I have been working toward body acceptance for over twenty years. I am a 34 year old woman. I work full time as a research analyst and hold a master’s degree in education. I am a wife and mother of a 4 year old girl (as well as being 6 months pregnant with my son). I weigh a little over 250 lbs. and when I look in the mirror I like what I see. That was not always the case.
Like many of you I have been on a long hard journey of discovery with years of time spent on the slow agonizing task of nurturing my own previously non-existent self-esteem. I went to therapy, practiced meditation, worked toward removing myself from my ego, got tattoos on parts I was ashamed to show in public, talked to life coaches, and tried a seemingly endless array of diets, workout routines, hair styles, make-up and accessories all in an attempt to stop the all-encompassing self-hate that overwhelmed me every day!
However, my break through happened with the birth of my daughter. Here was a fresh new spirit. She was so filled with happiness and trust. I felt a deep and sinking sensation whenever I thought of this tiny and innocent child going out into the world to be berated by her culture, her peers and most importantly by herself! I read every parenting book I could find in hopes that some shred of guidance would cover how to prevent this, or at least give directions on how to best prepare her for the potentially harsh reality to come.
Inspiration came to me via the Love and Logic parenting system which encourages parents to teach through example. They advocate that by modeling a behavior you can teach your child its value. They discuss this in terms of potty training but it was just the push I needed to get started. As soon as she was walking and talking I began my conscious efforts to love myself and to be an example for her. When I was naked around her (if you are a parent you know it’s virtually impossible not to be from time to time) I refused to show her that I was ashamed of my body. When she asked me questions about my body I was open and honest with her, “Well, Mom has big boobs because I had a baby and boobies are used to feed babies.” Etc. I know that as she gets older we will have to talk more in depth about body image and what she sees in popular culture and at school. In the meantime, we talk about how there are different types of people: different shapes, colors, sizes, and abilities and they are all ok.
The part that I continue to struggle with is the self-hate I see and hear in others. At work and in public I consistently hear self-shaming comments as if they were normal and healthy banter. I actually sat in a meeting once where a female co-worker (a woman I continue to consider a friend) broke down into tears because she had gained 15 lbs. over the holiday break. My heart broke for her and still does. Such a beautiful woman, so funny and intelligent, is living in misery because of her inability to love her own body.
This time of year is the worst in my opinion. All of the “new year – new you” garbage is a form of cultural bullying in my personal opinion. I have several friends on Facebook who are admittedly “shaming” themselves into working out by taking “fat pictures” of themselves and posting their weight weekly. This is so hard for me that I often have to hide them and take a virtual break from our relationship because I find it so difficult to witness their self-inflicted suffering.
My New Years resolution is to go on loving my body and myself while being supportive of others who continue to suffer from terrible self-inflicted and crippling shame.
Be kind to others but, more importantly, be kind to yourself!