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Best Of… Body Image, Body Bashing, & Accepting Everyone As They Are

by Ashley on January 2, 2013

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The holidays can be a sensitive time for us when it comes to body image; winter may make us more lethargic, and we’re putting richer, more caloric foods in to our bodies. So this post, a favorite of mine, is a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself in light of this past holiday season.

My post 5 Quotes from Adele on Style, Beauty, and Body Image started a great conversation with Courtney on body image and the internet (check out her companion piece here). One of the amazing things about the internet is that there’s a place for everybody– in this instance, there are communities for thinspiration, fitsporation, fat acceptance, fat shaming, skinny shaming, health at every size… and more.

Some voices and opinions, we’re used to hearing. At 28, I’ve been using the internet pretty regularly since I was about 13. I’ve been reading fashion magazines since I was 10. I’ve never known a time in my life where thin wasn’t the ideal, and where bulimia, anorexia, and thinspiration weren’t lurking in the corners. I remember my first reports (in middle school) being on eating disorders. I remember always feeling pressure to be smaller– because I have never, ever been small.

For a girl who has never been small, whose parents put her on diets for as long as she can remember, those voices– the “thin is perfect” ones– have always been very, very loud. And being fat, I was never, ever “right.”

Thanks to the internet, other voices are making their opinions and views heard– and quite loudy. It can be overwhelming for a slim woman, growing up with society telling you your body is “right” or “ideal,” to suddenly be confronted with loud voices shouting that maybe your body isn’t right or ideal. It’s frightening to suddenly have people telling you that your body is somehow wrong. It can be overwhelming and frightening to be a fat woman and suddenly hear that you’re fine–even beautiful the way you are; that you need to stop hating yourself; that you are healthy, beautiful, and wonderful at any size.

No matter what your size, there are people telling you to love yourself.
No matter what your size, there are people shaming your body.
No matter what your size, your feelings and body are being manipulated, challenged, and threatened by other people’s own insecurities.
No matter what your size, there are voices and they are telling you things that make you feel uncomfortable. They confront your ideas and beliefs on beauty. They confront your vision of yourself and others.

It’s overwhelming. And that’s okay.

When someone starts to promote a viewpoint that is different from what you’re used to, think about where the root of it comes. When someone shames a skinny girl, it’s because they’ve been afraid at some point. They’ve been afraid because their own bodies have been shamed– or worse, abused, punished, and looked down on. When someone shames a fat girl, where does that come from? Maybe a long life of their mother monitoring their food intake or constant media bombardment that there is “one way” to look.

I struggle every day to find peace with my body. Sometimes it feels so easy: I think, “As long as I’m healthy, if I have to spend the rest of my life this size, it would be okay.” There are days I miss my old figure and damn myself for letting myself gain so much weight. When I work out, strive to change my eating habits, or want to look great in a dress, deep down, I have to remind myself that I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it to provide stress release. To remove tension. To walk up flights of stairs and not feel winded. To fit in to a closet of beautiful clothes I have and love. And to fit my own ideal of what me at my best may be.

Everyone struggles to find peace with their body. Peace against media, partners, families, peers, or strangers making judgments on them. And the internet. The awesome, amazing internet, that is actually filled with a lot of faceless, nameless assholes. Who will rip a person up to elevate themselves. Who will take beautiful boys and gorgeous girls and make them question themselves, doubt themselves, and hate themselves. The amazing internet that can also provide faceless, nameless angels who make people feel beautiful, perfect, and wonderful, just as they are.

We can’t always please everyone, but we can make sure our actions and voices are helping make others feel accepted, valued, and loved as they are. There’s no shame in loving your body! There’s no shame in being proud and confident in your body, regardless of their size! There’s only shame in making others feel badly about theirs, regardless of who they are and what they look like.


debiparna c January 6, 2013 at 11:51 pm

i have never had this thing where i hated myself or let other people’s insults made me think i am not good enough. my fight has always been about trying to change the perception of people i know and who think it is their personal business to tell me i will never get married(blame the indian marriage obsessed culture for this mentality)if i don’t lose weight. people who see me after 4-5 yrs and exclaim ‘o god you have become so fat” piss me off. sexist male/twisted female relatives who tell me just being stylish/fashionable won’t matter if i don’t have a body to go with it super piss me off. i injured my foot & went to a doctor i never knew before earlier this year had the balls to ask me why i won’t feel ashamed to sit & stand beside my slimmer peers in film school just because he is a man and i am a girl. he had a bald plate, big belly, my peers are not super geniuses or anything just because they are thinner. what was more funny was i felt no rage just amusement that this just happened with me. i feel like shouting to the world from a roof top that hey this is my body and i am massively happy with it so you and your misogynist mind better learn to deal with that. no i didn’t learn to be okay with it just because i have reached a point of fattiness where i have to be that way you moron, i genuinely understand what is media/industry/societal manipulation better than you do.
phew rant over!

cool beans January 3, 2013 at 10:31 am

Thank you! As someone who is pretty medium-sized in terms of weight, height and curvature, I always found it a struggle to feel embraced by either the skinny or curvy “camps”. We need to move beyond categorizing women by their bodies, and start thinking about who they are as people and yes, we should celebrate and respect the bodies that allow us to do the things we love, but not be limited to our dress size. I love “Every body type can be.” I think that sums it up so well!

Mona January 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Awesome post! I love this so much!

There will always be something that we fixate on, something we want to change. Those voices can be very persistent and they really need to take a back seat already. This summer I lost some weight, and although everyone said I looked great I didn’t believe them. I wanted to lose more. The main reason was to try to get my chest to look smaller, because it is the part of my body that I’m least comfortable with. Eventually I stopped obsessing, because I love to cook and bake too much, but I still feel uncomfortable sometimes.

Shannon January 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Wonderful post!!

I will say though, Christina Hendricks left a bad taste in my mouth when she had a little fit over an interviewer calling her ‘full figured’. I lost a lot of respect for her.

Ashe January 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm

You know, I won’t fault for her throwing that fit. Or ANY actress whose body is constantly talked about over her projects.

I’m a normal girl, and I want to throw fits ALL THE TIME when all of my girl friends call me a “bigger girl” or describe how I fit clothing as “a bigger girl.” To be frank– I KNOW what my body fucking looks like! And in her instance, she knows what her body looks like. She knows more than anyone it’s against the Hollywood grain, but to have it constantly coming up, as opposed to her projects, what she’s working on? She’s been around enough and performing long enough, that like, let the girl NOT talk about her body for once. I’d snap, too, I guess is what I’m saying.

Ashe January 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I should probably also say–you’re probably not going to like the next “Best Of…” post this week, as it’s ALL about her. ;)

Courtney January 2, 2013 at 9:09 am

Thanks for linking to my post!

The post-holiday season is always an important time to remember to be kind to ourselves as the deluge of weight loss commercials and ads come out. This year I decided to eat/drink as much as I usually do during the holidays, but I also kept up my workout routine and tried to stay active. I think it helped my mentality by the time the holidays ended!

déjà pseu January 2, 2013 at 8:51 am

Great post, Ash, and so true! There will always be someone out there who won’t like *something* about our physical selves. That doesn’t mean they’re right.

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