Tag Archives: #effyourbeautystandards

Turnings on Edges #effyourbeautystandards

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Originally published by the Skin Deep Project May 2014

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Last month I said I’d talk about the ‘turning point’ for me in learning to love and accept my body. But I actually told a bit of a fib. That’s not *exactly* what I’m going to share. I can’t talk about the turning point, because I didn’t win the war with my body.

 

My body is not a static, unchanging experience.

 

My body has grown two children. It has fluctuated in dress size, in fitness, in muscle tone, in appearance. I have new scars, freckles and moles. My dress sense has changed as my life (and confidence) has changed. My hair colour and style is an ongoing party.

 

I didn’t win the war against my body because I am my body. Because my body changes and so do I. Instead, I have (tried to) embraced honesty with myself. I have (tried to) embraced self-reflection and the process of asking myself – why?

 

Why do I find my body lacking?

Why do I measure my body against a narrow and media defined beauty standard?

Why do I tie my body to the sexual desire of others?

Why do I punish my body and soul for failing these arbitrary standards?

Why do I de-value the experience and strength of my body?

Why have I sought aesthetic beauty and in doing so made my body, heart and soul sick on many occasions?

 

Why? Why? Why?

 

And somewhere within exploring these whys, I’ve found a healthy tension between seeking improvement and loving what is – and discovering that I want and need both. And that’s okay. It really is okay. My body is not a static, unchanging experience. My body is a lesson. A lesson in gratitude. A lesson in humility. A lesson in honesty. A lesson in love. There are days when I love my body, it’s shapes and curves and aesthetics. There are days when all I can see is how far I am from the ideal presented to us in the media. There are days when I don’t even really notice my body.

Mummy with Amaya

Image: with Amaya, one day old 2014.

My daughter will be six weeks old this Saturday. She came into the world on Easter Saturday after a very painful but uncomplicated labour. My strong, powerful and healthy body brought both of us safely through that experience. And as I’ve nursed her over the last few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the body messages I want to give her. The way she’ll feel when she looks in the mirror. I have years to figure out what I want to say to her and years to continue shaping how I role model the lessons I hope she learns but here are some early thoughts for her (and for you, reading this):

 

  • You are glorious. Glorious and powerful beyond your believed boundaries.
  • Your body (and your life) belongs to you. Keep exploring and decide which adventures you want to deepen. And which you want to discard. Choose deliberately.
  • Whatever else you do, care for your body, it is the vessel carrying you through your life. Make it last and enjoy what it can do – if you let it – bodies are fun!
  • I cannot give you the answers. I cannot erase the doubts, the fears, the pain you will encounter – but I will be here. To hold you. To listen. To make you cups of tea.

 

 

Turn these corners.

Fold them in to,

New mirrors,

Blank pages,

Deep dreams.

 

What’s your favourite body positive message or piece of advice?

 

 

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Fatty Number Two

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Originally published by the Skin Deep Project April 2014

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Fatty Number Two

*My body did nothing to you.

 

 

Does anyone else remember being weighed in PE class at school? Do they still do that?

 

I’m not sure, but I think this is where one of my high school nicknames began.

 

Fatty Number Two.

 

I still don’t know who Fatty Number One was.

 

Although I don’t remember what I weighed and therefore can’t tell you my BMI or any surface indicator like that – I can tell you that I walked to school every day and I was the second fastest in my class in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. And looking back on photos from that period – I wasn’t fat at all** – I was healthy and beautiful.

 

prom

Image: aged 12, attending a school formal

 

(**And even if I had been, clearly Fatty Number Two was not an appropriate nickname for anyone to be gifted with!!)

 

Yet I believed I was fat, because I’d been labelled fat and therefore fat I was. My relationship with food quickly became an unhealthy dance between eating nothing and shovelling in a chocolate bar where no one could see me. My body was a source of shame, something to be covered, hidden and punished.

 

As I entered the official ‘teen’ years, I hit puberty early and was one of the first girls in my class to have breasts. And even once the other girls joined me, I remained one of the bustier in my age group throughout high school. Cue bra strap pulling and another new nickname ‘socks’. I had a boy in Year 9 date me for a week just because he wanted to confirm that my breasts were real and not a bra full of socks/tissues.

 

Sigh.

 

My body just refused to conform. Refused to let me disappear into the background, however much I wanted it to. I spent less time eating and more time pretending to eat. The secret chocolate bars disappeared. Yet rather than becoming smaller, my body betrayed me and I actually started to gain weight.

 

I felt trapped. Trapped and fat and ugly. Undesirable. Undesirable in a world which told me being desirable was the road to love. My body had become a battleground, though I don’t remember ever signing up for the war.

 

Your name, here.

Ready to stand

Arms raised

Songs spilled

Border to border

With shaking hands.

 

We march, together

Apart, separate

From the skin we live within

The smile lines that coat hands

Faces, familiar spaces.

 

We sing,

Histories into scars

Bodies into boxes

Heroes into holes.

 

We speak,

With lips that shake

Eyes that remake

These models,

To measure by.

 

I intend to write about the turning point in my war with my body next month – but I wanted to ask you all, what has been the turning point for you or someone you know? And if you haven’t found the turning point yet, what do you think would help?