Is everyone sick of hearing the term “body shaming” yet?
It’s hard to talk about body image without using a slew of cliches. But the reality of the situation is that body image is a major societal issue. We have been bred to judge and criticize ourselves and one another brutally, glorifying only a certain level of thinness and finding offense in anything other. We tear people down for sport, for validation, for the sheer fact that it has become our initial reaction to do so.
But the struggle with body image is such a personal thing and people have such different motivations that it’s almost impossible to generalize. So instead, I’ll offer my own story.
I used to be a serial self-loather. I could find fault in just about anything about myself. I’m not just talking physically, but mentally too. I never thought I was pretty or thin enough; but more tragically, I never thought I was smart or interesting or funny enough either. But I could control my weight a little easier than all of the rest of it. So I tried to. I would crash diet, sometimes purging after meals that felt too big. However, my body has always fluctuated no matter how much I have tried to exhibit control. Some months I was slim and others I was a little less so.
As much as I used to revel in my thinner figure, I would condemn my curvier one. And so much more than it showed on my frame, the weight would show in my demeanor. I would strut when I was ten pounds lighter and pull at my clothing self-consciously when those ten pounds reappeared. When I wore a dress that I felt good in, I would speak with sureness. But when I thought I looked fat, I could hardly bring myself to look someone in the eye. My sensuality and confidence were entirely wrapped up in my dress size.
After a lot of necessary changes both externally and internally, my self confidence has transformed entirely over the last few years. I recognize myself as capable, inspired, fiercely loving and despite the constant rhetoric that a few extra pounds aren’t pretty, I feel sexy as hell.
I love my body and I celebrate it shamelessly. I’m not embarrassed that my tummy isn’t flat and I don’t fret about the bits of cellulite that I’ve got here and there. For me, being soft and curvy makes me feel feminine. I love the way a dress clings to my hips. I like to feel my fingers press into my thighs. I don’t avert my eyes when a man I’m with calls me sexy anymore because finally, we are both seeing the same thing.
It has become almost instinctual for women to tear each other down for their bodies, their clothes, their sexuality. But once you acknowledge the sensuality within you and the sexiness that is all your own, you have no reason to worry about anyone else’s.
Last week when my friend said we were ‘squishy’ and should hit the gym as we laid in bikinis, I didn’t cry over the collective term ‘we’ (like I might have 8 months ago) and I didn’t throw a towel over the little roll on my belly as I sat up in my chaise lounge. I just laughed, pointed out how hot we were and walked over to the pool, confidently winking at the guy who had his eyes on my bikini clad body. When other girls display envy over a great ass or a flat stomach, I admire it without comparison or judgement, and then quietly admire my own. Instead of rolling my eyes when a girl walks by in a skimpy dress or low cut top I praise that sexy goddess for wearing whatever makes her feel good.
Don’t whisper to your friend that some girl in the bar shouldn’t be wearing a crop top. Don’t click on links to articles declaring that this celebrity or that one looks fat in her bathing suit as she enjoys a day at the beach. Don’t look at a fitness model on instagram and think ‘she needs to eat a cheeseburger!’ She looks killer and so do you.
In order to change the narrative about what a woman should look like, we need to change the way we look at ourselves and at each other . When we change that, when we embrace ourselves and support one another, when we take the power out of body shaming, we finally change the narrative.