I ran the Hop River Run 10K over the weekend. It was hot. It was silly hot; like 90 degrees with a heat index of 105. It was truly miserable, therefore, I opted to run shirtless as I have been for most of this summer. But standing around both before and after the race I received several comments about my bravery for showing off my midriff. At first I brushed it off, but the more I heard it, the more I wondered what’s so brave about this?
Yes, I have birthed four children. No, my body is not perfect. I have extra skin hanging out around my belly button. I have stretch marks on my thighs. My body has drastically changed size and shape so many times in the last 8 years it’s a wonder I even resemble a human at all! But you know what? A little extra belly skin is not going to stop me from running comfortably on a hot day.
“It’s so hot today! I wish I was brave enough to do that!” Personally, I don’t believe this has to do with bravery. That would imply that I’m somehow overcoming a serious physical or psychological obstacle — that I’m facing true adversity and defeating it. I am not brave because I don’t care. I never did.
I understand the self-esteem issues that arise when shedding a shirt. I have just as many body image issues as the next woman. I’d love to look “better” and I always notice my many imperfections, probably more than anyone else. Because we judge ourselves, we assume that everyone else is judging us also. And because we are unclothed we feel that we are somehow more visible. So, what if someone is judging my mom-pooch? What if someone is looking my scars and stretch marks? What if someone is disgusted by my flappy skin? Does their disapproval slow me down or make me warmer? Does it really change anything?
As it turns out, it doesn’t matter! I am me. This is what I look like and short of cosmetic surgery, there isn’t much I can do about it. I’m not ashamed nor hindered by what I look like with my shirt off and no one else should be either. If you really want to take it off, then do it! It’s not about being brave, it’s about being comfortable.