I remember looking down at my legs in a gymnastics class and wondering why they were chubby. That was the first time I thought I was fat; the first time I compared myself to others.
In grade seven I was the third-tallest girl in my class, and the third-heaviest. I felt shame. When I was thirteen, our phys ed teacher pulled a few of us girls aside and told us we were heading to be overweight and that we’d better do something about it. I went on my first diet.
When I was 15, a girl who was walking behind me, said, ‘Your bum is huge.’ I started running around the oval after school until I was exhausted. I could go on and catalogue every time I noticed I was heavy or heavier than someone else.
Comparison leads to dissatisfaction
As the years passed, I was never satisfied with how my body looked, but at some point I decided I didn’t think I’d ever be skinny. I got very, very tired, of exercising and starving, just to try and reach a number. I decided I’d be whatever size is healthy for me, and rest when I needed to.
The thing that the world seems to want me to be, is this: really skinny, and really tired. And if I could shrink and hustle, I’d be right there, skinny and tired.
- How to Scroll Through Instagram Without Hating Yourself
- Small Changes are the Key to Your New Year’s Weight Loss: Dietitian’s Tips
Battling Body Image and Ageing
Sure, I still exercise, and I still eat healthily. I say that I accept being a size-medium and not a small, but there are still days that I feel ‘less-than’. And added onto the same old battle with body image, now, is the battle with ageing.
I don’t mind getting older, but the pressure to age well is very strong. Women get older, but not in the media. Extreme thinness, anti-ageing, appearance-focused “fitness” and sexual objectification, are a few of the dangerous ideals we are faced with.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
“Messages that we aren’t worthy of love unless we are beautiful, thin, and sexually desirable, may be lies – but they are powerful.”
Making ourselves fit into the physical image mould is costly. Everything from spray tans, laser hair removal, tattooed makeup, collagen lip injections, facial fillers and lash lengthening prescriptions, to anti-cellulite procedures, pore-minimising solutions and anti-ageing products, have all become a part of many womens’ beauty routine in the last decade or two.
Each year, women put hundreds of billions of dollars into the latest procedures, products, and prescriptions to try to reach that bar the media is raising. The messages telling us we are not worthy of love, happiness or success unless we are unattainably beautiful, thin, and sexually desirable may be lies, but they are powerful.
So, what to do about it?
The Practice of Self-Compassion and ‘Self-Hospitality’
Self-compassion is something my friends have been writing about recently, and it’s also a theme that author Shauna Niequsit picks up in her book, Present Over Perfect.
I may never be totally free of those complicated feelings about my body, but I will accept them, and look after my body instead of punishing it, or trying to fit into an image. I don’t always love my body, but it’s strong and it does what I want it to, most of the time.
I’ve learnt how to be happy being medium.
I’d love to be small, but genetics seem to be against me. This is how I was built, and unless I want to spend several hours every day exercising, instead of just one hour, and unless I starve myself, and unless I beat my body into submission, I’ll never be small.
So I will do as Shauna Niequist has done and practice hospitality – the offering of grace and nourishment – to myself.
Instead of being starved and small, I’ll be medium. And I will be happy. I will offer hospitality to my very own body. You can rest, you can be nourished, you can be loved. And I’ll even practice hospitality to my complicated feelings about my body, because that’s part of me too. In other words, I’ll accept that I sometimes struggle with myself on this, and not beat myself up about it.
In what ways do you feel you need to practice self-compassion or ‘hospitality’ to your own body – and to your complicated feelings about it?
Article supplied with thanks to Elaine Fraser, a teacher, mentor and author from Perth, Western Australia.