For as long as I can remember I have been ashamed of my body. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also outwardly railed against the dominant narrative of body hatred in our culture. I consider it atrocious that women (and men) are goaded into aspiring to false ideals. I’ve spent hundreds of hours pep-talking girlfriends who were starving/bending/running/low-carb eating their way into submission. The thing is, they were all skinnier than me. If all of these fabulously attractive women felt shame about their appearances then quite obviously I should feel abject humiliation about my own giant ass.
My own body mortified me. As I got older, instead of growing into my own skin I felt like I was irreparably stretching it, further and further away from myself. Every time I embarked on – and subsequently ditched – a diet I added another layer of failure to my fat suit. Four miserable weeks of avoiding calories or carbs would lead to a year’s worth of AVOIDING:
- Wearing a bathing suit
- Being photographed
- Public exercise
- Going to parties
- Looking at myself in the mirror, or walking by shopfront windows.
It’s no wonder my poor body has become sick, I’ve avoided it for so long. And let’s face it, its not just avoidance. I’ve turned my own flesh and bone into an enemy and a prisoner. My mind the abuser and my body the victim. I’ve locked her away, kept her hidden from view, starved her, fed her toxic waste, stuffed her til she hurt, poisoned her, forced her to exercise to exhaustion, let her atrophy, berated her, belittled her, threatened and beat her. Just to write those things, casting my body as a person instead of a thing, is powerful. Because my body is a person. My body is me.
Learning to be kind to myself means learning to be kind to my body. It’s going to be a process, you don’t just fix such long term abuse overnight. To start with I’m trying to stop the avoiding. Part of this process is allowing myself to be with my body. To really see all of me. I’ve been forcing myself to look in the mirror when I’m naked. To notice the whole me and not just isolated disappointments. I’ve been practicing walking around the house in a sleeveless dress without a cardigan over top or a long sleeved shirt underneath. Ditto with letting my legs show (although I love my leggings, my thighs chafe, what can I say). When I go swimming I have been trying to walk to the showers without throwing on a towel or a dress as soon as I emerge from the water. I’ve been doing daily gentle yoga practice to give myself time to see and feel my body. Today I practiced in just my bra and underwear (at home of course) and I didn’t die of shame; in fact I felt amazingly free (and so comfortable, temperature-wise). I’ve been working to eat well by listening to my body. And I’ve tried not to weigh myself to see if it’s working. The two things are still so intertwined as motivators of each other. So far I’ve lasted a week without seeking a number.
It’s slow, but it’s shifting. A subtle sort of shift. A minor decrease in self-loathing. A minor increase in calm contentment. A creeping feeling of contentment.