You may have heard about, or read this post called "Don't Tell Me To Love My Body". Just to warn you, it may be triggering for some who have body image issues. I read it the other day, and it's something I've seen in multiple places over the past week. I'll be honest with you: it actually made me question what I do here on A Recipe for Sanity. Just for a second. Because I do write about positive body image and I do encourage people of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, etc to love their bodies.
Basically, the woman who wrote the post (and this is my interpretation after reading it over a few times) believes that by being told to love her body, she is being told how to feel. Rather than trying to interpret it all for you, I'll post a few quotes so you can get an idea (any emphasis on words or phrases is my own):
"Maybe the fact that I don’t love my body isn’t really an issue. Maybe the problem is that everyone thinks I should love my body. That loving my body is some kind of standard of womanly goodness in and of itself."
"Or maybe me loving my body is about you. And how you feel about how I feel about my body. If I tell you that “I love my body. I love my freckles. I even love my sagging ass because it’s on my body.” You’ll pat me on the back and tell me that I’m getting it. And I’m not making anyone uncomfortable by complaining about how much I dislike being held up to fucked up beauty standards and how it fucks with my head."
"The problem is someone else telling me how to feel. The problem is being told that there is a standard of beauty, and I should ignore it. I should ignore it despite the fact that everyone is still holding me to it. I should ignore it and create my own."
By reading these quotes, you might see why I started to question myself. Am I trying to tell people that their feelings of hatred and disgust toward their own bodies are not acceptable, and they aren't allowed to feel that way? Am I trying to tell people that they should invent their own standard of beauty and ignore society's standards? Truly, I don't think I am.
Here's the problem I had with this idea: loving your body does not have to mean invalidating your feelings of negative body image or self-worth. I make an effort every day to love and accept what I look like. But does that mean I never have negative feelings about it? That I don't call myself names, or catch a glimpse of myself in a window's reflection, and feel awful? No, it really doesn't. I still have those days.
I am also not under the mistaken impression that because I am trying to love and accept my size 18/20 self, that society feels the same way. I am in no way deluded into thinking that all of a sudden, because I like my body, American Apparel is going to call me and say, "You know what, Ashley? We were wrong about not including people of your size in our clothing line. We're going to change that and embrace everybody." Or that suddenly, tons of guys my age will start hitting on me and thinking bigger is beautiful (although, hey, some do. Rock on, gentlemen). Believe me, I understand that what I look like doesn't appeal to everyone. And by everyone, I mean clothing stores, doctors offices, men, women, Michelle Obama, etc. etc. etc. But you know what? I am really tired of giving a shit about that. I wasted a lot of time and energy hurting my body and my spirit by engaging in eating disordered behaviors because I believed that if I was thinner, my life would be perfect. And it never was.
Loving myself and loving my body is NOT dependent on what society thinks of me. It's dependent on me. I don't love who I am and work on my body image because I believe society will change if I do so. I do it because I am not going to spend however many years I have left on this earth allowing people I do not even know to dictate how I feel about myself. I am also tired of allowing those same people's opinions to dictate what I wear and what I can do with my body.
Guess what? I'm going to keep exercising. Even though the stereotype is that I must not take care of myself or my body. I'm going to keep eating healthy, even though doctors have told me they think I must be making poor food choices. I'm going to keep wearing cute clothes that people who aren't plus-sized think is cute, because I can have just as much fun with my clothing as anyone else. I will keep getting stronger physically and mentally, and I will keep healing. And I will love myself. And whatever I look like when I come to the end of this recovery journey is fine with me.
I am in no way trying to be another voice that invalidates this woman's feelings. If she feels negatively about her body, she has every right to do so. But I wanted to be the voice that says we also have another option: we can choose to work on feeling good about ourselves and taking care of ourselves no matter what other people say. It doesn't mean everyone will think we are beautiful, or that we will change anyone's mind about size or beauty standards. But it does mean we might be able to look in that window's reflection one day and think, "Damn, I am fabulous." And to me, that's worth the fight.