I am sitting naked in a chair, and if I look to the side, I can see myself in a mirror.

Pablo Picasso, Nude and Still Life, 1931

Why am I doing this thing, you ask?

Because I read a post on Jezebel just now about a blogger, Michelle Gay, who posted a picture of herself in her skivvies, with commentary on what makes her proud of her body. Michelle writes "Eating Journey", a blog about how she lost something around a hundred pounds and changed her life. Changing your life to that degree requires changing your thinking, and Michelle was interested in how other women saw their bodies. What she found was that, to a greater or lesser degree, we all have pretty complex thoughts about what our bodies mean, what they can or can't do, and how we feel about them.

Not exactly news, is it? I mean, if you're a woman in this or any number of other cultures, you're constantly exposed to messages about how, no matter what you do, it'll never be good enough; *you'll* never be good enough.

Our friend Mizfit has some interesting thoughts on this: in an exercise she's done with plenty of women, the women always draw outlines of themselves much larger than they actually are.

(I encourage you to read Mizfit's post. In it, she links to a number of other Exposed bloggers. It's amazing.)

So. If you were here next to me, now that I've grown tired of freezing to death in my drafty, underinsulated house and put my robe back on, you'd see a short, stocky, middle-aged woman with hair-colored hair and eye-colored eyes. I'm smart, but not brilliant. I'm athletic, but not a jock. I am, in short, almost frighteningly ordinary.

Now, though, when I look at the bodies of other women brave enough to post pictures of themselves, I see this about myself:

Hands that have saved two lives and midwifed many, many more through dying.

Arms that can lift almost anything they're called upon to lift, be it bags of dog food or lonely cats or heavy patients.

A chest that can bench-press my trainer. Plus, it looks great in V-necks.

A back that can lift anything. I mean *anything*. Need a steam locomotive moved? I'm game.

A belly that, while soft and overlaid with a couple of inches (or more!) of fat, can do sixty V-ups with weights between both ankles and hands.

Hips that can shake to Brave Combo like nobody's bidness.

A butt that has moved at least one man to lyrical, and sometimes vaguely obscene, observations.

Thighs that can run a mile without stopping, then move me up and down a step, then squat weights, and then go to work a twelve-hour day and take the dog for a run. Then get up and do it all again.

Calves that, at something like 16.5 inches, are my pride and joy. They're a combination of genetics and training and the one thing that shows that my sister, my mother, and me are all related.

Feet that still work despite years of abuse and cutting my toenails too short.

Learning to love your body is a lifetime's work. At some point, when we're kids or young teenagers, we quit taking what we can do for granted and start focusing on what we're not.

What do you love about yourself today?

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