When I was around 10 years old, my body started to change. As all my friends' appetites grew and they grew taller, my appetite also grew, but I grew wider.
Looking at my peers, I saw tall and lean boys, throughout my schooling. In the media, I saw lean and/or muscly men. In myself, I developed a self image of lean and wiry. In my imagination, that is how I look. Every time I see myself in the mirror though, that is not my reality. I am slightly on the short side, I am stocky, I am not (particularly right now) lean.
I have spent a significant portion of my life since that 10, feeling uncomfortable in my body. Feeling guilty for not meeting expectations (my own), feeling anxious about people seeing me shirtless or naked, hiding in bed and exercising, dieting, and constantly worrying to keep myself somewhat trim - all masked by an outwardly expressed desire to be 'healthy'. Whenever my partner or anyone says I look good, I cringe and hide behind shyness.
Recently, I have started to identify that the 'me' in my mind, is not the 'me' in my body. Every time I look in the mirror, I'm beginning to accept this new me. When I think about myself I think of myself as a short, stocky guy. The kind of guy who would be the jolly uncle in a film. I am beginning to embrace my body, slowly. It's hard. It's one of the hardest things I have done. Every time I look in the mirror, my first reaction is feeling a little sick inside, that this is my body. I feel sad, anxious and self-conscious. Does everybody know what a fraud I am? Then I remind myself that this is who I am. I am that short, stocky guy. That guy is fun. That guy is me and has carried this body throughout his whole life. That body has carried me through Asia, Africa, Europe, America. That body carries me up mountains, down waterfalls, across the waves. That body is pretty damn great.
And then I look in the mirror again. It is getting easier to bypass the negativity and go straight for the good stuff. It gets easier each time I speak about it. On Sunday I stood on stage and told a group of 50 people this story. And now I am telling you. Each day that I see myself in the mirror in my body is a better day. A day where I will be able to do more, be more, see more, experience more.
I share all of this because I tell stories, and no matter what story I am telling, at least a part of it is my story. I help craft it, I express it. So if I don't tell all of my stories, without shame, then I will be holding back with all of the stories that I tell. So. Here I am, once again, standing without shame, in all my bodily glory.