Nearly every day in the car, my four-year-old son will look down at his thighs, call out for my attention with an excited “LOOK!”, and declare:

“Mommy, mine are getting big—like yours!”

He will then grab his tender limbs and shake them around, repeating over and over again:

“Yours are big! And mine are getting big!”

To him, the size of his thighs—of thighs in general—is a measure of success. He sees it as a character trait of growing up and being strong.

Funny how things can change so much the longer we live in this world.

I have spent my entire life feeling horribly self-conscious about those thighs in question. I remember the exact moment I became aware of my body shape.

In fact, I remember the exact moment I became aware of my body shape.

We were on a family beach trip and I must have been in sixth or seventh grade. Puberty had tacked on some awkward pudge around my thighs and face, but I wasn’t really conscious of it. I was just sort of living my life—the way you would hope any young girl to.

But that day on the beach, I was applying sunblock and my mom looked at my thighs with concern and asked me what the marks were.

I knew then as I know now, that she only asked because she was genuinely concerned. From a distance, I’m sure the purple glow of the stretch marks against my pale skin resembled bruises, and she was merely trying to make sure I wasn’t being hurt by someone or something.

I hadn’t even noticed them before that moment. I looked down trying to understand what she was referring to, and she came closer to show me before suddenly dropping the subject entirely and moving on.

I assume once she grew near she realized what they were and was trying to avoid hurting my feelings or causing me pain by explaining what they were to me.

But it was too late. That day, I became aware of the marks on my skin. The marks that, based on my mom’s reaction, weren’t normal for a kid my age.

It would be years before I would discover what they actually were (because I was way too embarrassed to ask anyone), but once I finally gained the courage to bring the topic back up to my mom years later, she explained to me the normalcy of stretch marks and how she too, had some of her own.

Talking with my mom about it made me feel less alone, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with me.

I stood five-foot-four-and-a-half (that half was very important to me). Not tall enough to be considered tall, yet not short enough to be considered short. This sort of, in-the-middle girl, who had power thighs with stretch marks and couldn’t ever find pants that fit her pear frame.

People referred to my body type as “stubby”, which was code for “all of your weight is in your thighs and butt”. I know it was mostly never meant as an insult, but it still plagued me.

I began trying to make myself smaller every chance I could get. Those thunder thighs and powerful lies I told myself became the driving force behind almost everything I did.

I learned how to pose at an angle. How to place one leg slightly in front of the other when I stood. To sit with my legs tightly crossed, even if my toes went numb.

I would squeeze through tight spaces and frequently bruise my hips from it. I still do this from time to time. Old habits die hard, don’t they?

A male friend once told me:

“Your body is perfect. You just need to tone those thighs.”

And so, I would shrink. Literally and figuratively.

I became more agreeable. Less committed to my own thoughts and feelings about things. I would starve myself, then end up binging. I worked out excessively, then not at all.

The multifarious degrees of sabotage began to weigh me down more than the thighs themselves.

And I’m going to be entirely honest with you here…

It was up until about a week ago.

My son, sitting in the car, gazing at his thighs with pride as he proclaimed:

“Mommy, mine are getting big—like yours!”

Those wondrous eyes of my sweet little boy. They are untainted by the world. They see things for what they ARE, rather than what our stories make them up to be.

And he sees power, and strength, and something worthy of praise in my thighs. In me.

All I ever wanted was for someone to tell me that my thighs were thin, yet all my child wants if for me to tell him that his thighs are big.

And it made me realize how backward I have been for so long.

Why have I spent so much time trying to shrink, when I was designed to command the space I stand in?

Why do we, as women, do that so often? Why do we try to reduce ourselves?

I don’t know if your insecurity is your thighs, or your arms, or whatever else that your eyes can’t seem to look away from and your brain can’t seem to stop ripping apart—but I want you to know that you were created beautifully. Perfectly.

And it is our job as women, to start filling the space around us.

We cannot shrink ourselves when we were born to command the space we stand in.

Do not shrink yourself, when you were born to command the space you stand in.

Roll your shoulders back, stand tall, and embrace the power that your presence brings into this world.

Because I can guarantee you that you’ve got your own version of my four-year-old out there looking at your insecurities as the most beautiful, wonderful things about you.

Photos courtesy of Brenda Munoz Photography