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On Ignoring the Straw-Bogeyman

I threw a pair of gym shorts in my bag yesterday morning. I can’t wear them, I told myself, but just in case. 

In the past two years, I’ve tried really hard to unlearn the unrealistic beauty standards I’ve held my body to all of my life. And that’s not a static process. I backslide sometimes. As I lose weight, I find new imperfections to nitpick.

Of all of this, the hardest to come to terms with are my legs. I’m 5’3″ and come from a herd of stocky women — it is not in the cards for me to have long, willowy legs. I could give you every detail I dislike about my legs, but that’s not the point here. The point is that I have a hard time showing my bare legs.

Wearing shorts out in the wild is kind of awkward, but at about 85 degrees I stop feeling awkward about showing off literally my whole body. But when it comes to exercising in shorts, I find myself self-conscious about the jiggle of my thighs when I move. Even knowing that literally everyone’s thighs jiggle does little to dissuade the voice in my head that says, “Oh, no, these shorts aren’t for you. These are for other people. Real people.”

So there I am, looking down at these shorts in the locker room, and I think, “If I could see just one other woman with legs like mine in shorts at this gym, maybe that’d be okay.”

Then I rebutted: “Stop it. What if someone else here needs you to be that woman with legs like yours in shorts?”

At heart, I’m not inherently comfortable leading. I don’t have the confidence in my decisions; I’m basically 80% self-doubt at any given time. But it’s not as though the real world has offered much in the way of stocky women existing as a role model.

I’m a hero, is what I’m saying here

I’m kidding. But I did realize that maybe I need to be less afraid of being publicly and obviously human. The more I meet and observe and interact honestly with other people (especially women), the more certain I am that our “flaws” and “imperfections” are just us. Trying not to exist in an imperfect state is futile, and so exhausting. I shouldn’t give a shit what The Straw-Bogeyman might be thinking of my legs because I’m on an elliptical in shorts.

So I didn’t. I wore my shorts:


I mean, seriously. I have some sturdy fucking legs. They’ve carried me well.

And frankly, I didn’t terribly enjoy it. I always forget that the way my thighs rub together leads to shorts riding up into my crotch. So I’ll probably end up getting a weird pair of exercise capris in my near future.

But the point is, at least I wore the shorts.


  • We always worry about what others think! And it is usually the other women we worry about!! Not the men! We as women have to stop being mean girls….

    • Ashley says:

      I think there’s a complex relationship between what the media represents as ideal, what women police in others in response to their own self-image, and the way men behave. Personally, I have more experience with men in my life being actively cruel/judgmental about my weight but tend to worry more about what women might think. Not because I think they’re meaner, but because they’ve absorbed the exact same messages as I have throughout their lives and know exactly where to look.

      I just don’t buy that body policing can be easily whittled down to “only a problem because of mean girls.” Not that I disagree that women ought to be more supportive of each other overall. I just think is starts by first being more kind to ourselves.