#5 The Epiphany

I’m sitting on the couch thinking about my impending surgery (boob job and tummy tuck) and I am watching my daughter play on the ground in front of me when, BOOM, I have and epiphany


e·piph·a·ny – “a sudden, powerful, and often spiritual or life-changing realisation that a person experiences in an otherwise ordinary moment.”

  • How am I ever going to teach Mikaela to love her body as it is if her Mummy can’t do the same?
  • How am I ever going to encourage her to accept and love the parts of her body that she doesn’t like without being a walking contradiction?
  • If I go ahead with the surgery am I setting my daughter up for a future of body-hating and self-loathing?
  • In 10 years time when she becomes a teenager will she want to be like her Mummy and have beautifully manufactured breasts and a flat stomach?
  • Am I setting her up to chase an unrealistic goal of perfection?
  • Will she place more value on her looks than what she achieves in life because Mummy has placed so much emphasis on her own ‘beauty’?

I was presented with a fork in the road and I needed to choose which path I was going to take. The decision wasn’t easy. I could go ahead and get the surgery done. I would have the body that I wanted but at what cost to Mikaela’s future? Or I could put Mikaela’s needs before my own and not go ahead with the surgery.

I chose Mikaela.

So where did this leave me? Right back to where I had been, stuck in a body that I didn’t love with no hope of recovery. There was only one place left for me and that was rock bottom. Things got worse than they had ever been. I hated my body more than I ever had.

You are disgusting, fat and ugly. My dark passenger was back, this time with vengeance.

As I sat there in my dark place with my dark passenger keeping me company, a little thought popped into my head. What if…? What if I could live with my body the way it looks now and be happy? Is this even possible?

As I picked myself up off the ground and wiped my tears I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked deep into my eyes and I heard some words of encouragement. It was the old Taz, the Taz that I knew and loved, it was the positive, happy-go-lucky Taz. And she simply said,

” You can do this”.

MIki and me

 

  • I have just recently come across your wesbite, blog and facebook page and it resonates highly with myself and my views. This particular post gets right down into my core. A few of my thoughts for you:

    Mummy can love her body and she can teach Mikaela to do the same as she grows but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to discover YOUR best body, not a body that the media says is the best, not one that is seemingly perfect to others but one that makes YOU happy. One that makes you comfortable in your own skin and one that you can LOVE! THEN you can teach Mikaela to love her body.

    Surgery doesn’t make you a walking contradiction. I am certainly not endorsing or recommending mums have surgery as a quick fix or to create an unrealistic body image BUT if you are living a healthy lifestyle, nurturing from the inside out and still cannot find love for your body due to factors beyond your control. No way of eating or exercise regime can undo what pregnancy has done to us. We are left stretched and scarred and if you being comfortable in your own skin and able to live a happier life then it may be a consideration. It is then your ability to communicate this to your daughter as she grows that is the most important part. She is going to have many more images of ‘perfection’ through the media and we will have to strive to teach our daughters to love their bodies both inside and out. There is no easy answer here but your mental and emotional wellbeing is so so important both for you and her.

    Your surgery wont set her up for years of self-loathing and she may want perfect stomach and breasts (my mum doesn’t have either of these but I still grew up wanting them) With the message you are already putting out into the world she has a sound influence regardless of your decision.

    Is it possible to be happy in your body? I dont know – I know becoming a mother has given me a much greater respect for my body and belief in what it can do. I am a mother, I am fit, I am strong and as a result of that I love the body I am in despite my self critical nature and striving for perfection (whatever that is). There is a fine line between wanting to look and feel good and seeming to be all about body image. Mums need to know that they can look and feel fantastic as well as being a mother and if looking and feeling fantastic is a result of a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating and if some instances surgery that nothing else can fix is that a bad thing?

    • Jen, I think you may have missed the point. There is NEVER any guarantee that surgery will fix a psychological issue. Making teeth straight and perhaps even making a big nose more feminine is one thing, but using surgery to make yourself feel better about your body is only a quick fix. Of course healthy lifestyle and exercise will take you to your optimal size and shape, but ultimately you need to accept yourself as you are. Relying on surgery (even as a last resort) will not change how you see yourself. Only you can do that. And that is what we need to learn and teach our children. See yourself in positive light.

      Taryn, you are certainly an inspirational woman and mother. I admire you so much and aim to love my body 100%, now sitting at about 85% which isn’t bad. :) Thanks for being the kid of person who stands up to conformists, we need more people around who are trying to change the world. x

    • Ren

      Definitely missed the point. Its not about fixing anything! Its about accepting! Its about finally realising that there isnt anything wrong with you or the way you look!

    • Tanja

      That`s right, Ren! Loud and clear!!! Accepting..that`s all the wisdom!!!
      Taryn, I love you
      Greetings from Serbia

    • Ramie

      I can’t help but think…what if plastic surgery was done at our local drugstore with lazors and no cutting, and was the same price as make up? Isn’t this the same thing as using make up? We all want to look and feel good, and if you have the money you can do that. People who don’t have the money are left with what, you have to learn to love yourself the way you are. Its a great idea, but what about all the images around you of people with their make up on and their hair done and maybe a nose job to smooth out bumps? When you look at before and after what would YOU choose, if it was no risk and didn’t cost much? Maybe in the future it will be like this and everyone will have the opportunity to look how they want to look. Or you have to somehow change your idea of what is attractive. You have to say I like my bumpy nose, I like those wrinkles, they are so much more beautiful than the opposite. That’s a pretty hard mindset to change. Makes you just want to drop out of society all together. You either have to be rich, or born with some lucky genes, or then fool yourself into thinking you look better with all those scars, wrinkles, spots, and…Don’t get me wrong I love this story, but are warts pretty? What do you change on yourself and what do you accept and why? If you change your warts but not your scars then why not leave the warts too? Because they are easy to remove, and doesn’t cost a lot of money. When these other operations become as easy as removing a wart or as easy as putting blush on, then maybe we can all feel pretty. Until then its like if you don’t have the money you get to say “Well I’m better than that because I won’t have surgery.” I am better because I am natural. Or you can stay depressed and say I don’t have the money or I’m afraid of the surgery. So we can stay in denial and say I love this part and that part…but as soon as the future with the flying cars comes around and one dollar and one minute takes away the scar, or extra tissue, etc…would you really not do it?

  • Chiara

    What a beautiful Message. Congratulations for following your heart, and coming to the place of self acceptance. You will be a great role model for your beautiful daughter. I am yet to arrive at that destination but step by step we all will get there. I have learnt that it requires self care and nurturing!

  • You can do this. And so can I. So can we. And I don’t think we can do this alone, because we made this pact together to be something other than what we were. We must break that pact and start a new one. To be only ourselves and love each other and ourselves other for doing so.

    • Nancy

      Christine, I love your post. I will print it out and hang it up as a reminder. Thanks.

  • Judy

    Wow, I stumbled across your site and am transfixed. I have never liked my body much, until about 5 years ago when I started working out fiendishly and ended up with my best body ever (though still far from stereotypical perfection). But I clearly pushed myself too hard. First lower back complications, then thyroid problems, and then neck and upper back problems. I can’t work out like a crazy person anymore, and my body shows it. I am also perimenopausal and nearly 51. Childbirth was long ago (my daughters are 19 and 16) but forever left its imprint. I clearly have a lot to learn about accepting this body in all its imperfection — for my daughters and for me. Thanks for giving me lots to think about!

  • Robyn

    I am 66, the usually middle aged ‘too much around the belly’, some sagging and the (natural) model figure long gone. Luckily I have a loving partner going a bit to seed. But we treasure our good general health, our mental health, healthy (grown up) children and their children – and we can have a GOOD LAUGH !Having joy in each day, friends, sharing our skills and a passionate hobby helps us through the trials of aging. Getting to love one’s body is caring for it like a garden, having some supporters for our weaker, slipshod times of health neglect – and if you watch biology/ health programs or read, you will continually marvel at the amazing power of nature at work in your body. We were ‘designed’ to reproduce, raise the young, then die. Anything beyond that is a bonus and for us to care for – beginning as young people. Take care.

  • Szilvia

    You just got me thinking Taryn. It probably doesn’t deviate much from what I already thought, but I actually think for a lot of people with serious body image issues, it’s easier for them to change their body with surgery or “work out like a crazy person” as Judy said than it is to change their view of themselves. I have every respect for people who can weigh up whether it’s their body or their mind they need to change and decide to change their mind, no matter how hard it’s going to be. We are so incredibly lucky just to be alive and to be able to see, hear, smell, taste and be able bodied enough to be able to walk and do the things we need to do that it’s so sad when people can’t love and appreciate their own body exactly as it is.

  • In my circle of friends (ie breast cancer patients) there are so many having tummy tucks and boob jobs…well it’s because they have had cancer and have had their boobs removed. Maybe be grateful you are not one…enjoy your body you still have it!

  • Diana

    Taryn, what a truly empowering choice you have made for yourself and your daughter. Beginning to love yourself, your whole self is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and to others. It changes your entire life. Let your light shine through to touch the hearts and spirits of those you come into contact with. They will feel your love and in turn share it with others. It truly is the only way. When we love ourselves, life works and it works well. You can have surgery after surgery and whilst you may temporarily love what you have achieved, you ultimately will find something else not to love and end up right at the beginning again. However, when you choose to love yourself for who you are right NOW, just the way you are, that’s when the magic begins. Reading the stories above have broken my heart, the struggle for perfection. Ladies please remember you are NOT your bodies…..you are so much more. Our bodies are our vehicles to experience our lives, when we love ourselves it is a natural progression to feed our bodies with nourishing and healthy foods and treat them with love. Let’s begin to do the same with our minds, treat them with love feeding them nourishing and healthy thoughts about ourselves, our experiences and others. My love to you all xxx

  • Andrea Klauss

    I have three boys and feel the same way. Society has told me my breasts need to be bigger. Well, I don’t think they need to be bigger, my husband doesn’t want them bigger. What message would breast implants send to my boys and how they view women? There are more important things to concentrate on in this world, better uses of money. Going under the knife for something so vain is not worth a risk I would ever be willing to take. My breasts are small and healthy. Love who you are and the body you were given. It was a gift to give birth and it’s a gift to live in this body – priceless things to celebrate!

  • Barbara GArner

    I just saw you POP up on HLN (while I’m on hold with Obamacare for 30 minutes!) – I JUST posted on my FB status 2 days ago – “Why are we so hung up on body image and not on heart/soul image?” – the responses came flooding in. One said “LOL – I BLAME MEN!” I think this is an issue for women – relting on OTHERS’ perceptions of themselves, rather than their own – and then just embracing themselves WHERE they are – loved as a human spirit with a body that may not be what many desire, but content with their souls!
    GOOD FOR YOU! I applaud your efforts and am with you in the campaign against “virtual beauty” – unattainable false realty

  • Arianna

    I totally agree and understand about being a role model and settimg a standard for your daughter. Teaching her to have a positive self image and not wanting her to judge herself based on the way she looked is one of the most challenging tasks I have being a mom to two daughters. There is also some one else paying attention and soaking this in. Your sons. You are also teaching your sons by example that “perfection by way of surgery” is not a true fix. They will choose their mate/partner by the same true and beautiful bar that you are setting for yourself and your daughter. Nothing makes me more proud when my 17 year old son talks to me about a newfound crush, and the first words out of his mouth when describing her is “mom she is so chill and funny”. Best feeling! Thanks for the sharing!

  • Kerry

    Thank you for your site. I am a 42 year old mother of a 13 year old son. In 2004 my then, 10 year old daughter was killed at home in an ATV accident. I spent many years in a depression. The depression’s finally manifestation was centered around my physical appearance. I to had an epiphany. I knew I was strong on the inside. The inside is what I wanted my son to see. It isn’t that my physical appearance absolutely does not matter, but I love the skin I am in!!!

  • Patricia

    I am totally inspired. I am 57 and have recently been thinking about this issue.
    I think I look fantastic even though I have gained weight because I have not been going to the gym 3-4 times per week. I decided, screw it, it is what it is and I’m loving it. I walk tall, I feel confident. My clothes are too tight and now it is winter and I can squash in to only one pair of jeans.
    I have had body issues for most of my life and no more will this happen!! If you want a model for loving the skin you are in..well I’m free!
    Philosophy and spirituality is where my focus of attention is directed and I guess these teachings have impacted on my self-esteem…such a relief!
    Exercise will be for my health only and will consist of yoga and walks.

  • Jo

    I have just stumbled across your site and wanted to say thank you. I had two boys by caesarean section and my stomach looked (to me) hideous afterwards. I slimmed down but could not do anything about the stomach despite diet and exercise. I felt such a failure and have never been able to love myself. In fact just the idea of trying to love myself makes me feel guilt and shame as I am so disgusting. I wish I had seen your site before and body consciousness was more prevalent in the media instead of the images we are constantly abused (for want of a better word) by. I am TRYING to love my body as I am 40 now and life is too short. But I have realised the hard way. I want to cry looking at those pictures of you there because that is probably how I looked after having kids and it would have been fine, it would have been me. Instead I made myself so screwed up about it I binge ate through self hatred and now weigh 3 stone more than I did then :( :( thank you for the amazing work you are doing x

    • Abbey

      Yes! It’s the feeling of failure that I struggle with too. I keep thinking “if only” I had done pregnancy right my body wouldn’t look like it does now. My husband loves me and loves when I’m naked- he tells me all the time he wishes I was naked more- but I’m so jealous of those other moms who look so great. It’s a journey that draws me back into my identity as a daughter of Christ. My feelings of failure get washed away when I think about grace and love and how so many mothers struggle to just feed their babies. I want to spend my life helping others instead of focusing on something as vain as my excess belly skin.

  • Emmaline

    Taz,

    Thank you. Your writing has me in happy tears. I love this movement and am in total awe of you and your voyage of self discovery. Not only have you helped yourself and your daughter, but you are helping countless other women confront this hurdle with grace, acceptance and love.

    Hats off to you, beautiful mumma!
    And thanks again :)

    xox

  • Darija

    Very powerful message and thank you. I have also never been happy with my body and two events in my life have made me not be so hard on myself. After I gave birth by c-section and I had gained all that weight and couldnt even look at myself in the mirror let alone let my husband see me naked. He kissed my scar and he said that he loved it because it brought our daughter into the world…amazing man, everyone should hold out for one like him! And the second time was a few days ago when my daugter and I were taking a shower and my girl slapped my belly and hugged me and laughed and said Oh, I love you Mama…She loves me as Mama. I know she too will find a man like I did who will love her no matter what she looks like, he will love her for all that makes her beautiful inside and out…My job is making sure she is strong willed, minded, book smart, street smart, powerful but above all happy. Thank you again, your website has come at a time in my life where I need to be conscious of what I say and how I react and act to positive and negative events my daughter witnesses everyday. Potty training was a breeze compared to this!

  • Susan

    Very inspirational! After two children, life’s challenges, constant full time work, assistance in caring for a grandchild, caring for family, and all at age 53,I was feeling very tired and less than myself. I had given up on feeling good about myself figuring this was it, middle age has slapped me in the face, youth is gone and it just doesn’t matter anymore. Well, it does matter! I deserve to feel good after all this body has been through. I’ve earned every wrinkle, freckle and inch this body has obtained over the years! But, I also know I need to be and feel healthy. That’s what matters most. I am still learning to accept who and what I have become. I will always try to be and feel healthier. But knowing I am not alone will help me to accept what I have become. I look forward to what your movement has to offer. And maybe one day I will be able to contribute something more positive. Thank you.

  • Amy

    I was ashamed of my size 32A breasts until the age of 24 when I had implants. Then, for much of the next 9 years, I felt ashamed for having “sold out” by getting implants. Four years ago I had my implants removed because, deep down, it wasn’t right for me. Now, my breasts are scarred veterans of multiple surgeries, but -perhaps for the first time in my adult life- I love them because they are mine. While an “explant” was one of the best decisions of MY life, I don’t begrudge women the option of plastic surgery. There are many paths to self love. Let’s stop shaming ourselves and each other because we’re all on the same journey.

  • Bunny

    I stumbled across your blog and I’m so inspired by the choice you have made. I think what you are doing is wonderful and it can only result in a happier healthier life. You could have chosen to keep this all to yourself and still reaped the benefits for yourself and your daughter, but the fact that you’re willing to share your journey with others and effect change is awe inspiring.

    My entire life I’ve been the naturally tall, slim and generally ‘hated’ one because of it. I struggle to keep long term female friends as ultimately the girls I’d like to be friends with exclude me, because they don’t want me around making them feel ‘less’. I eat healthy, I don’t smoke or drink, I exercise regularly because I enjoy running, and I live my life happy. So what frustrates me is living in a world where I receive backhanded compliments from other women because THEY are unhappy with themselves. Can we not stop this? Sometimes in the oddest places complete strangers snarl at me. I’ve stopped even going to clothing stores to try on clothes, I order everything online. In the work place I’m treated like the office bimbo, because heaven forbid someone with a pseudo model figure might have brains too, even though I’m a smart cookie and damn good at my job.

    After a while, I realised I was started to feel ashamed about how I look because of how other women are reacting TO me. I had started to lesser myself in response. I started wearing 2 sizes too big trousers to make myself look frumpier, non feminine flat clompy shoes, high collared shirts and waist coats…almost to make myself look masculine. The scary thing is, I’ve done all this basically to please others.

    I’d love to see this angle covered in your documentary too, because I want to be myself. I don’t want to hide away because people around me aren’t happy with themselves and punish me for it.

    Best of luck with your journey and I’ll be sure to follow along

    Bunny

  • Katie

    “Will she place more value on her looks than what she achieves in life because Mummy has placed so much emphasis on her own ‘beauty’?” Isn’t this message a bit skewed as well?… in this life it is nothing that we do or can do but what Christ Jesus does through us. I can not tell my children that their worth will be measured by any amount of achievement- physical perfection or the contrary… Yet her worth is defined in the One who created her and that she can do all things in Christ who strengthens her!

  • Thank you Thank you Thank you for doing all this amazing work. I live her in the USA with a 6 year old daughter and my loving wonderful husband. I have had so many of the same feelings as you over the years as my health took a serious downward spiral. I have always been active and a pretty clean eater and very conscious of my health. When I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Rheumatoid Arthritis in a very short span of time I began the spiral. I was put on a handful of meds to take morning noon and night. My weight of course ballooned no matter what I did in the gym or in the kitchen. I sit here at the weight I’ve so struggled to maintain for a few years now. It has taken so many epiphany moments looking at my daughter to realize that I am still active everyday and in the gym and we still eat clean to be healthy and the number on the scale doesn’t matter!!!! I am able to play with my daughter and have energy to keep up with my hubby! The very meds that make me hold weight and caused so much frustration are the very meds that allow me to be functional. I need to be positive and be a role model for this young beautiful daughter I have. She needs to see Mommy in love with herself first in order to learn to love herself no matter what. Your work with this is absolutely necessary in this society we live and I just so wish there was a “chapter” here in the USA I could become involved with. I have made a career out of making people beautiful on the outside with makeup but I wish I knew how to become involved to make all our young girls feel beautiful on the inside from a very young age!!! Thank you again…you have truly helped this Mommy realize what is important in this life and it isn’t the size of my pants or the number on that darn scale! I applaud you..
    Christine Danderand

  • Loulou

    Thank you for the inspiration. I have had body issues for years. Even at my fittest there was always, “something wrong”. Then 4 years ago I had my second child, my daughter. She has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.she is bold and funny and up until comparatively recently she couldn’t walk. After she was diagnosed at 1, I had an epiphany too. She is going to have enough ‘body issues’to deal with without any more on top. How can I tell her she is lovely just as she is if I’m complaining about my tummy or how my clothes fit? I need to set her a positive example,nobody is perfect. Shes’s got the whole walking thing now, next step is running…..
    As a little aside I grew up in an active household with my mum telling us girls never to diet and that we were lovely just as we were. Yet my mum has been on a diet for as long as I can remember and all three of us girls have had probs with food.not blaming mum at all but what you see and hear from an early age does affect you.

  • Sandra

    I’m so happy I found your page. I am struggling with my own dark passenger. My body has done some amazing things over the years like grew three new lives, hiked mountains, play instruments, played endless games of tag, etc but all those accomplishments get completely overshadowed by thoughts of how disgusting my stomach is. So completely ludicrous. Thanks for your body image movement I definitely needed to find this.

  • Haley

    The sad thing is that these self-hating voices in our heads come from the patriarchal system we live in that disempowers women. All we see are super thin bodies, weight loss ads, and chocolate commercials. We live in a system that commodifies women’s body for the male gaze and the sad thing is is that we are our worst enemies! We have internalized the rampant sexism around us, it is so normal to us we don’t even recognize it as such. As dictated by our society, a women’s worth is supposed to come from her body. The commodification of the female body, dehumanizes women- we aren’e just bodies, we are so much more! Mind, spirit, energy- our true selves are not our bodies, our bodies are only our vehicles, temples, houses for this short life, for the temporary existence we live on this planet (or perhaps our temporary vehicle until the nest life). The current system is so busy keeping us swept up in it- the self-hating, the diets, the weight loss blah blah blah, that we forget that what is most important about a body is not what it looks like, but what we can do with it. We can’t accomplish anything on the physical plane without it- but we are not it! We are not our bodies, our thoughts, our desires, our emotions- we have these things but we are not them. How can we revamp our system or build a better system where women are empowered to make change in the world and treated as full human beings. The issue with dehumanizing women, is violence against women becomes weaved into the fabric. We see it everywhere and yet we are so used to it, we forget how horrible it is. Between women being dehumanized-body-figures and men being taught not to feel, we have the equation for domestic violence, abuse, rape, and the ensuing war against women that exists all over this planet. The statistics are crazy! A war against women is a war against Nature, self, spirit. How can we dehumanize and abuse women- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually- when we are over half of the world’s population. How can half of the world population not be fully valued as human beings?! Don’t wage war on yourself, darling, wage you inner war on a system that is trying to oppress you. Look at your internalized sexism, became aware, and slowly rid yourself of it. Seek other people who see the reality of the situation too. Stop watching dominant forms of media as much as you can. Live your life to the fullest, play, experience, BE YOU and don’t let the dominant narrative and social norms dictate your life. Otherwise, there is a you shaped hole in the fabric of the Universe!

  • Tia

    ‘I might not survive and leave my daughter without her mother’ or ‘I might get an infection and be even more scarred, spend many weeks in hospital on antibiotics ruining my gut and set myself up for all sorts of health problems afterwards’ are also worthy considerations for a decision to live positively :)