What Lena Dunham’s Instagram Says About a Woman’s Journey to Self-Acceptance


I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention to Lena Dunham’s Instagram feed as of late, but I have. And it’s Giving. Me. Life.

You might remember that on February 15th, Dunham wrote a powerful essay for Vogue about her decision to undergo a hysterectomy at the young age of 31. She wrote eloquently and candidly – as she always does – about what it means to have a broken body. A body with a defective uterus that she must bid farewell to. She describes it like “running with cement blocks strapped to my feet.”

In the months that have followed, Dunham’s Instagram feed has become an unintentional shrine to her body. Accidentally chronicling her journey to self-acceptance by way of hashtags like #ThickThighsTellNoLies and swimsuit mirror-selfies with captions like “This Sunday I feel: gratitude for the woman I’m becoming and empathy for the girl that I’ve been.” 

In July she posted two images, side by side. “On the left: 138 pounds, complimented all day and propositioned by men and on the cover of a tabloid about diets that work. Also, sick in the tissue and in the head and subsisting only on small amounts of sugar, tons of caffeine and a purse pharmacy,” she wrote. “On the right: 162 pounds, happy joyous & free, complimented only by people that matter for reasons that matter, subsisting on a steady flow of fun/healthy snacks and apps and entrees, strong from lifting dogs and spirits,” Dunham continued.

She follows that same format again on August 4th, posting another two images of herself. The first of a smiling, serene, dressed-to-the-nines, skinny Lena waving to a paparazzi camera. “I look like a cashmere princess made of miracles”, she writes. The second image, taken in August of this year, shows a body transformation that resulted in gaining – not loosing – weight to become happy. “In the first picture I was hiding wildly untreated illnesses, both physical and mental, under my fancy coat, and in the second I am restored to sanity, talking to someone I love about the job I love on my way home. I am out of pain.” 

How often is it that a woman publicly acknowledges a changing body? And better yet, celebrates it over and over and over again?

Dunham has no desire to be the person she was five years ago, with a smaller dress size and even smaller sense of worth. But isn’t it sort of mind-blowing that for most women, it is only when our bodies have been through hell and back – in Dunham’s case in the form of a decade-long battle with endometriosis that led to her uterus being removed – that we finally arrive at self-acceptance?

My guess would be that she’s not all the way there yet on this journey. I’m sure some days are better than others. Some days she’s just like you or I; avoiding mirrors and store front windows and her reflection in a bus driving past. Getting dressed hunched over in the corner of her closet. Feeling uncomfortable in her skin.

Which only makes me more grateful that she’s allowing us to come along for the ride.

On August 15th, the nine month anniversary of her hysterectomy, Dunham wrote:

“My body is mostly healed and every day I find a new bruise on my heart, but today I offer myself gratitude… The purest flint of who we are and who we can be is always available to us, calm and true at our centre.”

She affectionately named her uterus “Judy”, and explained that when Judy was no longer serving her, she made the painful decision to let her go. “Today I give thanks for Judy, for her graceful exit and for this body. Which is stronger than I’ve ever given it credit for.”

I feel so encouraged that after all Dunham has endured; physically, emotionally and mentally, she’s choosing joy.

What a triumph.

Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club