I’ve been thinking about body image a lot lately, along with a question that keeps bubbling to the surface of my mind. I want to ask every woman I meet (all those who identify as women)–
How old were you when your body got hijacked?
Maybe this didn’t happen to you, but I think many females in our society have a similar experience. First, there was your Age of Innocence. You were a child, with a body, and you were just basically You. You lived mostly in the present moment, you played and laughed and cried and slept and didn’t really think about having a body. It just Was.
And then, something happened– maybe it was a comment or judgment from someone else, getting teased or compared, or some physical experience. At some point you developed a self-consciousness about having a body, realized that other people saw it, that your body could be good or bad. Often these realizations come because of a negative experience.
For me, it was getting comments about my body starting somewhere in elementary school. I was the eldest of three sisters, and I picked up the labels that there was the thin one, the normal one, and then me, the chubby one. I started feeling pretty fat, even though photos reveal nothing much out of the ordinary. I was teased about my weight, got compared to other girls, and was encouraged to lose weight. I had shame-inducing dressing room visits with my mom, trying on clothes– I developed hips and curves early, and it was hard to find pants that fit. I felt terrible and resolved to change myself to have a body that everyone would praise me for.
This began a journey of over 40 years of body-shame and self-loathing, making a “home improvement” project of my body, with starvation diets, punitive exercise, weight loss and weight gain, eating disorders, even more weight gain, and always trying-trying-trying to be good enough (and never getting there).
It has only occurred to me recently that what was really wrong was that I innocently believed all the messages I got from the world around me, messages about my body and girls’ bodies, beauty and worthiness, and that I needed to change. As I see it now, I was Hijacked as a young girl, plucked up from my relatively harmonious state of existence, and plopped down into a world where my body was a thing to be scrutinized, judged, discussed and deemed unworthy. I thought this was just what happened when you grow up. I didn’t know to question it, reject it. I wish I had.
Today I’m trying to come back around to that girl I was, to get away from the judging and self-loathing, which never did one lick of good for me. Our society continues to put criteria on women’s bodies for what is good or acceptable or beautiful or “healthy” (men too, but it’s definitely worse for women). Believing this bullsh*t has messed with me on so many levels and had a huge negative impact on my life for over 40 years. Now I’m going to see what it’s like when I take back my body and live in it from the inside again. I won’t let myself be held hostage again.
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