Earlier this week, I was invited by a girlfriend to a screening of the body image documentary, Embrace. See: Embrace the Documentary. It was fantastic, uplifting, and, yet, also a little depressing. I highly recommend it.
In the documentary, Taryn tells us that 90% of women have body image issues. I believe that. I cannot think of a single female friend who has not complained about her body. Not a single one. Even women who society tells us have that perfect, fit, athletic body, have complained about some aspect of their body. How sad is that?!? We spend so much time and energy complaining about our bodies – time and energy that could be so better spent changing the world (or holding our babies, or loving our partners, or … anything!!!).
I am not passing judgment here at all, because I am one of the worst when it comes to this. If I am not actively complaining about it, I am silently judging my body in my head. I have never been happy about the way my body looks. When I was my absolute most fit (and by fit I mean SKINNY, because I was not fit at all then), I still hated the way I looked. AND, that skinny body was achieved by a deadly cocaine habit, so the fact that I would actually refer to that body as “FIT” is insane. I have written many times about my disordered eating, and my relationship with my mom, specifically about how she shaped my body image and disorder eating issues (here and here and here). The whole “cocaine-fit-skinny” body described above offers a perfect example for how dysfunctional my relationship with her was and my body was. I remember a conversation with her, just months before she died, when she was talking about my body and said, “I wish you could get back to how you were in that picture,” (pointing at a picture of me from my friend’s wedding, see below). I said, “MOM! I was dying from cocaine abuse then! That’s how I got that skinny.” And she said, “too bad you couldn’t just do cocaine for a little bit, get that skinny, and then stop doing the cocaine.” WOW! And again, no judgement, because I have thought the same thing!! I myself have had days where I wished I was able to maintain that “cocaine skinny” look.
That is how sick my thinking is about my body. Yes, my mom certainly helped shape that sick thinking, but her thinking was warped by somebody too. She wasn’t born thinking that her body was “too big,” and therefore gross. Somebody told her that. Or society told her that. Or society and a whole lot of somebodys told her that. Just as they did to me. Just as they did to many of the women in the documentary. We, women, have pissed away far too much time and energy with this DISORDERED THINKING ABOUT OUR BODIES! Our bodies are not disordered. Our thinking about our bodies is disordered.
I, for one, am done with it.
I am challenging you, my readers, to be done with it too. Let’s stop bitching about our bodies – to each other and to ourselves. Let’s STOP praising women for “looking good.” Let’s START praising women for DOING GOOD. Let’s stop beating ourselves up for a number on a scale, or a number on a clothing tag. Let’s start appreciating the way our bodies serve us! Can we move? Can we dance? Can we swim, walk, run, hike, push heavy weights, carry our groceries?? Can we use our bodies to help someone stand up? Can we hold each other up? And, even if we cannot do any of those things, our bodies serve some function. They have to if we are alive!
My body is so many things: soft, squishy, strong and fit. Not fit by society’s standards, no doubt, but fit by my standards. My body is fit enough to hike, run, walk, swim, carry groceries, carry heavy furniture, help my father stand up, and hold my friend’s babies. Is there anything more wonderful than that?!? I am a daughter, an aunt, and a friend. I am more than my physical self, but yet, I have spent millions of hours worrying about my physical self. I have wasted years worrying about how I look, instead of wondering who I am! I have an amazing 8-year-old niece who is the love of my life. I cringe when I think she may have heard me complain about my body, or worry about the food I am eating (or not eating), and will start to wonder whether there is something wrong with her body (or what she is or isn’t eating). She is so much more than her body. And so am I. And so, my friend, are you.
Let’s all take the #ihaveembraced challenge!!! So what do we do? We stop talking about what WE LOOK LIKE! And start talking about what we DO! We start appreciating our bodies as vehicles to get shit done. I am starting today.
I am starting by posting a photo right here from my trip to Disney with my niece last year. Typically, I cringe when someone takes a full body shot of me, because of my negative body image. When my sister-in-law took this photo, I was in absolute bliss: enjoying a beautifully sunny day in Florida with my niece who is EVERYTHING! When she sent me the photo, I cringed! Why? Because of that nasty thinking of mine, “ugh, I look huge,” “ugh, why am I standing like that,” “ugh, look at my legs.” I pray that I did not vocalize anything even close to that in front of my glorious niece. But, looking at this photo right now in this moment???!?!? Right now, I LOVE THIS PHOTO! This photo is me, or at least me in November 2016 when I spent an amazing week with my favorite little girl in the Florida sunshine. This photo is me smiling because I am truly enjoying life with my family. This photo is me with a body that could walk for over 8 hours (even in flip-flops) per day without getting tired. This photo is me LIVING!!
I am going to embrace living in this body right now in this moment. Because that is all there is, anyway. The way I look right now in this moment is all that there is. And I love this moment. Right now, right here, I am happy. I am doing one of my favorite things in the world: writing. I am relatively healthy (minus an upper respiratory infection), I am happy and I am loved. Later tonight I will spend time with my beloved father and after that I will spend a few hours with treasured friends. BLISS! Why should I spend one single minute obsessing over how I a look?!? I will not do it.
I will embrace myself in all the glorious reality of who I am. I will judge myself based on my actions, and not my “looks.” I will judge you based on your actions, and not how you look. I am done buying into the idea that how we look means a fucking thing, because it does not. Yes, I will still wear clothes that I FEEL good in, because feeling good is great. But, I will not beat myself up for how I look. I have 47 years of experience doing that, I am done! I don’t expect that I, or any of us, will never do that again. I am sure that I will fall prey to the body image bullshit again. But when I do, I will stop and re-read this post. I have no doubt that those nasty body shaming thoughts will come to my mind again. But, when they do, I am going to replace them with the truth. The truth is that I am absolutely perfect just as I am right now. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is wrong in God’s world – including me.
I am embracing myself! I challenge you to do the same. #ihaveembraced