in this skin.

by Michael King

When I was around eleven, a friend in my class whispered my name. When I glanced over at her, she gestured toward my stomach with her pencil. “You look pregnant,” she said, then laughed. That night, when I got home, I sprung into action mode: I wrote a diet and exercise plan. When my dad caught me, he smiled and told me it was just “growing fuel.” A bit relieved, I scrapped the plan, hugged my dad, and went to bed.

Moving into my teen years, I was disappointed to find my body didn’t spring up into something athletic or trim. My shoulders were relentlessly broad, my face a bit rounder than I’d like. With an athletic older brother, someone my peers often told me was strikingly handsome, I felt a little bit cheated. When am I going to get handsome?

I’ve documented the weight loss journey that marked my transition from high school to college. I ran miles and miles, lost a hundred pounds, and finally figured out what it was to pull on a small shirt and feel at home. I also learned, through that process, that shedding weight physically is an entirely different thing than letting go of the weight mentally. At my fittest, I never felt attractive or athletic enough.

Grad school marked the first time since my weight loss that some of the weight returned to my body. A thousand demanding time commitments, the ready availability of pizza, and – yes – a relatively frequent party culture found me spending less time running and more time frowning in the mirror as my clothing hugged tighter.

Since moving into the full-time realm, coming to Ball State and beginning my life post-masters, I have reintegrated running into my life. I’ve cut Diet Coke (mostly) and I’ve refused to set foot onto a scale, aiming for a healthy and happy body rather than the cold approval of a number.

But I’ve also set to work on appreciating the skin I’m in. My shoulders are broad, yes, and my face not ever be chiseled, but I have begun to allow myself the wild notion of believing that these are not bad things.

Compound this with a year of coming out, of speaking my story to all the people who know me, and the most recent journey in my life is a story of embracing my whole self. I’m not asking to be anyone other than me.

When my hall staff set out to complete an Abercrombie & Fitch-style photoshoot, I opted to embrace the opportunity. Lean into the chance to take a few shots. One of my RAs, Ryan, took our photos, and he sent the results. Here are some of the resulting shots:

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These are probably not perfect photos. They may not drop jaws, they may not turn heads, and they may not mean much to anyone besides myself.

But they do mean something to me. I have begun to feel comfortable in this skin, a reality that’s taken me a good number of years. I like the person I’ve become, inside and out. My body is broad, and my nose is big, and my eyes are squinty, and – you know – those are kind of wonderful things.

I make this declaration not for attention or acclaim, but as a long sigh of relief. The journey to loving ourselves, as we are, can be a bumpy road. Let’s give ourselves permission; let’s allow ourselves the wild notion that we are worthwhile.

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