Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Weight Of It All

Self-love Selfie?

So I'm part of this closed group on facebook which I really like-- its a group of like-minded women who agree to keep a safe space for us all to talk about everything from marital problems to favorite ice cream flavors to questions about which cookie cream is the best (cookie meaning vulva, because... I dunno, it sounds better? Anyway, it's a cream to remove pubic hair, end of story). I love this group because these women are honest and supportive and it's nice to have a some sort of safe space in the war zone we call the internet. I mean let's be honest, there are some real assholes out there and they seem to multiply exponentially when it comes to the interwebs. The women in this group share very intimate, personal information about themselves and their struggles. Honestly, I post more to that group than I do to my actual Facebook page.

But there is one thing that really gets to me that I cannot share with the group.  It's the way we all talk about our bodies. 

I know I'm not one to talk because if there was a group for body haters I would be its president (or at least treasurer... secretary? I'd be on the board, at least). I've spent most of my adolescence and young adulthood trying to hurt my body because I have held so much hatred and loathing towards it. Now I'm going through the admittedly slow process of loving my body and developing positive behaviors to take care of it instead of destroy it. So it really breaks my heart to see so many posts about body hatred.

"I hate my thighs."

"I've never felt so ugly."

"I going on X diet because I just hate my body right now."


Now, this group has about 2500 women in it, so you can imagine how many times these kind of posts pop up. And I'm not sure how to deal with them because it IS a safe space, and these women are being vulnerable by admitting to the world that they have poor self image.  But at the same time I see it so much that it becomes normalized, like that's just how the world is, women just hate their bodies because they aren't perfect (whatever "perfect" is). 

It's funny, in a sad way, because there's also this effort to be empowered and to love your body and show the group that you are improving in self love. But even in that, there is this poorly hidden body criticism. For instance, someone will post a picture of themselves on the page, and maybe it's a full body shot of them wearing shorts or maybe it's a picture of them with their families or just a selfie with no makeup, and the caption will be something like this:

"Ladies, I am being brave today! Normally I would look at this picture and the only thing I would think of is how fat my thighs are and how big my gut is and how I need to lose weight. But now I'm like, gotta post this to the group!"

Or:

"I think I'm gonna buy these shorts! I don't look awful, right?LOL" (because the LOL makes it better)

Or even:

"Selfie Time! I look totally gross but I'm posting anyway."

On the one hand, it's important to be honest about where you're at in your journey to self acceptance or whatever. And these are honest comments about everyday life experiences. At the same time, they feel like inhibitors of progress. I mean, in the first examples there's this idea that the OP is feeling empowered, that she doesn't feel bad about her body. But at the same time, she's still pointing out all the things she once thought (or still thinks) was bad about her body! Doesn't that kind of reinforce the body hate? In the second one, the shorts thing is a big deal because thighs are a major anxiety producer for many women-- wearing shorts is like saying, "look at my legs, they're awesome!" But then there's this hesitation, and a need not only reassurance but also validation by others that her legs are indeed "awesome" or even just acceptable for society. For me, the idea is to love your body because it is your body, and not needing anyone else to validate its acceptability (or existence-- like, my legs exist and they look like legs, skinny or fat or in between. No one needs to decide whether people should see them except for me, and I don't need anyone's approval). 

I think the last one just reinforces this need for women in particular to point out things about themselves before anyone else does as a security measure. If I say what's bad about me before someone else does, it will hurt less. The reality, of course, is that chances are that person doesn't look gross at all. She may even look really good, and by saying she's gross she kind of cheapens the moment of empowerment. 

I dunno, I have all these conflicting thoughts in my head about body image. Like yes, we should love our bodies, but isn't it also important to be honest? Yes, I have fat thighs! I'm allowed to say it because it's true! I've got them adipose cells like WHOA. And maybe a good way to stick it to The Man is to admit it and be okay with it.

I think that it's just a bit triggering for me to see that on a regular basis. In a sense it reinforces what I believe my body to be-- gross, disgusting, ugly, worthless-- and I don't want to think that way anymore. I am desperate to be in a place in my life where I can finally just love myself unconditionally. So maybe this whole post isn't even about the women who admit they hate their thighs on Facebook. Maybe this post is about how much farther I have to go to get to that place of unconditional self love. 

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