I used to hate this part of me — here’s to slowly falling in love with it (and myself)

I fell in love with myself in pieces. Anyone who’s had body dysmorphia knows this — it’s a battle loving each and every piece of yourself.

Some things are easier than others. The last part I learned to love was my thighs.

It’s been a long and troubled history. In fourth grade, I remember looking down at my thighs as I walked to school. They looked pale and enormous in my coral shorts. “Mommy,” I asked, “why do my legs look so large?”

“Stop it,” she said. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course they look large if you’re looking from up top, but they aren’t really.”

I couldn’t let it go, though.

In sixth grade, as I continued gymnastics, I looked at my legs compared to the other girls as we did bar routines. My thighs are so thick, I remember thinking. It’s not fair — I have so much more body weight to lift. I was five feet tall and barely 96 pounds.

Even as I quit gymnastics and started swimming, I still didn’t learn to love my legs. Not for their ability to kick faster and harder than many of my teammates, not for their ability to spring off the starting blocks with explosive power, not for their ability to push off the walls with such force that the splash reached people standing several feet back. Throughout my ten years of competitive swimming, I never once fell in love with my legs.

In eleventh grade, my favorite pair of jeans wore a hole on the right inner thigh. “It’s from your thighs rubbing together,” one of my friends remarked. True, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

Sophomore year of college, as thigh gaps became the hot new thing, I realized that I would never have one.

I realized that, but I don’t know if I could let that go.

Even as I quit swimming and began boxing, I never thanked my legs for the countless squats and squat jumps they endured. I never thanked them for being able to continuously kick a 100 pound bag, for constantly pivoting, moving, working. I knew they were strong, but I didn’t appreciate them.

Even as I began running, I never marveled at the fact that my legs could carry me first ten, then thirteen, fourteen, sixteen, and eighteen long miles. I never appreciated that they allowed me to jump over barriers during Spartan races or scale walls during Tough Mudders. I accepted that as a given.

I don’t know what changed; maybe it took an appreciation from others about them being “strong” that allowed me to see that no, not everyone could do the things I do. Someone during one of my boxing classes laughingly nicknamed me “Quadzilla” and assured me it was a good thing.

I was surprisingly ok with that.

“You have strong legs,” others told me appreciatively.

I was surprised that others noticed.

For so long, I had focused on the gap that I thought should be between my thighs, not the ability of my legs to do the amazing things they do.

Now as I walk down the street, I don’t think about the fact that my thighs rub against each other. Instead, I can feel the muscles move, can feel the slight soreness that seems to always be present in my muscles, and I embrace it.

Now, I’m proud of my legs for carrying me through multiple long runs. For being able to hold a squat for eight minutes. For staying steady through holding yoga poses. For powering me through my active lifestyle.

It’s over ten years later, but I’ve finally learned to love my thighs.

(For a huge inspiration of mine, check out this article on boxer Alicia Napoleon and how she learned to love her “thunder thighs.”)