The never-ending body image war

This week has truly been a mind-bending, full-plate kind of week. Due to certain events that transpired last weekend, the topic of body image has been weighing heavily on my mind. I’ve written on this topic before, and of course, as a woman, it’s never far from my thoughts. What’s a bit different this time is the reason it’s on my mind was due to a positive experience, not a negative one.

I found myself in a situation where I was feeling self-conscious about my body solely from my own thoughts, not from anything being said to me by someone else. My own mind was attacking me, making me feel inadequate. That’s pretty shitty, right? I agree. And thus began this constant stream of dialog in my head, this bouncing around of ideas and opinions on body image.

I feel like, for myself and my past experiences, what I have been told (and not told) about my body has made me incredibly dependent on how other people judge/see it. “They” have been the ones to shape my opinion of my body. “They” have been the ones to dictate what I believed was the ideal weight/shape/size for me. Thus, I’ve never been happy in my body. I’ve never been comfortable or content. I’ve never felt good enough. I have always strived to be different (aka better, aka thinner).

After this past weekend, I had an epiphany. When I think about all of who I am, my intellect, my humor, my experiences, my maturity, my strength, etc. I find myself to be an amazing, kick-ass person who I am completely in love with. But, my body I keep in a separate and quarantined category of failure and disappointment (despite the fact that it can do things that I need/want it to do, despite the fact that it was strong through cancer treatment). And as much as I attempt to ignore it, those feelings bleed into me, infecting the whole of who I am. I feel in a constant apologetic state for being “overweight”, “plus-size”, “thick”, and “not within the social norm”. I am also constantly prepared for rejection and thus probably causing more with my apprehensive behaviors.

In talking to my therapist about this issue this week, we began a dialog about what it is that causes me to think I need to look a certain way to be attractive, knowing that people are just generally attracted to certain types of people, and there should really be no judgement for that. So, when I stopped to think about that, I had two ideas pop up: 1) control 2) society and what I find attractive.

Control is something I have learned to grasp at whenever life feels scary. And I learned it young, meaning it’s a pretty hard habit to break. I haven’t worked through all the nuances of it, but I know it’s what I do. I look for ways to control my environment or the people around me in order to keep my world safe and secure. But over the past several years, I’ve learned to slowly let go of control in areas and to just allow life to happen and be present. It’s really difficult. However, having this lesson be ongoing made identifying it in this discussion much easier. All of these years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to be attractive to men as a way of controlling how I feel about myself, specifically my body. When really, men are just attracted to the women they are in the same way that I am attracted to the men I am attracted to. It’s just that simple. So, why am I trying so hard…….for them?

What I’m learning (and believe me, this is going to be an ongoing stream of thought) is that my decisions about my body should only be for me. If there are changes I want to make to it, then those changes have to be for me and me only. Hell, if I don’t want to change a damn thing, then that is also just for me and I need to give myself permission for that. I don’t want to live my life in so much fear of not being attractive to someone, that I then, ultimately, live a life of unhappiness, constantly trying to please someone else and always failing (because people are vastly different) or living in a constant state of insecurity.

Secondly, society has definitely played a major role in how I view body image and I hate even admitting that, because I want to be someone who fights against those horrifying ideas that all women should be perfect. But, as a child, as a teenager, as someone who’s been broken, I can’t deny that those subliminal messages have seeped into my head and left black marks all over me. They’ve left me self-conscious and feeling like I’ll never be good enough. As an adult, I can clearly see how ridiculous the ideas are, I can see how media manipulates photos and lighting to bring about perfection. And as an adult, I can truly see beauty if the vast array of women both in my life, and even in passing on the street. But, it has been a constant struggle to see it in myself. And I won’t lie, sometimes there are days when I tear people apart in my head which I think speaks to how I feel about myself.

I also think, and this is still a working thought so excuse my lack of clarity, that it may be hard for me sometimes to be comfortable/confident in my body with the men I find attractive because the men I find attractive are slender. I mean, straight up, I like tall, very skinny dudes. I always have. Does that mean I’ve never found a huskier guy attractive? No, I have. But, in general, I gravitate towards slim. And somehow I feel like I should also be skinny if I going to be with a skinny guy. Why? I’m not exactly sure, but a theory is that we’ve been brainwashed to think couples should have the same body types. (this is one of my most favorite articles about this subject) And I think that’s really, really sad.

I don’t really have a conclusion for this post because I’m still working through my thoughts on it all. I’m still trying to figure out how to just be me in this world and love this body that I’m in. I’m still trying to find things I’m passionate about and devote time to them instead of counting calories or binge drinking to make myself “feel better”. I do know, at the end of the day, I want to be someone who radiates love, from the inside out. I want to be someone who goes after what she wants (like this amazing woman here) unapologetically.

“The sign of a beautiful person is that they always see beauty in others.”

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