Getting to this moment on live TV where I felt comfortable wearing a sleeveless dress literally took decades, but man, I feel so free.
Seven? I think that’s around the age I first remember being self-conscious about my arms.
It’s hard to say exactly, but I vaguely remember pulling shirts out of my little set of drawers for a family photo and literally sweating over a sleeveless top I wanted to wear. I mean, I reallllyyy wanted to wear it, it was purple and had little delicate flowers all over it. I remember this because I’ve seen said family photo about a thousand times, since.
In the photo, I’m standing with my leg sort of angled in front of me to look skinnier, and I have my arms shoved behind my cute little denim cutoffs. It was the 90s. It was a look.
But seven years old? When I look at seven year olds now I think it’s impressive they can even tie their own shoes. I have a one year old, so that kind of independence seems really, really far away. And seven seems WAY too young to have any sort of insecurity, especially one so specific.
Sorry, mom. I know you tried to tell me about 5,000 times over the years not to worry about my arms. That I was perfect just the way I was and there was nothing to worry about. But I never listened, I never believed it. Instead, I insisted on only wearing clothes with sleeves. I DREADED wearing my sports uniforms because I felt like they only made my man-ish arms look even more man-ish. I remember watching my mom drive in junior high and high school thinking, she has perfect arms. Why couldn’t I have gotten her arms? (See? Crazy weird obsession. So crazy.)
My sister and I at Homecoming in high school. We were both homecoming princesses (or something like that, it's been a while and it's a bit of a blur now.)
It's September in Texas, it was like 2,000 degrees outside! My sister was rocking that sleeveless dress but I was covered up like a nun (hence why I'm so sweaty here lol.)
Prom was the worst. Mannnn I remember looking for prom dresses with sleeves. I couldn’t find one, so I did arm exercises religiously until the big night and even then, my arms were all I could stare at in photos. Did they look fat? Are they disproportionately large compared to the rest of my body? Why are all my friends so tiny! And don’t even get me started on my first wedding dress! That was before Kate Middleton got married in a chic, long-sleeved gown and made it fashionable. Prior to that, sleeves on wedding dresses were reserved for old biddies and very conservative types. I am neither of those things. I spent $2,500 and 3 months working with a personal trainer just to tone my arms for my wedding. It worked, though. I didn’t hate them by the time I was ready to walk down the aisle, but I did still try to avoid showing them in photos. Ugh, exhausting.
Also, do you know how hard it is to avoid tank tops in Texas summers? YOU SWEAT. A LOT.
And thus this went, on and on. I even had a TV consultant, who insisted that I wear sleeveless dresses for work, tell me to “just lift more weights” when I explained I couldn’t possibly wear sleeveless dresses on air without having a full-blown panic attack. Lift more weights? Lady, I’ve been lifting weights since high school! This isn’t a weight lifting problem, this is a genetic problem!
But there’s the funny thing about insecurities. You see it as a cold-hard fact: I have bad arms. They’re long, shapeless and generally just sort of large. I wanted delicate, ballerina-toned arms. And here’s the thing: it’s not genetic! It’s all. In. your. Head. All of it. Totally made up.
It wasn’t until after having my daughter, Joss, that it hit me one day: it’s really hot outside, just wear the tank top. Show her you can overcome insecurities and just be a happy mom who isn’t sweating through her sleeves in 110 degree weather.
Because for Joss, I wanted to be better. I want to be secure. I want to face my fears.
I want to have the strength to have the right to bare arms. (It’s Texas, see what I did there?)
So a few months ago, I went into a department store with the set intention to buy a sleeveless dress. I must have tried on 75 of them before I found one I didn’t hate. In fact, it felt pretty good. “Hey,” I thought as I checked myself out in the bad dressing room mirror, “not too shabby!”
It was a beautiful orange sherbet color, something I didn’t own at all in my wardrobe, and it was gloriously without sleeves.
“I can do this” I told myself at least a dozen times before the newscast. Just breath, no one is looking at your arms. And if they are, they aren’t texting and tweeting their friends about how big they are. CHILL OUT, BETTS.
And with that mantra repeating itself in my head, the countdown to the live newscast was underway. 5, 4, 3, 2, (gulp) 1…
“Good evening and thank you for joining us, I’m Kris Betts. AND THESE ARE MY ARMS, WORLD! TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT!”
But in my head, yes! That was exactly how I felt! And I was so consumed by what I was reading, after the first few seconds I just sort of forgot to even worry about my arms! It was the most beautiful, exhilarating and freeing moment I can remember in a long, long time. And you know what? When I went back and watched, I didn’t hate it! I didn’t even cringe! Finally, freedom to just be me.
So to anyone reading this with an insecurity that’s stuck around since childhood, or maybe even a new one as our bodies change post-baby, please be kind to yourself. Be brave. Be free.
Let. It. Go.
I can’t tell you how much it’s opened up mind to conquer other insecurities I don’t like about myself. Something about being in my 30s has helped me realize that some things just aren’t changing. So instead of wasting time and energy hating it, I can stop those thoughts when they pop up, and breathe them on out their merry way. Letting it go, and learning to embrace who I am, and what I am.
And you know what? Life’s a lot less sweaty, too. I think Joss would be proud.