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.