Because I’m Worth More Than That

This morning on the Australian Today Show, presenter Lisa Wilkinson made one of the best comments I've heard yet regarding women and body image:

"Any woman who doesn't celebrate celebrating another birthday needs to visit a cancer ward."

Amen, sister.

I spent a total of nine months in a cancer ward in 2003/2004 having treatment for stage 3B Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and I've also spent a lot of time since then with hundreds of women who have had a cancer diagnosis. It changes you. In more ways than you could ever imagine.

Post cancer and treatment, my whole attitude to my own body changed dramatically. As I have written before in my post Is There Such A Thing As A Fat Mind?:

My body is a wonderful thing, and I love it to pieces. It’s had five children inside it, borne four of them live and wriggling out it’s front bottom, been sliced up and had things scooped out of it, and its almost checked-out a few times...but despite it all, its bravely hung in there, regardless of how I largely treated it with scorn and disdain, refused to care for it properly and even cursed it under lights in a change room. Even when it got cancer, my body was tough enough to stand everything we threw at it, and thankfully, surprisingly, didn’t die. I think my body deserves a little better treatment than to be dieted and despised down into some scrap of nylon worth about four dollars, or hated because it’s wrinkled, flabby and has a few scars. Most women treat their dogs better than their own bodies. My body is my hero.

You know, I would love a job on television. Not just because I think I look pretty terrific on TV, but because I would love to have the opportunity to demonstrate to all those women who think they have to change themselves that it is possible to be content, successful, loved, happy and comfortable in a body, and with a face, that has seen a few miles and a few trials. Hire me, Television Producer Person, and I will tell and show your audience that it is possible to be active, relevant, intelligent, vital, loved and loving, beautiful and joyful in a middle aged woman’s body complete with cellulite and uneven skin tone, undeterminable abs and boobs that resemble socks filled with sand. Your advertisers will hate me. I promise you - your viewers will love me.

Warning, Television Producer Person - I have dreadlocks. I’d wanted them for years, but was too afraid of being judged to give up my glossy, straight hair. What would people think? Screw ‘em. I’ve never loved my hair more than I do now. I also have tattoos. Big ones. The first one I got was my whopping big “SURVIVOR” tattooed down my left forearm. I got it because what I have managed to survive in my life is exactly what I need to remember every day when I start judging myself because my house is dirty, or punishing myself because my abs aren’t rock hard and my skin isn’t flawless.

(My Survivor Tattoo - this is what I see in the morning instead of wrinkles, cellulite and age spots. Go on - eat your heart out.)

Oh, I’m worth it, as the cosmetic advertisement says - but I’m worth far more than wrinkle-obscuring make-up and image-changing hair colour. I am worth honouring, I am worth treasuring. I am worthy of respect and admiration - mine, and others. I’m worth much more than make-up and hair colour, worth more than criticism and judgement - yes, mine, and others.

When I look at my face in the mirror and see another wrinkle, or my neck begin to sag, or a grey hair, then I look down at the “survivor” tattoo on my arm - and at my scars where they took out the things that threatened to kill and maim me, and at my round tummy where my babies were, and at the big, floppy breasts that nursed them, and at the flabby arms that have hugged children and friends and held my husband close, and at the short, chubby legs that have carried me through trials I never believed I would be able to endure - and I remember I am tough, I am beautiful, I am sexy, I am amazing, I am a survivor, and I am worth more than that.

Jo Hilder