I am speaking to any woman who is desperately trying to embrace the whole 'body acceptance'/'body love' thing.
(I will use both of these terms throughout this piece, but they represent the same thing).
I am speaking to any woman who totally gets and appreciates the concept but......holy shitballs it's a struggle.
This 'body love' thing should be empowering, right?
It should feel good, right?
Isn't it to free us of the societal and cultural influences and pressures put on us to have to look a certain way in order to feel..in order to feel...in order to feel, what exactly?
Good about ourselves?
To look like:
We totally have our shit together?
We are owning and loving life? We are happy?
We've got it all going on and then some?
I don't know about you, but it's not doing that at all.
I feel like it's a different duck but it's swimming in the same fucking pressure pond.
It isn't making me feel like the pressure's off and I can now just simply exist as I am.
It's still cultural pressure to be a certain way in order to feel all of the things listed above, but without the body shame. But wait. I still have body shame.
So wait. It's even worse than the thing it's supposed to free me of. It's worse because now there are two ducks swimming at the same time, because the first duck hasn't left the pressure pond.
I still don't like my body because it isn't a certain way AND I'm now feeling even shittier because I am supposed to be able to not just accept it as it is, but also love it. AND I DON'T. Double fail.
The cultural pressure of having to look a certain way: thin but fit (not too muscular though), perfect boobs (not too big but not too small...you know, perky and firm), perfect bum (see boob notes) is one thing (the first duck) .
And it is something that we are failing at BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to reach that goal for us regular women out here.
And we know it's unrealistic...we're not stupid.
And we would like to believe that we weren't/aren't affected by the Cosmo, Vogue, Chatelaine magazine images, or the models and movie stars on our screens: past and present.
But. We were/are.
Even though we know the image we are being held up against is IMPOSSIBLE, we still secretly wish it could happen.
And we feel the shame of our body, as it is currently presenting itself to us, every time we catch a glimpse of us naked after a shower.
Or sitting and then looking down at the rolls.
Or trying to find a top or pair of pants that kind of hide as much as possible of what we are shameful about (hello leggings and oversized sweatshirt, I love you).
And when those moments happen there is disappointment or anger or shame or embarrassment or resentment or all of them.
We've failed. We've let ourselves down.
We suck and we're flabby, we're jiggly, we're a big mess of blobby fat.
So that's the first duck. Good times.
Enter the second duck in our cultural shame pond:
We are supposed to be able to forget the 30+ years of this programming and hop on the "I love my body exactly as it is" train.
What. The. Fuck.
Undoing decades of conditioning will not happen quickly, and certainly not through a Dove soap marketing campaign. Or Special K. Or any of the commercial products that are doing what now?
Oh yeah: socially and culturally influencing us.
And again, IMPOSSIBLE.
For sure the message is AWESOME.
Love you for you.
You are perfect in your imperfections.
You are beautiful no matter what size pants you wear.
Your size doesn't define you.
You are not a lesser human being at size 22 than you are at size 8.
WE CAN ALL STAND BEHIND THAT 100 PER CENT.
No man or woman should be judged by their size.
I think we can all agree that this is a belief we can hold dear.
Number one: Do we believe it really?
Here is my sad but honest truth.
I was walking out of a restaurant in an outdoor mall that also has a Dairy Queen. I saw a middle aged man, in a business suit, come out of the Dairy Queen with a big ass chocolate dipped cone in his hand.
He was overweight.
He took a satisfying bite off the top of the cone with a childlike smile on his face.
I automatically looked around to see his kids, thinking no adult would go to Dairy Queen just for them, would they?
Apparently they would as there were no kiddos with him.
My thoughts? "Cool! I love that this guy is treating himself in the middle of the day to a cone! Being a kid again, nice!"
I got in my car, and then imagined what my reaction would be if it would have been a woman in the same scenario.
Middle aged, business suit, overweight.
Coming out of Dairy Queen with a big ass chocolate dipped cone..no kids in sight.
Would I have the same "WAY TO GO!" thoughts that I had for the man?
Shamefully, I realized I would not.
I would be: "Oh, poor her. Not letting her family see her indulge in some ice cream, hiding her shame. Maybe she is emotionally eating after a tough day or something." I would have pity for her with a dash of judgement too.
"She really shouldn't be eating that".
This went down a couple of years ago and since that moment I have worked really fucking hard on changing my conditioned thoughts, feelings and beliefs on all things overweight.
All good now, I genuinely and authentically hold no judgement towards an overweight man or woman.
Which leads us to...
We can't expect us women to undo so much influence; the pounding of the message that we aren't good enough as we are.
We can't just simply erase all that and jump onto the "Body Acceptance" train.
And this creates double the shame!
Now we are feeling shameful for not being able to accept ourselves as we are, even though Dove is telling us we should.
We are being hit by two opposing camps, both of which should just mind their own fucking business and leave us alone.
And we really want our daughters and all the young women in the world to not succumb to the pressure of trying to achieve the unachievable "perfect" body.
So, we talk the talk.
"I am working out for my health".
Truth! And YAY, YES! Most likely you are, of course.
But the Body Acceptance campaign wants us to deny that we are also doing it to LOOK better.
We are now embarrassed to admit that we actually want to lose inches and look a certain way to feel more accepted and less judged.
We want to walk the walk.
We desperately want to believe the words we read on the Body Acceptance FB groups we join and the Body Love Instagrammers we follow.
But. Deep down.
Deep down, we don't and we know it.
We still second guess our outfits or don't join that running group or fitness class because we don't want to be seen and judged as we feel we would be.
Because we are judging ourselves.
We feel like a hypocrite because even though we are trying to convince ourselves that we don't care how we look, deep down we don't like what we see in the mirror when we are naked. Maybe some parts, but not all. And man, do we focus on the not good parts, right?
And maybe, just maybe, any woman who does say she is doing the exercising to lose weight and look good....maybe we judge her too. Shallow, egotistical, her priorities are fucked up.
So let's back up a sec and take a deep breath.
Here's where to start:
We can do the Body Acceptance for other women and that is awesome!
And that is where it begins.
Really own that you are supportive and accepting of other "imperfect" sized women.
That is the first stand to take against all this cultural influencing bullshit. Sorry, but the hashtag body acceptance movement is just as shitty as the very thing it is trying to replace.
There. I said it.
As as concept, it is fantastic - this is obvious.
However, how it is affecting us is counter productive and backfiring big time.
We need to realize this and not blame ourselves and double our shame.
What to do:
Ask yourself how you truly feel and think about the women who are your size (not any bigger or smaller than you -that isn't your area of expertise. Only think about women who, in your opinion, look like you in shape and size).
I am guessing that: We wouldn't not hire her because we think she's fat.
We wouldn't not be her friend because we think she's fat.
We wouldn't not split dessert with her after a great dinner because we think she's fat.
We wouldn't not go to the park for a picnic with her and her kids because we thinks she's fat.
We wouldn't not ask her for advice about something she knows a lot about because we think she's fat.
When you see her eating that ice cream by herself in the middle of the afternoon, what are your thoughts? Any of them as mine once were? Or are you more enlightened than I was back then?!
When you see her jogging in a tank top and spandex shorts, do you think: "Wow, she probably shouldn't be wearing that outfit". Or are you more like: "Good for her, but she must feel so awkward and so self conscious of her jiggles right now."
Or maybe: "I would never go out wearing that".
When you see her out walking with her partner, holding hands, do you wonder if the person she is with is wishing she was thinner?
These are horrible, I know. But we need to be honest with ourselves if we are going to get anywhere with this.
The work starts with how you see others like you. Because how you see them is, in all honesty, how you see yourself.
If you do hold any judgements or pre-conceived notions that are negative in nature, it is your responsibility to switch that shit up.
Inject the thoughts and feelings that you truly want to have and believe.
Here is the kicker: THEY ARE NOT MEANT TO BE POSITIVE.
You are not going to replace the negative judgements with a positive view like: "Good for her! She is working on it!"
Your aim is for neutrality.
You simply don't care (but with respect).
It's just that it's none of your fucking business.
You hold no good or bad, positive or negative attachment.
Just.....there. Another human being just plain old being.
Your inwardly applauding her is, in essence, the same as inwardly shaming her.
What she looks like or what she is doing/thinking has nothing to do with you.
She doesn't need or want your approval or disapproval.
She just wants your warm smile and your friendly wave.
Your acknowledgement and appreciation of her existence.
That is what you want from you, too.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, all you want is to for you to acknowledge and appreciate your own existence.
No comparing, judging, shaming, or even encouragement.
Just good old fashioned: "Hey, there you are" with a warm smile (no need to wave, but you can if you want hahaha).
So, let's get to that neutral place in our minds and our hearts.
This is a place where judgement and shame simply can't exist.
And from there we respectfully acknowledge and appreciate the pure, simple, amazing existence of us and other women around us.
Then, lo and behold. Self acceptance as you are right now.
You want to change something about your physical appearance from that place? Cool.
No shame in that. And now, it is just for you. You want it for you.
You aren't pressured to do so, you aren't pretending to be something you aren't, you aren't judging yourself.
You stand in a neutral place and decide yes or no.
And what's even cooler is that you won't fail at it. You aren't comparing yourself to anything or anyone anymore.