As I am

Me, right now.

Me, right now.

I usually like sticking to the frivolous and superficial on my blog but a post I encountered today really made me think about the way I see myself — and how women in general see themselves. I’m trying to make some health-related changes in my life and I’ve been looking for inspiration online. Yeah, I know, I should be looking within, but answers are more readily available online. Anyway, I was perusing blogs this morning when I  found this blog written by an au pair living in France. Her blog deals mostly with food, explorations of body image and the tough societal expectations/standards women face when it comes to our bodies. A Kate Winslet quote she posted yesterday really made me step back and contemplate how my body image has affected my life.

The quote goes, “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body’. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”

Somehow, I’d never thought about the role we women play in perpetuating our body image issues. Truth be told, I blamed men for their unrealistic expectations, society for valueing thinness over curves and the media for making it all too clear that success only comes in sizes 0 to 4. But we women sometimes don’t help each other out either. We are so quick to judge and point out other women’s imperfections. Rather than combat these expectations and standards, we often play into them. We torture ourselves to achieve a “better body,” to rid ourselves of  softness and supposedly imperfect curves so that we can be viewed as beautiful, attractive and successful.

Growing up, I remember my mom and aunt talking about the annoying flab on their bellies that never seemed to go away. I remember discussions over fat and sugar, foods that shouldn’t be eaten, being acutely aware of my size from the time I was five or six years old, my sister lamenting the length and shape of her legs (she felt they were too short for her body) and my grandmother monitoring my food intake because it was apparent from a very early age that thinness would never come naturally to me. The women in my life were constantly dieting and pointing out their flaws, and I clearly remember grapefruit diets, cabbage diets, Mayo Clinic diets…all kinds of diets to get rid of those pesky 10 pounds that stubbornly got in the way of a positive body image. I don’t remember my dad, or any man close to me, ever mentioning the need to drop a few pounds.

I will be 29 this year and I’ve yet to hear a woman — family member, friend or stranger — say she is proud of her body. It seems there are always a few extra pounds to lose, muscles that need toning and body parts that are hopelessly deficient. But despite the messages I got from my mom and other women in my life,  I can’t blame my mom, my aunt or my grandma alone for my personal body image issues , because this narrative we’re fed is so widespread, so deeply engrained in our society that I think it’s impossible to blame one single person or entity. And honestly, even if my mom had told herself on a daily basis that she was proud of her body, that she loved and accepted even the most imperfect parts and that she loved and accepted my body in all its chubby glory, I don’t know that it would have made a difference. It’s not the message I would have heard at school, read about in magazines or seen in movies. How many love stories feature an overweight protagonist getting the guy? Unless you’re watching a raunchy romantic comedy, your typical protagonist is probably no more than 125 pounds and no bigger than a size 4. True, the male protagonist is rarely frumpy and fat, but I think that as viewers, we more readily forgive whatever flaws he may have.

I weighed 135 pounds throughout most of high school and remember feeling so awkward, so clumsy and large compared to my peers. I truly hated my body. A few months ago, my best friend pulled out a picture of me and my friends from junior year homecoming, and I couldn’t believe what I saw: A pretty, attractively curvy girl no better or worse than the other girls in the photo. I wish I had that picture so I could post it on here. When I saw it, I remember feeling sad and perplexed that I wasted so many years feeling like I didn’t measure up.

This quote really made me think and reassess. I’ve gone my entire life never feeling completely satisfied with my body. I’ve gotten close, so, so close, but I’ve never quite reached the point where I look in the mirror and can say to myself, I love this body, I’m proud of this body. And that’s so sad. I’ve gone nearly three decades perpetually disappointed with what I see in the mirror. I don’t consider myself to have low self-esteem — and in general, in most aspects of my life, I consider myself to be a happy, cheerful and confident woman. But when it comes to body image, I can’t help but compare myself to others. And yes, I’m guilty of thinking the only thing missing from my life (and unadulterated happiness) is fitting into size 6 jeans.

I always think of what my body isn’t and what it can’t do. I’m not thin, slender or skinny. And I probably never will be. I don’t feel comfortable in a miniskirt and I can’t even imagine wearing a bikini. I can’t run a marathon. I can’t do a pull-up and I’ve never excelled in sports. BUT I can bike 30 miles. I can hike five hours, walk at a quick pace and swim 75 laps. I have been a daughter, sister and friend in this body. I’ve traveled all over the world, gotten my college degree and become an adult in this body. And I have nice curves, if I do say so myself. No, they can’t be contained in size 6 jeans, but I hope to one day get to the point where I’m OK with that.

So why do I always think of my body in terms of what it isn’t and what it can’t do when I’ve lived such a rich, full and, yes — happy —  life in this body?



Categories: Body Image, Serious Stuff

Tags: , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. You’ve made me stop to reassess what I’m telling my three daughters by NOT telling them. It is underhanded and insidious and so prevalent. Thank you for making me think about it.

  2. Thanks for the comment! This quote made me stop and reassess what I’m allowing myself to believe, and I really hope I can be kinder to myself — and in my judgments of other women — in the the future.

  3. LOVE this post. We really should be so thankful to HAVE bodies, where we can experience the world, friends, family, traveling, and all the amazing things life has to offer. We are blessed to have these functioning vessels. I am learning to appreciate that too. Great post!

  4. I Nominate you for a Wonderful Bouquet of Awards – 16 Nominations

    Please Choose any 3 of the 16 awards
    please accept it and oblige

    http://ajaytao2010.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/a-wonderful-bouquet-of-awards-16-nominations/

  5. Primera vez que te veo de cuerpo entero, ahora puedo apreciar tus curvas. Tienes un aspecto agradable. Discúlpame por lo que voy a decir pero eres una mujer deseable. Si te comparas con los demás puede que te amargues la vida porque siempre habrá personas más arriba y más abajo de ti. Disfruta de lo que tienes y de tus logros. Mantén tu mente ocupada para que no des espacio a los pensamientos negativos. Esfuérzate por ser feliz, algunas veces será fácil otras veces será complicado pero si no lo haces la única que pierde serás tú. La alegría es clave para lograr lo que queremos, la depresión y la tristeza causan el efecto contrario.

    Si hay algo que crees debes mejorar entonces tienes que esforzarte por ello pero siempre teniendo presente todo lo que ya tienes y disfrutas.

    Estamos tan acostumbrados a lo que ya tenemos que parece que no tuviéramos nada y por eso nos quejamos. Esta mujer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLKWBr7Rpz8 seguramente daría todo por tener el cuerpo del cual tú te quejas.

  6. Hola Daniel,

    Gracias por el vídeo…demuestra que nosotros como humanos somos capaces de mas de lo que nos podríamos imaginar. Cuando yo estaba en la universidad trabajaba con una señora que también nació sin brazos y piernas y se me olvidaba su discapacidad por que se manejaba tan bien y hacia todo lo que hacían los demás.

    Y gracias por el comentario y los consejos. Tienes razón…aveces nos enfocamos en lo que no tenemos y lo que no somos, y comparándonos a los que sentimos que están mas arriba o los que nos parecen que tienen mas solo nos amarga la vida. En vez, deberíamos de enfocarnos en todo lo que tenemos, nuestras habilidades y en las cosas que somos capaces de lograr.

  7. Love this post, and am so glad you saw that quote. Yes, we have to love our bodies. Our bodies are ourselves– how can we see them as some enemy that betrays us and perpetually be at war with them, trying to make them suffer? Here’s a post I read a few weeks back that I found very moving. All that energy and time we invest in trying to be lesser and take up less space, what if we were to instead direct it into making art, telling stories, making human connections, having fun, etc.

    http://morecabaret.com/2013/05/07/why-i-dont-diet-an-ode-to-my-father/

  8. Also, should say that you are beautiful as you are. I say that personally, not in a generic sense. You are. And you are perfectly OK as you are. If you want to be smaller, OK. And if you really don’t want to, that’s OK as well. You will love and be loved no matter your size. But your confidence and contentment do matter.

  9. shared your Kate Winslet quote with a client yesterday; SOOO important a message. goes against what the established cultural patriarchy wants: to maintain its power and control, and to keep women confused and unempowered.

    • Thank you for the comment! I hope the quote helped your client. It really did help me reevaluate the way I judge myself and other women — and it made me think about why certain body types are more valued than others. While I think that being healthy and feeling good is important, I think that as a society, we have to learn to be more accepting of “imperfect” bodies!

  10. What an awesome post! I’m friends with Nora, and I’m so glad I read it. Good for you to coming to this realization.

    I’ve been living outside the U.S. for six years now, and I picked up a copy of Allure for the first time in years the other day. It was shocking! I was just like, “Why are all these women so stick-thin? Why is this magazine splattered with soft-core porn images of 90% naked WOMEN?” From the ads to the images accompanying “articles,” the whole magazine seemed to be geared toward making women feel awful about themselves.

    Granted, the culture I’m living in (South Korea) is probably even MORE appearance-obsessed than the U.S. But it was still shocking to see the body images and hyper-sexualized message being pushed to American women. I hope this changes one day.

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for the comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      I lived in Colombia for 2.5 years and felt that Colombia was also even more appearance-obsessed than the U.S. In Colombia, women are expected to be thin but with Kim Kardashian-type curves. Because most 120 pound women aren’t exactly born with massive breasts, plastic surgery was (is) really popular and the images you see in magazines and on telenovelas (Colombia’s version of the sitcom-soap opera) are, in most likelihood, utterly unattainable unless you’ve gone under the knife.

      I’m still working on fully accepting myself as I am, but at least now I don’t feel like I have to be rail thin to be happy or attractive!

  11. thanks for the like on Jungle Greenery. Good luck being back in the States. I was 15 years in Barbados and now a year and a half in Mexico. I’m going to have to go back home sooner or later.

Trackbacks

  1. A Wonderful bouquet of Awards – 16 Nominations | Ajaytao 2010
  2. Getting Back in the Swing of Things | A Nomad Life

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