The Unexpected Body Image Teacher

The last few years have been an epic body love roller coaster ride. Want to possess the most positive body image ever imaginable? Have your body completely fall apart a million times, a million different ways. Scars, weight, stretch marks, size …none of it will matter when your abilities come back, when your legs let you walk, when your mouth lets you speak, when your arms can hold someone you love dearly, when you have the mental strength to be fully present.

Every one of my working and non working body parts has taught me about total love, acceptance and patience. But there is one small body part that I never imagined would be such a great body image teacher, would inspire so many conversations with my nieces about body love – my thumbnails.

My fingers have been some of the last parts of my body to come back to health. They have gone through many painful phases and as they have changed, they have allowed me to realize inside my body has been healing and getting back on track. They have been a mirror as to what was happening with my brain and immune system. The last holdout has been my thumbnails. They have looked mangled for quite some time. At first I would constantly try to keep nail polish on them to cover up their imperfections. But for the last year, I decided to stop doing this and instead embrace their raw beauty. I enjoy looking down at my unpainted nails daily to see the improvements. They are a symbol of my body’s perseverance.

I’ve held hands with my nieces countless times and conversations have started about my rough, misshapen thumbnails. It has given me the opportunity to tell them about how strong our bodies are, how honoured I am to walk and move and share valuable time with them and how my uniqely different nails are a part of me I am not ashamed of. I’ve shared with them how people have scars of honour on their bodies for the experiences they have gone through and we need to celebrate these badges of beauty. I’ve explained to them how smart my body has been in that it realized the rest of my body needed all the love and attention it could get to recover from autoimmune Hashimoto’s and Gluten Ataxia so it had to stop sending some energy to my nails temporarily because other parts needed it more. My mangled thumbnails represent that my body isn’t broken, it is smart.

Many of our conversations have been silent, with my nieces gently touching my nails, inspecting them in the sweet, honest way children do, knowing every time they check, they are improving and getting healthier, an unspoken realization that so am I. Most importantly, my hands with my imperfectly perfect thumbnails can type again, can write again, can pick up my nieces again and twirl them around and be goofy. How honoured I am to have been bestowed these marks of imperfection that possess the power to start such important conversations.