Sunday, 7 August 2016
My thoughts on body shame.
My life has changed drastically in the last two years. Two years ago I discovered the most wonderful community of people, The body positive community and since learning about body love in a different light m entire life has changed. The bothersome thing to me is that I cannot pinpoint a moment, a quote, an account that suddenly made me realize that loving myself, exactly how I am was not a crime. I wish I could.
Learning to love my body has only made me more aware of the subtle body shaming that exists in every day life. I am not just talking about the trolls who spam Instagram pics or YouTube videos. I am not talking about those "caring folk" who only shame us for our health. I am talking about your mother, your friends, your family. People who are as indoctrinated as I was about fat bodies, skinny bodies, disabled bodies, short bodies, any body that doesn't look like the ones in magazines. And don't even get me started on those. It is easy to blame popular culture for these things and I will be the first to rant about how these magazines perpetuate "ideal beauty" but two years ago I made a choice to broaden my mind. To accept that just because I am being bombarded with an idea does not mean I have to choose to believe it. I made that choice and it was the best thing I ever did.
Several things happened when I did this.
I stopped wearing clothes that didn't fit me
For years I have fought the weight that I have put on ad the sizing ups I have gone through. If you had asked me a couple of years ago to go shopping I would have groaned. Until recently I thought the worst thing you could buy someone for their birthday was clothes. I got no joy from clothes. They were confines that reminded me every day that I was getting bigger. I looked at the clothes I wore and their boring plainness screamed at me that I was too fat to wear the interesting clothes I wanted to wear. One of the main reasons I wanted to loose weight was so that I "could wear the clothes I wanted to wear". I'll be honest, living in Waterford, Ireland didn't help combat any of these issues. Clothing ranges here tend to go up to 18 at best with a few places offering a handful of size 20's. Once I outgrew this range (I am currently a size 24) I was at a loss. My only other option? Evans. I have no Issue with any plus size clothing shop but the reality is that as a teenager who already felt like they stuck out I didn't particularly feel like wearing clothes that were clearly made for older women and most of which were designed to hide the "hideous" body I had. I am currently 26 years old and only this year did I begin to wear the clothes I wanted to wear. In fact it is only within the last few months that I have truly begun to put together a wardrobe that actually brings me joy.
Night out prep for most girls means getting dolled up and trying on their favourite dresses and then probably exclaiming they had "nothing to wear" before picking up a comfy favourite and heading out. For me it meant emotional breakdowns as I tried to squish myself into clothes that no longer fit and mainly bored the crap out of me anyway. I would regularly break down in tears/have a temper tantrum (with myself of course not anyone else) before finding some loose fitting item that hid all of my perceived flaws and went out feeling awful and then wonder why I had a bad night and probably drank too much. Events that should have been fun turned into self torturing guilt parties with myself.
So you can imagine the amazing revelation shopping for the right size was when it happened for me. As I type this I'm currently eagerly awaiting a birthday haul from boohoo and New Look filled with excitement at the thought of trying on clothes that I know will a) fit me and b) I will feel proud to walk around in. All of the past fear and anguish that I subjected myself too because a silly number seem like long forgotten insanity to me now. Is my value really any less or more if my dress size is bigger or for that matter smaller? which leads me on to the next thing I realized.
No. 2 Fat people aren't the only ones who are body shamed.
Yes this is obvious, yes I knew this already but I was too wrapped up in feeling sorry for myself to realise the extent of this. For me my life has been very much shaped by shame. My family shamed me for my weight, and unbeknownst to themselves still do, my friends and peers shamed me (not my current friends however, they are amazing, the others those..I lost those haters) magazines shamed me, strangers on the street shamed me. Apparently being fat was the most important thing about me, who knew how much space I occupied was that important to every damn person. What I was happily ignoring though was that every. single. body. is. shamed. For whatever reason. At varying levels of intensity. I wallowed in my self pity allowing myself believe I had it the toughest of everyone I knew but the reality was I was just worse at hiding my insecurity, Just last week a friend of mine I have always believed to be strong and confident admitted to me that she looks in the mirror and criticizes everything. Me telling her there is no need to criticize any part of her is pointless. Me saying well if I can love all these lumps and bumps then you should shut up is ridiculous and also inaccurate. For her a few extra pounds means as much as my few extra stone does to me. It is her body and it saddens me that when she look at herself she sees only imperfections but as of yet I am still searching for a way to take the flaw coloured glasses off for her. All I can do is try and explain for me what was important and the root of that for me is this. I stopped believing the lies. The lies that I was worth less because I weighed more. That I was ugly because my body was extra large. That I didn't deserve to feel good because I ate too much. That I should look in the mirror and criticize instead of adore. Its not easy for me every day sometimes I feel like a lump of play dough and other days I feel like a Grecian goddess but the fact the the days I feel sexy outweigh the days I feel like crap is a win for me.
I stopped listening to others and their opinions about my body and when I did I saw my real body for the first time ever. Before I couldn't tell you two things I liked about my body now I could list hundreds. And that doesn't mean everyone has to agree with me. My point here is that I no longer care. I love my body and that is enough for me and I wish with all my heart that I could explain that to her. We had a great chat and I hope some of the stuff stuck with her but I am aware that changing your lifes beliefs can't happen overnight however I refuse to stop preaching this (and I am not a preachy person) but if there has ever been a cause to get behind its helping people love themselves. This world is hard enough without being your own worst critic. And that my friends is my third (and final) point.
No.3 We are all our own worst critic
My god, if you take anything, like one tiny thing from this post I want it to be this.
Go easy on yourself. You are doing your best!
Seriously though you are, you're still here, still fighting and that is always worth something. I have always noticed people bashing themselves and I'm going to be honest here the majority are women. I know men do too. Don't panic I'm not claiming men don't have it hard but there is no denying that here is more pressure on women to fit a certain aesthetic. As I was saying I tend to find it's women bashing themselves. I always noticed it obviously cause you know, I've met a woman, but it saddens me so much more now that I am aware that you can live your life (mostly) free of this. All the women in my life, from my cousin and friends to my sister to my mother and her sisters to acquaintances or people I've met once or twice it has become common place for women to put themselves in most conversations. From "harmless" things such as "Oh I could never wear/do/say that" to big things every time I hear it a voice is screaming STOP TEARING YOURSELF DOWN! the world already tries to do it, don't help it please! nobody is worthless, nobody is ugly and unloveable. There is only one thing that matters in the world. Trying to leave it better than you found it. Try to be good and kind and live a hate free life and that is it. And that includes letting go of self hate. I am not able to claim this utopic thing myself. I know what I'm saying is hard but if you try every day then your doing it. As long as you refuse to give in to the hate in this world then you are still winning. Start with just being kind to yourself. And yes it is that simple. If it helps say stop out loud when you start internally bashing yourself. Be your own support system and at risk of revealing myself as a Teen Wolf fan, in the wise words of Mellissa McCall "Be your own anchor". Don't depend on others to build you up because that will never be enough. You are the only constant in your life. Wake up in the morning and tell yourself you are wonderful and that you are proud of yourself. Start your day on a damn good foot and maybe you'll make it through less scathed!