This piece is partly based on a comment I left over at Assorted Mundanities and also inspired by posts from dynamic (r)evolution and Martina Reisz-Newberry. Thanks to all of them for their thoughtful pieces on this topic.
When a friend bad-mouths herself, we jump to her defense, assuring her that she’s beautiful, that her ass doesn’t look too big in those jeans, that she shouldn’t beat herself up because she had a croissant for breakfast. We’re always quick tell our friends not to be so hard on themselves, but when it comes to our own failings, be they real or imagined, we cut ourselves no slack. This is especially true when it comes to body-hate. It’s just too easy to look in the mirror and hate what we see because we simply can’t live up to the standards global media has set for us. And yet we try, and we fail, and we look in the mirror, and we hate.
A recent study by Glamour magazine found that 97% of women who participated had at least one hateful thought about their bodies over the course of one day. That’s…let me do the math…yep, very nearly all of them. Another recent statistic showed that 3 of 4 teen girls felt depressed, guilty and shameful after three minutes with a fashion magazine. And many also learn body-hate from their mothers, who learned it from theirs.
Today I learned from dynamic (r)evolution that a website/magazine called SheLoves is promoting what they call a “synchroblog,” i.e., multiple bloggers writing on the same topic, which in this case, is a Love Letter to My Body. I think this is a lovely idea, and you’ll find two great examples in the links above. I also tripped over a post in which author Martina Reisz-Newberry has an unexpected talk with herself in the mirror and walks away with a new friend.
I’m all about the idea of self-love, but like many people, I’m not that good at it. However, this convergence of body love-hate bloggery today inspires me to jump on the bandwagon and, briefly, talk to myself a bit about how things have been and how I want them to be. So here goes:
You and I have been through some serious shit together, and you’ve suffered a lot of abuse, not least at my own hands. I started out taking pretty good care of you, but really you have to credit my mom for that. I didn’t appreciate the whole-grain bread, the sugar-free cereals, the no-soda/kool-aid/crap rule, but I know it gave you a better start than some people have. That’s probably why you held up like such a trooper for the past 40 years while I filled you with toxins, subjected you to decades of inactivity, and generally treated you like you weren’t the only thing standing between me and the sweet hereafter. And all the while I really never liked you. At times I hated you because you were me, and I wasn’t good enough. I said terrible things about you, and I used my anger at you and at me as an excuse to continue to treat you badly. And I’m here to tell you things are going to change. In fact, they already are.
This year I started a garden. That means I’m outside every day moving around in the sun and the air and the dirt and eating whole, live foods that go directly from the dirt to our belly. And when I look at you in the mirror, I see someone who is living the life she wants to live, and though sometimes I see things I want to change about you, I don’t hate the fact that you are what you are. You have changed and changed again and you will change and change some more and we’re in this together, so I’m going to strive to be ok with that.
There’s also the subject of the abuse others have perpetrated against you. This has resulted in a subtler hate that I’ve only recently come to realize has been seething within me. It’s less a mirror thing than just a constant gut belief that you are dirty, bad, toxic…maybe because you’re tainted, maybe just because you’re female. This is the hate I want most of all to overcome because I know it’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. We are ok. I promise to keep that in mind when I think about you and try to turn that hate into love.
That was utterly off-the-cuff, because if I spend too much time thinking about stuff like this I won’t do it at all. I’ll close with the final part of my comment to Assorted Mundanities:
When you look in the mirror, try pretending you’re talking to a friend. Give her a pep talk. Tell her she’s ok. Because she really is.