I’m going to hijack my own blog right now and try to make some kind of sense of the issue of body positivity.
I’m actually supposed to be doing housework, but I was reading a discussion about the no-makeup selfies that have been getting around social media and my hands started to twitch. So here we are.
To be honest, body image is linked with health and food to a degree, so I’m not going that far off track, really.
It is widely understood that not liking your own body or how you look is a side-effect of a society that objectifies women. Despite this, criticism of your own appearance is still the default, accepted normal state of being. Hating how you look is universally accepted. Tell someone that you like your body and people will look at you funny.
I don’t get it. I might have a lot of hang-ups that stem from the brainwashing of patriarchal society, but I am proud of my body. Not just for the fact that it continues to keep me alive and mostly pain-free despite all the misfortune it has endured.
I do not wish my boobs were bigger or smaller. I do not wish that my bum was smaller. I do not wish that my legs were longer or my stomach flatter. I do not wish my arms were less flabby. I do not wish that my skin was a different colour. I do not wish I was thinner. I work on my fitness purely for my health, and any improvement on my appearance is just a fortunate side effect.
I know that when strangers look at me they are not struck by a particular defect in my appearance. Unless I am wearing a bikini top and my scars are obvious. In which case I don’t care what they think. It is probably just ‘I wonder what happened to her’.
I hardly ever wear make-up, and when I do it is only the very basics. I did the rounds of Mary Kay and Nutrimetics parties with my mother when I was a teenager, and I never came away thinking ‘Wow, I should do my face like this every day, it looks great.’ Usually the colours were wrong. And generally the stuff made my skin feel horrible.
My first job was on a horse stud. Makeup was not really required. I just never got into the habit, even when I started working in customer service and administration. I dress neatly and appropriately. I have never been told that I should wear makeup and it certainly doesn’t affect my work.
Now, done well, smoky eyes can look great, and I admire a girl who can pull off a bright red lipstick without looking like a circus clown. But I will stick to a smudge of eyeliner, tinted lip gloss and sparkly fingernails on special occasions.
Here is the kicker. I openly admit that being fairly fit and slim makes it much easier for me to like my body. I have been overweight, and I hated how I looked. I also hated how I felt. But it was within my power to do something about that, so I did.
I have in the past been guilty of looking at other women and thinking ‘she shouldn’t be wearing those shorts’ or ‘look at all the junk food in her trolley, no wonder she is fat’. People judge others on appearance, because that is often the first tool we have in assessing a person. That doesn’t make it right. Or necessarily accurate.
It is not my place, nor the place of anyone else, to impose my ideals on how a person looks. The world is full of people who like to criticise others, no matter what they do and what they look like. All you can do is what is right for you, what makes you feel good, for reasons you only have to justify to yourself. You will never please the rest of the world.
In a society where overweight is the new normal, fit people are ridiculed and even shamed, called freaks and even bad parents. Somehow it has become more acceptable to be overweight than to be fit. If someone seeks to improve their health, their appearance and their self image by eating well and exercising they should be congratulated.
If someone seeks to accept their body, whether old or young, fat or thin, moon-tanned, scarred, knobbly-kneed, freckled or whatever, they should also be congratulated, not chastised.
You don’t have to apologise for how you look. You have some power over your physical appearance, but some things just can’t be changed. These are the things you need to accept and maybe even grow to like if you want to escape the trap of What Others Think and be free to live your life your own way.
It is not easy. I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. I am that strange woman who likes how I look. That doesn’t make me ‘up myself’ or whatever the kids are calling it these days. But it does give me the power to not care what you think about my body, and feel good while I am busy not caring.
I will say this – don’t listen to the media. It creates unrealistic ideals to shame us into buying things we don’t need. I wonder if not watching commercial TV for over two years or reading any publications targeted at women has contributed to my capacity for body acceptance. I don’t see those ads that tell me to buy the cream that will make me look ten years younger. I don’t know what the must-have fashion accessories are. I am not constantly told what I should look like.
Anyway, enough procrastinating, I must get to and clean my house. I hate to think what people would think if they saw the place like this…