I’m super thrilled to bring you a new Beautiful Bodies interview from the lips of the lovely Casee Marie. I have a feeling that CM and I would be BFF in real life, as we’ve both got a fondness for beautiful surroundings, literary inklings, and passion for culture. She’s also been a huge inspiration, muse, and sounding board for me. You can read her style and life musings at The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower and her reading responses at Literary Inklings.
How would you describe your body?
I would say I’m full-figured. I’ve always found it a bit challenging to determine a word for my body type as there are so many options out there, and plenty of them are being used differently than the way I always knew them; “curvy” and “plus size” and so many others. I’ve spent a lot of time lost in the conflicting ideas of what these words all mean, but in the end full-figured is something I’ll never be able to deny being. And I like how it cuts to the chase.
What are your earliest memories (negative or positive) regarding body image (your own or others)?
From my childhood into my early teens I took horseback-riding lessons and eventually competed in shows. The equitation, especially in the Saddleseat style, requires a lot of attention to the rider’s body, and I quickly noticed the difference between myself and the other riders, most of whom were either really tall, really slim, or both. I didn’t feel proud of my body then; all I knew was that I was shorter and stockier than everyone else around me – any attributes I did have were completely overshadowed by my insecurities.
What’s been your biggest struggle in accepting your body? Is there a particular part of your body you’ve struggled against?
I sometimes think my psyche has a way of withholding judgment toward everyone else and projecting it onto myself instead. I never look at someone else – a stranger or a friend – and see their size and/ or body type first, but when I look in the mirror it’s the first thing I think of. My struggle has absolutely been to just dump that judgment altogether. And it’s a lot of work. But I’ve also come a long way and it’s important to celebrate your triumphs – celebrate yourself – in order to keep moving forward. As far as a particular part of my body that I’ve struggled against, I think for a long time it’s been just the opposite: there isn’t a part that I haven’t struggled against. I lament everything from my short neck to my waist’s lack of hourglass-ness, but when you dress well and appropriately for your shape you start to learn to appreciate your body a bit more.
Through your life, what decisions have you made that you felt best impacted your body and sense of self? What decisions made you feel worse?
At the end of this past summer I was the heaviest I’d ever been in the twenty-four years of my life and I committed to my first real weight loss program. It’s been a very instructive and enlightening journey, on which I’ve seen results (yay!). There have been plenty of times when I’ve sort of berated myself for not starting sooner – thinking that if I’d started a year earlier I could be in such a different place – but I’m a firm believer in fate and having to be mentally ready for something as intricate as weight loss. It’s absolutely been the best decision I’ve made. Regardless of size – really, just completely throwing numbers out the window – I feel better, mentally and physically. It’s also helped me to understand that my body doesn’t make or break my perception of myself, that’s sort of the sad part. When everyone else could see the change in my body I couldn’t, because I was so wrapped up in my own perceptions. But that’s been as enlightening as it was disheartening. Finding out the depth of your weaknesses is the first step in turning them into strengths.
Do you feel that men or women have had a greater impact on how you perceive your body? Why?
I think they’ve played a rather equal role, really. More than anything, I don’t think it’s been what others have expressed that has impacted my perception, but rather my insecurity about what they might think. My insecurities about my body have definitely been driven by a need of affirmation. And when it comes to subconsciously seeking the approval of others, I don’t think gender comes into play for me.
When it comes to dressing your body, what’s your motto? What rules do you swear by– or don’t you abide?
I really wish I had a motto – I need to work on that. I guess what goes through my mind more than anything else is just to trust myself and trust my “eye for style”, as it were. If I think a dress is too clingy then I won’t wear it, but of course someone else may very well think that what’s passed my approval is still too clingy. You can’t please everyone so please yourself first. Maybe that’s my dressing motto?
How do you feel about the representation and availability of clothing available for you? Have you noticed changes in the industry one way or the other?
Prior to my weight loss I was in a bit of a grey area for fashion, not quite into plus sizes yet too far on the cusp of straight sizes to feel comfortable there. In all, I didn’t feel settled enough in the size I was to be willing to invest in much for my wardrobe. When I finally embraced myself as a plus size woman I felt that, especially in the world of fashion blogging, there was a wonderfully diverse representation. I was inspired by the uniqueness of so many bloggers, all of whom were sizes that I could relate to. When I set out on the weight loss journey I also found realistic body image inspiration in bloggers. I could’ve easily started thinking “Keira Knightley” (and I could’ve been subsequently let down), but instead I looked for celebrities and style bloggers whose body types are similar to mine, and it was all very positive and reaffirming. As for the industry, I think progress has certainly been made. I’ll never stop being an advocate for more diversity. Despite no longer being a plus size gal myself, it’s still very important to me to see bodies of every shape, size, color, and age embraced, celebrated, and represented.
Are you happy? What does that mean to you—and do you think you could be happier?
I think that, like all good things, happiness is something to be worked at constantly, to be maintained. I recently came to a conclusion that, no, I wasn’t happy, and I underwent the journey of changing that. Amazingly, I’ve found that the journey toward happiness – toward our own idea of happiness – creates a kind of joy in itself. But you have to look for it and you have to work hard to give it a primary position in your life. It’s a great use of energy that may have otherwise gone to less admirable use.