someone’s face. I have bad day’s that I just can’t seem to figure out why I am crabby and all I can do is pinpoint it to the fact that I feel ‘fat, ugly, pimpley, gross, bloated, etc’. Sigh…. no words can express how i needed to read this today. Thank You is all I can say.

  11. I love this.

    I don’t even know you (ended up here through Amanda) but girl, I KNOW YOU! I have heard so much of this before….on a constant loop in my own skewed psyche.

    Serious mad props to you – and not just for the immense bravery in this post. Thank You.

  12. i’ve always wished I was shaped more like you, as I’ve always felt ‘top-heavy’. I came across your post by chance, and it’s made me think about just how utterly absurd our obsession with our bodies and physical appearance is. It’s the least important aspect of who we are and yet due to societal pressure, we often end up feeling that it’s the most important.

    One of my favourite lines from Leonard Cohen is, “Well never mind, we are ugly but we have the music…” Cos I’d rather be ugly and have the music than ‘beautiful’ and have nothing else of any worth. Not that I think either Leonard Cohen or Janis Joplin were ugly. Quite the reverse. I think the key thing is to constantly challenge the standards of beauty that we are force-fed and create our own wild and wonderful ideas of what is beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Reading this has brought tears to my eyes… but happy tears! I can empathise with what you are experiencing with your body and inside I’m cheering because there is someone else out there that understands! I am a teenage girl feeling who feels forever unaccomplished because it is almost impossible to lose my big thighs and bum, and it is so difficult to look at other girls’ bodies and not wish for their figures. But I’m becoming to accept who I am and recognise that the body shape I have literally is unique. Thank you thank you for expressing your true self, and choosing to love the imperfections.

  14. i am 34, and i’ve never seen anyone that has a shape that looks exactly like mine!! half skinny/rather delicate upper body, half plus-sized, with a long torso, and then all the other attributes that come with age (and my arms are starting to get bigger as well)..
    trying to reassure me, slenderer friends tell me i should be happy that i have curves, and the curvy ones frown when i dare talk about weight issues.

    being in the arts, and i am highly aware of balance in aesthetics, and my body feels utterly incongruous, like a failure, or a caricature. (perhaps i should consider it some sort of a Picasso..) i’ve taken numerous photos and have made drawings of it with the goal of not smoothing out or balancing anything at all, trying to celebrate it for what it was. i suppose it’s a long process..
    needless to say i could relate to *every detail* in this post. shopping for new clothes i find is still most challenging, practically and then emotionally, because even on days when you manage to be feeling rather good about the body you have been given, the trouble of having to rather dramatically alter every pair of pants (which often doesn’t even work), and every time, finding that your body doesn’t AT ALL fit almost all the dresses you like is extremely disheartening and frustrating because time and energy consuming, and makes it hard not to fall into feeling that your body is, at the very best, very very strange.
    anyway, i appreciated your post, and i am glad to see that there is at least one other person on the planet whose body looks exactly like mine (and also that they have a husband who loves them/it!), and as much as i enjoy solitude, i have to admit i am glad to read i am not alone on this lonely path.

  15. Wow, lady. I was Googling “skinny jeans for short pear shapes” and landed on your self-photo in this blog. You look so much like me body-wise that I clicked on the pic to see wazzup. This post, especially the beginning references to body dysmorphia, hit a nerve, a very, very hidden nerve. I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia and bulima/bulimarexia for 22 years now. I almost made it four months into this new year without barfing, the other day ruined that streak, but I’m proud of my progress and my resolve to begin again. I love your bravery, it’s so much more than I would have at this point. Thank you for being honest. I’m launching a blog for the lonely, isolated, or invisible woman here in a few months if you want to check it out, http://www.charmandstrange.org. Not a plug for myself, yeah. Just inviting you over. I am going to bookmark your blog and follow you now, and with your permission from time to time link to these articles and this blog in general. I think you’re so fantastic, and what a sigh of relief at finding a camaraderie in a stranger, the entire focus of my own blog to come. Just…thanks, you know? Blessings, my sister, and please, please don’t stop writing. This is wonderful and I’m going to have fun exploring the rest of your blog today. What a great find! Gotta love Google sometimes. lol Have a great day, you.

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