Today I present to you a guest post I did for Dana who blogs over on happiness is within where she has started a posting movement called Love Your Body. She asks women to write about their experiences with their own bodies and body image, and it’s a great project where women can draw support from each other’s stories. So check out her blog and the movement, and I’ll leave you with my post on body image.
I only started thinking about my body in 5th grade when a girl in my class felt compelled to let me know that I should be having thoughts about my body, and they shouldn’t be good ones—girls can be so nice to each other sometimes can’t they? Before then, I had been a skinny, energetic, and happy kid. The idea of what I looked like on the outside being of little consequence when I was so concerned with things like playing manhunt at nightfall, reading Sweet Valley High novels, and drawing in my sketchbook. I didn’t think twice about things like wearing a bathing suit or a pair of shorts, and it never occurred to me that anyone else might even notice the body I walked around in, it seemed unimportant somehow. I feel like I’ve spent half my life trying to get back to that casual relationship with my body, an un-self-consciousness that seems so easy but never is.
Things really changed for me when puberty hit at 10 years old. I went from having the body of a child to the body that I have now in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Adolescence is one of the most painful times in life, and I had mine thrust on me early. When all the other girls were still getting to be kids, I was already 5 foot 6 and wearing a B-cup. Everyone treated me like I was 16, but I still felt the same. It seemed like my childhood had been taken away, and I blamed my body for it, I covered it up; I tried not to look at it. I was teased, and laughed at, and it planted seeds in my head that I’m still weeding out. So many of us learn to hate ourselves because others tell us we should, and all it ever does is start a cycle of self-abuse that takes years to come out of, and that is a terrible thing.
I can honestly say I’ve never met a girl who hasn’t dealt with body image issues at some point, and I know some really beautiful women. Being a woman means constantly being told to be thinner, tanner, sexier, funnier, cooler, prettier, and just better, all the time. It seems we are constantly told that the way we are just isn’t enough. For me, the constant pressure led me to hate my body so much I didn’t want to burden the world with its existence, so I pretended it didn’t exist, I hid it away, and in doing so I hid myself away too.
Over the years I’ve come to a conclusion; it’s impossible to ignore your body, you live in it. It’s the greatest tool you’ll ever have and it’s the only one you get. If you have a body that’s fully functioning, you should bless your lucky stars. When I was an awkward adolescent and I would tell my mother “I hate my legs” she would go “puh, puh—be lucky you have legs!” and of course, though I didn’t realize it then, she was right. I don’t have a perfect body, few do, but it’s mine, it helps me do the things I want to do in life, and it’s precious. It holds my mind and my spirit and I need to love it, no matter what people might say about it, or how I may feel about it sometimes. We focus so much on how important our bodies are, how we need to “get fit” and “fight the fat” or “live a healthier lifestyle”, but we forget why that is all so important. Our bodies are amazing things, all of them, no matter what deficiencies they might have or we might perceive, we wouldn’t be here without them, that is why we need to love them and take care of them. We shouldn’t abuse them, or neglect them, or hate them, and we certainly shouldn’t resent them for not being the way we want them to, they’re way too important for that, and life goes by way too fast to waste so much time hating ourselves for no reason.
Of course I still struggle with body acceptance every single day, but I always try to remember why I need to love myself, and it helps. Sometimes we focus so much on the pieces—the lower part of my arm that jiggles, or the weird spot on my face, and that little belly bulge that sticks out, but when people see us it’s not all those tiny pieces they see, it’s us, the whole, and our body is just a part of that anyway, an important part, but not everything. We are made up of so many millions of mannerisms, and ideas, and beautiful, curious, idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. Our body is how we express them, and that makes it beautiful, that makes us beautiful, and we should never forget it.