This is the beginning of a discussion that I have a deep interest in, body image in today’s world. When I say body image, I am referring to the concept of self image, how people perceive the shapes of their bodies based on the information they receive through the media and other sources. This is the first of a three part post about the topic. My focus is mostly on women in the modern era (as a twenty-first century woman, that is what I am most familiar with). I will talk about my own background with body image issues, eventual acceptance and later on I will discuss how yoga and its philosophy further helped me to reevaluate the way I look at and relate to my body. Hopefully, by sharing what I’ve learned, I can influence others to let go of their own body image issues.
For whatever reason, it seems prudent to first discuss my own physique. I am a curvy woman, I have wide hips, a big ass, ‘thunder thighs’… you get the picture. I am literally the only woman I know who is at peace with her body. I should also add that I’m conventionally still quite slim and I do benefit from thin privilege. Nonetheless, being happy with my size and shape does not come naturally to me. This is because the new norm is to hate and criticize oneself, to poke and prod and buy things until we fill some invisible hole or achieve some unattainable shape. Every day, I have to actively resist that temptation, and remind myself that I have to love and respect my body regardless of its size. Rather than fighting the aggressive influence of the media, I give into it and make it work for me, by choosing my influencers carefully. I actively seek out information that interests me, and actively resist information that tells me I ought to change myself in anyway. I also take time to remind myself that I need to be thankful for my healthy, happy body, rather than wish to change it.
I was a dancer for 14 years. I started ballet at the age of four and never looked back. I have spent hundreds of hours staring at myself in front of a mirror in form-fitting leotards in the vicinity of several other girls. This was my puberty. Sounds fun eh? Throughout my teenage years as a dancer, my classmates would often begin dance classes by pinching and prodding at their squishy bits while discussing how fat they were. Something that I find particularly disturbing is that it often seems like girls and women are afraid that they will somehow get in trouble, or feel left out, if they don’t want to change and reshape their bodies. Even if the girls in dance class knew they were slim, they didn’t want to be left out of the conversation, they had to be included in the cult of self-hatred. I stayed out of the fatness discussions for the most part, simply because I was absolutely convinced that I was the fattest person in the class (I weighed 125 lbs at the time) and that pointing out my chubbiness would only make the situation awkward.
It wasn’t until I started university and wasn’t constantly surrounded by dancers that I realized that I was actually quite slim compared to the average woman. For better or worse, this was the first step in me making peace with body. I became aware that I had been given an unrealistic picture of reality for years in the dance studio, I could then use that awareness to assure that I deconstructed the other unrealistic pictures that I was constantly exposed to in the outside world.
Armed with this mentality, I have been able to cope with the bombardment of negativity that pours out of the media every day. Over the years, I have learned that I need to actively practice acceptance of my body. I cannot passively ignore my opinion of how I look, that’s just impossible, I just need to be realistic.
Women of the world: resist the urge to hate your figures. Don’t let the conventional mentality of self-hatred determine your actions. Be aware of the information thrown at you, be vigilant, be assertive, understand that your size does not define you. Take care of your body. Make healthy food choices and choose an activity, any activity, to get you moving. Thank your body every day, it carries you through this life from beginning to end.
Don’t fight with your body. Work with it.