Tis the season for pumpkins. They are quite literally everywhere – in latte, beer and candle form. And while I unapologetically embrace how cozily basic it all is, I’ve recently developed a new appreciation for the pumpkin in its most simple form.
Because the thing about pumpkins is that you’ll never find one that’s exactly the same. Some are short and squat, some are tall and smooth. Some are perfectly round, some are flat. Some have ridges, some have dimples. Some have a stem, some don’t anymore. Some are lopsided. Some have scars.
And yet they’re pieces of art – each one carefully crafted, sculpted into something unique. It’s what makes picking out a pumpkin each fall so much fun. You never know what you’ll find, but you appreciate and expect the variety.
Why not in our own bodies?
There is a culture of fear in embracing what makes us different. So much pressure to conform, to fit in, to cookie cutter ourselves so that we don’t stand out too much.
And for many women, that manifests as something physical. We use our bodies as collateral: something that we manipulate and control and even abuse in order to fit certain standards. It can be so scary to let go – to listen to our body and just let her be.
For years, I gave in to the pressure. It’s tricky that way, because it’s not always direct. It’s often unspoken and simply implied. It trickles into our conscious in little ways: the rack of magazines at the grocery store checkout line, shaming celebrities for their bikini bodies, post-baby bodies, bodies that dare to shift and change and evolve. It’s implied through the pervasive stream of diet programs, pills and powders. It’s nuanced through the blatant marketing of gym memberships and exercise plans and before-and-after photos.
It’s disguised as “getting healthy” and “living your best life.” And that’s where it can get so dangerous. Because the implication is that your body, as it is right now, is not enough. There’s always something that you can and should be working to change.
But what if you don’t need to change your body? What if your body, as it is right now, is exactly what it is supposed to be? What if you don’t have to alter yourself to be enough, because you already are?
It’s a question I ignored for a long time. I just assumed that since I had a body, there must be something wrong with it. There must be something I could be doing more or better or with more dedication in order to make it…what? Perfect? And perfect for whom?
It’s something I began to think about during walks; when I was at the height of my anxiety, I desperately needed movement. I needed to be moving all the time. I wasn’t seeing; I was too caught up in the mind chatter. Over time, as I began learning to slow down, the chatter slowed too. The fog cleared and I quite literally started to see what was around me for what felt like the first time.
Nature does a pretty incredible job reminding us that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Whether I was trekking across a desert wash in Arizona or stepping through the leaf-carpeted sidewalks of my neighborhood or meandering the produce stands at the farmers market I began to observe beauty in a different way. As I started to appreciate the variety of colors, shapes, sizes of the trees, the leaves, the pumpkins, the cacti – I suddenly made the connection to my body.
And I began to realize that trying to control the shape of my body was a waste of energy. It was, in fact, a waste of everything that was unique and beautiful. Being “enough” or “ideal” or “perfect” became less important than the desire to accept and appreciate what made it extraordinary – in spite of and because of the fact that it might be flat or round, straight or curvy. I was no longer willing to participate in the war. I was not going to fight what it was naturally going to be.
Nature reminds us that different is beautiful. We don’t question diversity. We don’t ask why one tree trunk is wider than another. We don’t look at the bright bloom of a sunflower and the delicate blossom of a violet and compare them in disgust. We don’t look at the cornucopia of fall pumpkins and diminish some for being rounder or bumpier or lopsided. We don’t judge the number of arms on a cactus – in fact, we’re even more in awe because it means it’s older and wiser; it’s a survivor.
Nature makes us different for a reason. At a basic, primal level, it is understood and appreciated. Why do we accept it without condition outside of ourselves, but not within the space our bodies occupy? Why do we fight so hard to change, to perfect our own shape when it is already perfect?
Nature has a way of simplifying it. If you can look outside of yourself, it becomes surprisingly clear. It’s okay to accept what makes us different. And it feels even better to embrace it.