From Body Shaming to Body Loving
Have you ever looked in the mirror and had this thought, "only if I looked different I would feel so much better about myself." Have you dreaded going out with a bunch of people who make fun of your size? Have heard terms like, 'Hanger'; 'Balloon'; 'Fat'; 'Pig'; 'Stick figure'? If you relate to any of the above, then this post is for you. Here I share my experience with 'Body Shaming' and how it has transcended to 'Body Loving'.
I have been overweight for pretty much most of my growing up years. I was always made very aware of that and told how its a problem that needs fixing. It always made me feel that I was 'not good enough' and that somehow if I would loose the extra kilos and become a certain size, my body and I would become 'good enough'. Over the last one and a half years I went on a journey to become healthy. I had convinced myself that I was doing it so I could lead a healthy lifestyle. Part of it was true. But there was also another part of me which was motivated by fear. Fear of getting rejected again by loved ones as well as strangers.
After reducing about 20kilos, I still feel sometimes that my body is 'not good enough'. Mainly because that part of me that is so fearful still exists. Although it has become much weaker than before, it still reminds me of its existence every now and then. Accepting myself and my body has become easier, but there are still days where I am scared of getting back to my old weight.
In a recent self reflection exercise, I came face to face with this fear. And with it came Anxiety and Shame. Shame about being 'fat'. Shame about the way I looked in the past and the way my body was. Digging a little deeper brought many realizations to the surface about how I was still judging my body, still scared of what others might say. Would they approve of me if I put of weight again? Would I approve of myself if I put on weight again?
How many people go through the struggle of rejection due to the way their bodies look? Just like me, I know many women and even a few men who feel like they need to change their bodies to feel accepted by people around them.
Its not only about being overweight, its also about being underweight or having some other judgements attached to the way we look. However, we live in a culture where if you are not a certain body type or size then you are not meeting a set standard of acceptable beauty. This means you will not get to be part of a 'Self Proclaimed Beauty Community' unless you don't change. This seems to be the case across many cultures and societies'.
The judgements and conditioning starts when we are as young as toddlers. I remember a relative passing a comment looking at a baby saying she has 'thunder thighs'. It was a baby for haven's sake! There are many parents who are consistently at the receiving end of judgements about their children's bodies. "Your child is too skinny, don't you give her/him enough to eat?"; "Your child is a little too chubby for her/his age." Many parents who are themselves living in the fear of being judged by others feel terrible about the kind of job they are doing at parenting. They want to do everything possible so their children will 'fit in'.
Since childhood when we hear such judgements about our bodies and what is expected of it, it can get quite difficult to accept ourselves the way we are. The cosmetic and Fitness industry is making Billions out of this sensitive subject. We are flooded with advertisements on products that will help us become thin or fat or whatever else that we think we should be. Shopping can be traumatic if your size is not available or worst, they don't make that size! Diet cultures are now a fad. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against getting healthy or fit. That is really important to live a quality life. But shaming somebody for their weight or body type is what raises concerns. This not only affects our self-esteem but also is one of the leading causes of Depression and Eating Disorders.
Coming back to my story of shame, it made me feel like not only was my body not perfect but because it was my body, I was not perfect. And perfection my dear, is what the breeds fear. I was so scared of the impeding rejection if I put on weight again, that it drove me to a level of obsession with food and body. During this journey of accepting my body as it is, I also had to heal the part of me that was so ashamed of what was.
Body shaming has always existed. We have all been involved in shaming ourselves or others either knowingly or unknowingly. We have many times been shamed for our weight, the size of clothes we wear, the shape of our body and so on. It happens through friends, family, colleagues, social media and television. The most well-meaning people in our lives will sometimes tell us things that hurt us the most. It is so important that we become our own cheerleader. We have faith in ourselves and accept ourselves as we are.
Change can happen from a space of love and acceptance too, it doesn't always need to happen from a space of fear and dissatisfaction. The next time you catch yourself looking at your body and thinking when will it get better, ask yourself this question; "If I love and accept myself the way I am right now, how will it reflect on my body?" You will be surprised about how you feel about yourself and your body if you do this often enough. The idea is not to find any answers, rather to be open to the awareness of how your body changes when you love it.
You could also..
Write down 5 ways in which your body has supported you in your journey of life.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Everybody's body structure is different.
Focus on health and fitness instead of getting to a specific size.
My journey from feeling shame to loving and accepting my body has been a long one. It has taught me to love myself and has made me aware of how easily we objectify our bodies and put ourselves through torture in the name of beauty. The awareness that my body is not just an object, but an experience and a medium of expression of my own consciousness has changed the way I relate to it now. Body is so much more than just the outward appearance. It is a divine instrument that helps us relate to the world and the world to us. How does it get any better than that?