I have noticed an overwhelming worldwide emphasis on body image throughout the web this last fortnight.
I have been deeply touched by a synchronistic blend of posts, features and articles on how love, not shame, is the answer to our world’s body image issues.
I have always had body image issues, as I know most women have. I have never met a woman who just loved and accepted herself. Even stunningly beautiful (by media dictations) women find something to complain about.
I have, unfortunately, also had to endure a small number of eejits passing comment on my bodily ‘imperfections’- amplifying something that has already been a personal challenge.
While one might pass comment on my ‘imperfections’ another would point out their own ‘perfections’ while looking me up and down and pausing at my ‘problem areas’.
The reality is though, these type of people are far and few in between- luckily- but the damage is sometimes so big, one might begin to think that it’s everyone or at least the majority.
Despite society and the medias push on certain looks, shapes and colours (another rant for another day)- the reality is everyone has their own idea of what perfection or beauty is to them. Read this magnificent letter from a guy to his plus-size girlfriend about how he loves her not despite her size but because of her size.
Nowadays I don’t feel upset or inferior. I don’t feel like my body is wrong like I used to believe.
It’s not just flaws people are obsessed with- its perfection.
I remember when I was self-conscious about my saddle bags and my bum. I checked out every single other woman’s bum and thighs. Every. Single. One.
I would look at slimmer thighs like a glutton, drinking them in, wishing for them just so I could pull off a pair of boyfriend jeans.
The awful truth is that I would also look at fatter thighs (like a fool) and subconsciously feel delighted that I wasn’t last in the race to perfection.
Isn’t that sad? Am I the only one to have these devilish feelings? I don’t believe I am.
I believe it’s human nature. It’s what we do with these feelings that is important.
Do you want to know how I started loving my body?
I had a baby.
Every time I think of my lower abdomen I feel an overwhelming sense of love and gratitude. Every time I feel it, stroke it and look at it I am filled with bursts of oxytocin.
The lines, the scar, the stretch marks. My baby came from there.
My body contributed to the miracle of life.
You don’t have to have a baby to feel this though, every single day, by just living, your body is contributing to the miracle of life.
Overtime, this love for my lower abdomen has spread elsewhere.
This self-love has encouraged me to be good to my body rather than the way self put-downs cause me to self destruct.
This self-love has, over time, reduced the unhealthy part of my physical body.
And that is the point I am trying to ring home.
Whenever anybody celebrates every body of all shapes and sizes, they are often criticised for supposedly promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.
For example, see this photographer Jade Beall who is working on a project called A Beautiful Body Project.
According to these critics,over-weight or obese people can never be beautiful so they should never be promoted by artists or visionaries.
The reality is, artists are actually celebrating self-acceptance, self-love and self-esteem.
Guess what? You don’t need society to accept you to have any of those things.
It’s up to you to grab it.
In the confines of your own mind, it’s up to you to give society (and the occasional asshole) the middle and swagger off into the land of ‘Ask my fucking bollox’ where nobody looks the same but all have one thing in common- they are just really sound, nice and non-competitive.
What I can’t understand is that it is common sense to know that shaming ‘imperfect’ people is not medicine. It just contributes to the self-destructive self-hatred that is fed to us from birth.
I see people changing themselves; they lose weight, they cut their hair, they lighten or darken their skin, they change their accent. They spend so much time trying to change their supposed outward imperfections that they forget who they are.
Then they get depressed, anxious or just feel plain old unhappiness.
I don’t think people change to become perfect.
I think they change to just stop the attack.
It’s easier than pushing back.
Of course it is, sure, we’ve been drip fed our own imperfections from society and the media since we were born. For some people, unfortunately, their family, friends or schooling have had an active involvement in adding to it.
What can we do? How do we stop this?
Accept the fact that you are completely and utterly imperfect, as is everyone else on the planet.
True perfection is imperfection.
Once you accept that, it is a lot easier to cope with criticism from others and soon enough you too will feel sorry for these critics. You will realise that they are still stuck in old ways.
Why not go one step further? Help them out of it. Help them feel good about themselves.
Don’t push back. Don’t fight them.
Just see them as a damaged child who, like you and all others, have learned this behaviour as a way to cope with having their imperfections poked and prodded their whole life.
If we all realise that we are not enemies and not in a competition to be the most perfect then I think that is a huge step to changing this ridiculous pressure and emphasis on physical imperfection.
Other more practical ways to help is to stop buying magazines that promote body issues through an over focus on ‘The Bikini Body’ and all that shite.
I have sat on a beach in a bikini with wobbly thighs and a bloated tummy just as I have sat in a bikini nice and toned and I have still felt like crap.
The one thing I have learned is that no matter what size I have been- I was never happy. Until I stepped back from it all.
Until I just realised that my body is a body and doesn’t really define who I am.
And as for the people who do define me by my shape or width?
Meh! ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ