I can still hear the sneer in the kid’s voice when he bullied me on the bus ride home from elementary school. A holier-than-thou tone mixed with his own gently nurtured southern twang as he squawked at me, “Hey. Did you know your arms are fat? You have fat arms!” Feeling embarrassed and ashamed, I got off that bus as quickly as I could, wiping tears from my cheeks as I hurried home. It is strange how certain moments hang in our memories like spider webs that we cannot brush away. Out of all the moments I have felt insulted and belittled about my appearance, why did this one stick with me longer than the others?
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and yet how many times do we let another person’s opinion infiltrate our own perception of ourselves?
I have always been on the heavier side, especially in middle and high school. I lost weight in college and thought I looked my best at 23 and 24 years old when I was working 4 part-time jobs and working at a horse farm (yay for mucking fields!). It was only then that I started feeling like I could tuck in my shirt without looking like a whale. That my booty could fit into those evil skin-tight breeches we equestrians love to loathe. It was then that I allowed myself to start feeling like an Equestrian with a capital E.
Fast-forward five years later and now I work a full-time desk job, have gained weight (ugh) and struggle to feel confident like I did a few years ago. When I look at pictures of myself now and see that extra bit of wiggle in the top of my thighs, my initial instinct is to cringe and never show the picture to anyone ever because clearly that’s all they will see. I recently hesitated to share a picture of me riding on Instagram because I hated how I looked, but although that moment in time wasn’t brilliant, the lesson that day was actually fabulous. I posted it anyway, thinking how ridiculous it is that our society has been brainwashed into only showing perfection.
I wondered how others related to their self-image, positively or negatively? Did they feel like I did? I reached out, and the responses that flooded back broke my heart. I expected a mixed bag of answers, but almost every single person saw something truly dark in their reflection. All ages and sizes, mothers and influencers, riders and actors, each person found something negative to obsess over in their self-image that I did not see. I wanted desperately to give each of them a hug and thank them for their bravery. It is one of our society’s biggest lies: the perfection of beauty. The lie that beauty must equal sameness, and irregularities are less-than beautiful. This goes for men too, and they have to deal with another layer in the definition of masculinity. Deeply rooted in our learned concept of body image is this voice that whispers, “You are ugly. You are worthless. You are not capable.” I want to punch that voice in the face because it’s NOT TRUE. Don’t believe that voice. Please.
Why is perfection regarded more highly than progress?
The equestrian community is obsessed with perfection. Perfect equitation. Perfectly done hairnets. Perfect riding outfits. Perfect horses. The perfect Breech Body. But just because you don’t (or you do) look like a Dover model, it does not make you any less valuable to this community. I see so much hate on social media, directed at anyone who shows a moment of imperfection. Comments can hurt, and those keyboard villains are the lowest form of jerk. No matter what end of the spectrum you are weight-wise, you can still be an amazing rider. Is your balance centered? Are you light in your seat and strong in your core? Are you an effective rider first, focusing on the comfort and fluidity of your horse? And most importantly, are you constantly trying to make progress in your riding for the benefit of your horse?
Progress is gradual betterment. It is not the pursuit of perfection, but a forward motion, higher or more advanced than before. My personal progress is incremental, and sometimes it backtracks. I sometimes feel the weight in my chin or the tightening of my pants. Other times I feel the soreness from a good workout, or the moment of suspension when I ask for my horse to lift its back to me. I will keep reaching for those moments of progression in my body, or in my training, or in my mental awareness of who I am.
So screw perfect. I want progress. I want my mistakes and my scars. I want to wear my stretchy breeches and tuck in my shirt to show off my cute belt. I want to be balanced and feel my strength grow and take pride in myself as a rider. I want to share my happy moments complete with a belly laugh. I already have a Breech Body, and I want to allow myself to show it.
Love from a Breech Booty, Connie