I am a Polar Bear. This epiphany came to me shortly after a Relief Society workshop I attended in Layton, Utah almost 20 years ago. A woman who was a registered dietitian and worked with professional sports players was talking to our stake about nutrition and body image.
She began her presentation in a novel way. On the projector she displayed beautiful photos of animals – they were National Geographic quality pictures. She encouraged us to think about them as creations of our Heavenly Father and to note the variety and individuality of each different species. As a lover of the outdoors and a watcher of PBS nature specials, she had me hooked.
Perhaps you’ve already guessed where she was going with her presentation. I, however, was simply caught up in the beauty of all those amazing animals. She concluded her slide show with a giraffe and asked the women in attendance to switch gears. She said something along the lines of, “This is a giraffe. We’ve been enjoying looking at various animals created by our Heavenly Father. We would never expect any one of those creatures to try to look like a giraffe, but that’s exactly what we do as people. Instead of enjoying the variety and individuality of the human race, we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that somehow we should all look alike. That somehow, as women, we can all fit the physique of the giraffe.”
In that moment I saw the absurdness of the ruse I’d fallen under. There was no way I was ever going to be a giraffe! After only a moment of thought, I knew exactly what animal was a fit for me metaphorically – the polar bear.
First of all, I’m pale. Really pale. Back when I was engaged to be married I was adjusting my pant leg and my soon-to-be sister-in-law noticed how white my leg was. “Is that your leg?” she asked. “Or are you wearing white nylons?” A little embarrassed, I assured her that it was definitely my leg. The polar bears and I have paleness in common.
Next on my list of similarities to the polar bear is my size. Of course I’m not really the size of an adult polar bear (300 to 500 lbs. for a female), but polar bears are the largest species of bear. And I am a rather large person.
I also learned that polar bears have very large paws. Which fits my M.O. as well. They use theirs for swimming. I use mine for anything but swimming. (Alas, designers have not come up with a swimming suit that is flattering for this polar bear.)
Finally, I definitely have an over-developed mother bear instinct. You do not want to see me react if I feel that one of my bears (children, students, friends, family members) is being threatened. It is ferocious!
So there you have it. I am a polar bear, metaphorically speaking. And to tell you the truth, I’m just fine with being a polar bear.