I cannot remember a time in which I didn’t want my body to look like something other than what it was. It’s overwhelming, our inability to disassociate physicality from real meaning. We’re raised to accept it as just another way life will always be unfair. “There will always be a part of your body you hate!” “Everybody has a “problem” area!” “No woman is secure about how she looks!”
We’ve made ourselves into commodity. We’re billboards for brands, brainwashed servants to consumerism and capitalism engineered to serve only a few. (Why we trust these people blindly, and how little we realize that our money is our power, I’ll never understand.)
Regardless, we are constantly versing our bodies against our friends’ and family members’ and the people in the magazines.
It almost seems suspicious, how deeply the world seems to have us distracted by the outsides of our bodies, rather than what the insides are capable of. Historically, those in power ensure that those without power remain powerless by keeping them uninformed and uneducated. And they condition everybody else to accept this as matter-of-fact by creating a collective prejudiced mindset (and worse.)
So we’ve normalized picking apart other people’s appearances, even just in casual conversation. We’ve accepted that “fat” is the worst thing you can be… so bad, in fact, it’s the worst insult you can sling at a woman!
Do we hear ourselves when we inadvertently claim “fat” is a thing you are, not a thing you have? And when you have too much… you become it? “You are fat.” That’s it. You are it. It’s become your prominent identity (and so why shouldn’t it become your predominant mission to change it?)
Stop and look around at the amount of money invested in the simple and yet compellingly convincing idea that appearing better makes you better. I hope even just considering this for a moment makes you realize how little of your self-hating inner-monologue you are really responsible for writing.
What it boils down to is that we believe there is something fundamentally wrong with us if we can’t look and don’t look a certain way. That we must always be fixing something. That our bodies are something we can and should “fix!” We begin to believe that every extra .3% of a pound is indicative of our lack of self-control, or really, control over anything. That as people dismiss us with insults about our bodies, we are written off as unworthy in general. As humans. As people.
When I felt most unaccepted, most unloved, and most unwanted, my body became the war zone on which I channeled all that anger and resentment and pain. Most insidiously, through a constant stream of negative self-talk that led to destructive, abusive behavior. And all the while, I thought what I was doing was constructive, and that’s probably the worst illusion we’re sold: that we must always be fighting ourselves to be better – to be different, at any cost – because it’s so deeply associated with being loved.
At one point in time, it was my priority and goal to be the most beautiful woman in the room. I want to be humiliated by this, but I am learning to love myself enough to accept the girl I was, however far away she is from the woman I am now. So in an effort to actualize what I’ve learned (and of course to extend it to you as well) I’ve compiled a few of the most important points, the most life-changing, peace-bringing, self-healing notions that I built a new body-mind relationship around.
1. Shifting my mindset from constantly working to change and cover what I don’t have to enhancing and appreciating and focusing on what I do (both physically and personally) has made all the difference.
I had, at one point, all but designed my entire existence around compensating for what I (delusionally) believed I lacked. This manifested in every way you could imagine, but for the sake of discussing body image, let’s keep it physical for a moment: I used to pack on eye makeup because I was insecure that my eyes were small-ish. (I thought this defined them more? Or maybe, at least, hid them.) Eventually I whittled my routine down to just mascara and lipstick (my lips are my favorite feature) and I began to feel beautiful, because I was focusing on what I already loved about myself, not what I hoped to fix. I used to choose clothing that would hide my “problem areas,” and now I choose what highlights the things I love the most about myself, be it a body part or a pattern on a t-shirt that represents something I believe in. I learned to turn my daily routine into a series of mini-celebrations of who I am and what I love, and those bits of self love grew.
2. I learned to come to terms with the fact that there are some people in the world who will not give me a chance because of how I look – my body, for whatever reason, is not the kind of body they’re interested in. This is not a call for me to change, rather to let them step away, and understand that they’re doing me a favor.
I think we’re very much lost on the idea of universal beauty, when the kind of attraction that matters most is almost entirely arbitrary, and it should be. If we didn’t have unique tastes and qualities and turn-ons, we’d be lifeless amoebas pairing up blindly.
But when one or two or ten people don’t find us physically appealing, we immediately assume that because we have not convinced everyone, we haven’t convinced anyone. It’s easy to define ourselves by someone else’s terms. But doing so is never as satisfying as doing so for yourself, even if you do fit the picture of perfect beauty. You’re still adhering to someone else’s ideas that were imposed on you, rather than stepping into the standards you make for yourself.
3. I began to realize the importance of comfort, and how to feel in place with yourself.
The correct size will always be more comfortable – even if its the next size up – and it will always be more flattering as well. Not being under or overweight will always be most comfortable, and aligning naturally and healthfully with how you were built will always look best. Clothes that are well-made and fitted and don’t leave you squeezed or blistered or constantly pulling and tugging and adjusting all day are most comfortable too. You begin to choose the details that fit you, not the other way around.
4. I realized I was never really upset about how my body looked as much as I was upset that I felt I couldn’t control what I did to it (and what it ended up looking like because of that lack of control.)
As soon as I started eating a bit better, healing the emotional turmoil that led me to binging and withholding and otherwise manipulating my health for the sake of a pant size, somehow, my compulsive need to think about how I looked that day started to fade. I realized that what I was really upset about was what I felt I couldn’t control. I wanted a quick fix, a fast change, an immediate outside result to prove that one day of eating kale for breakfast would change how I looked, and then how I felt. It didn’t take long to see that the peace had to begin on the inside – even though that seemed like the harder option – it was the only one that would actually incite change.
5. I learned that someone else’s greatness or beauty or success would not take away from my own. I was not only as good as I was better than someone else.
I stopped believing that I couldn’t be beautiful if I was around someone who was more so. That I wasn’t thin if I wasn’t the thinnest. That I wasn’t attractive if I didn’t adhere to what everybody else thought was (i.e. “thin.”) That I wasn’t good if I wasn’t the best. Realizing that lifting, loving, supporting and feeling happy for the beautiful, wonderful, incredible people around me didn’t lessen my ability to love myself, began to increase it twofold.
Realizing this was the end of the crazy competition we all seem to have going on in our minds. Letting yourself accept someone else as beautiful and not immediately reaching for their flaws and shortcomings will help you accept yourself in the same way. You have to stop looking to collect evidence to prove yourself worthy, mostly because you will never find it in the negative ideas you have about others.
6. I realized that a lot of how I chose and allowed myself to look was directly based on how worthy I felt of appearing.
As Marianne Williams once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
When I realized a lot of the work toward becoming my best self was simply just believing I deserved it, I began to see how deeply seated the belief of my unworthiness was. I started to imagine and visualize becoming everything I had ever wanted to be, and realized it made me uncomfortable, mostly because I had subconsciously designed it as a mechanism to prove myself worthy in the eyes of someone else. Until I shifted that narrative, until I learned that I could love who I was while still wanting to be something more, I remained as I was, frustrated as to why I couldn’t change.
7. Slowly, our collective attitudes, our controlling illusions and the disempowering language we commonly use toward our bodies became more and more transparent.
“Size” is just an idea… nobody is the same size in every cut. Not everybody who fits into those sizes weighs the same. It is not a universal measurement, and nobody is just one of them. It is, however, a means of defining ourselves as being within our made up “worthy” category or not.
There is no scale of attractiveness. It is not a competition. You are not only as beautiful as you are better looking than the person next to you. Our means of comparison and gauge are limiting and logically unsound, and it only takes a second glance, a slightly deeper consideration, to see right through them.
8. I learned that confidence is sexy because appearance is one big ol’ perception game.
I don’t think you’ll ever see yourself as you actually are. Rather, I don’t think any two people see someone the same exact way. There are so many factors that shift how you see other people, and most of them have something to do with how you perceive yourself. When you already feel loved and appreciated, you extend to others permission to feel the same way. You convince them by your conviction. When you feel at peace with yourself, you stop immediately seeking out other people’s flaws, or random features to compare to your own. When you aren’t constantly seeking affirmation, other people’s bodies stop being your mental punching bags.
9. I began to change what I consumed.
When your life is a constant stream of reading certain magazines, watching certain TV channels, surrounding yourself with specific concepts of “ideal”… that is what becomes normal to you. I found Instagrams like Honor Curves and Tess Munster. These women became my idols, their honesty and confidence and all the ways it translated into success for them my inspiration. I learned to put down the magazines that focused on how I put my outsides together, and began to read books and articles and essays that focused on how I healed and made sense of my insides instead. I changed my day-to-day concept of normal and ideal, and to be honest, it didn’t take much work to find somebody other than a fashion model to idealize.
10. I learned I could love who I was while still wanting to be more. My life didn’t have to be on hold, and my joy didn’t have to be postponed until I appeared worthy of feeling it.
Nobody is going to give you permission to feel good. You are not going to be rendered more capable of experiencing or enjoying your life based on how you do or don’t look. Rather, you will, but only because you decide to… and you can make that decision right now. If you’re constantly seeking another reason to postpone your happiness, start seeking why you feel unworthy of that goodness. The rest, I’ve found, will fall into place.