PSA: I'm going to get real here. And it's gonna be long. So get out while you still can. :)
Body shaming and the body acceptance movement are both huge these days. I am a big supporter of the body acceptance movement...body shaming, not so much. It seems the more one side grows, the more the other side grows to keep up with it. Every day I think it must be harder and harder to be a girl growing up in this society. I, at 24, am still insecure about my body, but I've come a long way in the past few years.
When I was little (some time between ages 4 and 8, the years I did ballet) my brothers were teasing me about my posture in my ballet picture. My back was very arched, sticking my stomach out. I yelled, "I'm just built that way!" At that age, I defended my body. I didn't see anything wrong with it. Somewhere along the way, that vanished. I can pinpoint the exact moments that some of these things happened, others may have developed over time.
These are the things
I hate about my body that make my body unique.
I have always been flat-chested. It makes sense, because I'm pear-shaped. I carry most of my weight (and fat) below the waist. I guess my insecurity about this must have started when girls my age started to...develop. I, on the other hand, stayed the same.
I went shopping with my mom for my 16th birthday. I remember going into American Eagle and finding this long-sleeved t-shirt that I just loved. I went into the dressing room, tried it on, and felt like I was looking at a boy in the mirror. I felt down about my body, and didn't get the shirt. Once I left the dressing room, I saw an employee (with a very different body than mine) who was wearing the shirt. I thought she looked great in it, and I started to cry in the middle of the mall.
Another time, I was talking to my mom about my flat chest. She doesn't have a flat chest, but she is pear-shaped, like me. She told me she used to look the same, and said, "I didn't get boobs until I got pregnant!" I started to cry. I was thinking, "Who will want to marry me and have babies if I look like this?!"
I tell both of these stories now in a self-deprecating humor kind of way. I tell them and laugh and invite others to laugh. It is kind of funny how important I thought that was, but in a way, it's heartbreaking. It breaks my heart that I was ever that insecure because of a body part. It breaks my heart that some day I may have a daughter who feels the same way. It breaks my heart how many girls and women are feeling this way about themselves right now, or have ever felt this way.
In addition to being flat-chested, I'm also very bony in my chest. You can see my rib cage in my chest. This is due to genetics. I'm very self-conscious about this, too. One day, I was reading an article on Buzzfeed (they have so many body-positive articles, which I love!) about a store in the UK whose mannequins had visible collar bones and rib bones in the chest. The article pointed out that this is problematic (I agree, even as a healthy woman with visible chest bones).
We all know comment sections on the Internet can be war zones. However, I've found most body-positive articles on Buzzfeed have mostly positive comments from people who support the movement. On this article it was no different. There were a lot of people who support the body acceptance movement commenting.
But the thing is, they body-shamed me in the process. So many comments were saying how unhealthy that was. No one with visible bones like that could possibly be healthy. That looks so gross. And here I am reading these comments, already insecure about my chest. I read body-positive articles (and sometimes the comments) to be uplifted. I like to know that this movement exists and to read comments from women uplifting other women.
But here's the thing--body shaming is body shaming is body shaming. Don't make generalizations. Avoid saying anything is 'gross' or 'unhealthy,' because there may be someone out there reading this who has this trait (and possibly can't help it). Don't praise underweight women and shame overweight women. Don't praise overweight women while shaming underweight women. Don't shame women at any weight or for any reason.
My mom told me so many times that they knew I should play piano from the moment I was born. I've always had long fingers. (I did play piano for a few years--I don't anymore.) But I never felt bad about my hands until I was in class one day freshman year and this guy sitting at my table looked at them and said, "Mattie has man hands!"
It's funny how you can be perfectly happy with yourself until someone else isn't.
My feet are big. Bigger than average. I wear size eleven shoes. I like bowling, but I dread the moment I have to ask for shoes, especially if I'm with a group of people who don't know that fun fact about me. Pretty much all shoes are made up until size ten. Elevens are a lot more common now than they used to be, but some shoes aren't even made that big. I guess it saves me money, but it's sad when you fall in love with a pair of shoes and they don't even make them big enough to fit you.
My mom has told me a few times that my grandma on my dad's side used to always say, "People with big feet have a better understanding" (I love me some puns!). My grandma passed away when I was a freshman in college, and now I love that we share this trait.
I have big teeth. Both of my parents have pretty big teeth. My upper lip also disappears when I smile, exposing my teeth in all their giant glory. I had headgear and braces and a retainer and all that, plus I take really good care of them, so they're nice teeth, but the size always bothered me.
I don't really think about this anymore. Sometimes I'll see a picture of me and I'll think they look big, but not like I used to.
Being pear-shaped means I've got some tree trunks on me. My calves aren't particularly slender, but they're pretty muscular, so they never really bothered me. My thighs though...whatever the opposite of 'thigh gap' is, I have it--a hundred times over. Most of my fat is in my thighs. They rub together when I walk, there are dimples, it's hard to find pants that fit my thunder thighs and don't gap in the waist.
It's been hard, but I've pretty much accepted them. My main source of frustration is finding pants that fit well, but while I used to blame that on my body, I now blame it on clothing manufacturers (and know that there are pants out there somewhere that are made to fit my body--or I can go to a tailor!).
This one just feels like a cruel joke. Most of my weight is carried below the waist, as I've said before. My stomach is pretty flat, my forearms are very slender, and then there's my sausage-like upper arms.
This is probably the insecurity that I feel the most now. I've pretty much made peace with my body, but my upper arms make me feel self-conscious. They're just out of place with the rest of my body proportions. It's also disheartening trying on a long sleeve shirt when the chest is saggy and the arms are so tight it's like sausage casing. I have a regular weight routine that I do for my arms to try and tone them, and starting to run this year has helped me lose some of the fat. I also have Keratosis Pilaris on my upper arms, which definitely doesn't help. I find myself seeing pictures of women (bloggers and models, but also just Facebook friends) wearing sleeveless dresses and I find myself fixating on their arms. Why can't I look like that? I'm trying really hard to get over this lingering insecurity.
I think it's important that we really think about what body shaming is, and what the body acceptance movement is. I understand that the main message the media sends to young girls is that 'thin is in.' But there's a lot more to our bodies than just fat and skinny. How about we don't shame ANY bodies?
No saying, "Ew, that girl is so bony!" or "Wow, look how big her thighs are!" No, "She has such a big forehead!" or "She is so tall, she's like a man!" Body shaming is NOT just fat and skinny. Making derogatory remarks about someone's appearance (or their health just based on appearance--you aren't their doctor, at least I assume) are all body shaming.
Let's stop body shaming other women (and men!) and stop body shaming ourselves! It's hard to see someone who you think looks so great and then compare her to yourself (I know this, because I do this all the time). Instead of comparing, acknowledge that that woman is beautiful and that you're beautiful yourself.
Okay, rant over. :)
I'm linking up with Holly for Waiting on Wednesday!
I'm also linking up with Astleigh for The Pick!