I've been thinking lately ("A dangerous pastime." "I know.") After reading a random article on Facebook about body image, yet another one I should say, one thing stuck out to me. The author posed the question of "How much time have you spent worrying about your looks, counting calories, obsessing over weight and numbers." (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the article and have no idea who wrote it.)
This hit me, and I started to think about it. How often does my mind drift to my appearance? How many times a day do I worry about my weight? How much longer does it take me to decide what I am going to eat because I am counting calories against time spent exercising? Or, worse, feeling guilty about NOT exercising or eating something that is "bad"? How many times do I end up changing what I am wearing because I look "fat"?
When I started asking these questions, I didn't like the answers. It isn't just the time but the amount of energy that is going into constant worry and fear. Because, if you break down all those thoughts, it comes down to only negative things: fear, guilt, shame, jealousy. By allowing the obsessive thoughts of what you look like, what people are thinking, not being thin enough, you are also cloaking yourself in negative thoughts and destructive behavior.
|What my thought process looked like|
You know the thing about negativity? It is contagious. You hear one person (I won't even say "woman" because men are also part of this awful truth) bashing what you see as a perfectly good body and immediately start thinking, "They think they have flabby arms?! But what about mine? They are so toned and I am so not!" (truth - this happened to me. I never once thought about what my arms looked like until spending time with someone who was very self-conscious of their arms. And it made me worry about my arms.)
I won't go on and on and on about how the media and the world has created these crazy expectations. They have. No doubt about it. But you know what happens when you focus only on the bad effects they are having? It perpetuates it. Yes, we need to talk about the unrealistic expectations, photoshopping, body shaming, messed up world we live in. I am not saying that we are talking too much about these things. Nope. Not at all.
But you know what I want to see more of? Confidence. Joy. Celebration. And, hear me out, apathy. Apathy, as defined by google is a “lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm, lack of concern.” That’s right, I want to see a complete lack of concern about what others think. I want a lack of interest in what the world portrays as the “right” body or look. I want a total and complete lack of enthusiasm for new “trends” in what a body needs to be beautiful (i.e. the formidable thigh gap).
Beauties, do you know what also is contagious? Positivity. Confidence. Joy. Celebration. Freedom. Do you know what it feels like to put on my new favorite shirt and not give a damn about whether or not I look “skinny” in it? It is a super awesome shirt! It makes me happy. Very happy. And I don’t really care what others think.
|Me and my super awesome shirt|
I have only recently found the joy in freedom. I have only started to celebrate this beautiful bod of mine. It isn’t easy turning off the voices, images and misconceptions that have been branded into my thought process by years of media brainwashing. But you know what? I have so much more energy now.
I have always always always wanted to be a runner. I look at those people running down the street and think to myself, “They must have some kind of crazy super power.” But I’ve wanted to run so that I looked different. Sure I said it was to be healthy. Part of it was. But the underlying motive? To have those long, lean legs.
Guess what happens when you take away the negative energy that goes into wanting to just look different? To not being yourself? You want to run because how cool would it be to run super fast?! (Pretty cool, guys.) Food? There is no “good” or “bad” food. Sure, I don’t want a diet of twinkies and twizzlers. But I am also going to celebrate my lucky charms cereal on a Friday morning. It made Friday more magical. And guess what? I walked a mile at lunch because it felt good. Not because I had marshmallows floating in sugary milk for breakfast.
I believe that if we stop focusing on what we’re not and start focusing on what we are – that is when the magic happens. Those willowy girls who can out eat a football player and still look like Audrey Hepburn. Those wonderful men who are made of the stuff of tree trunks – solid, unmoving, strong. Those incredible women with the curves and softness of age old Greek goddesses. Those who we call gangly, wide, big, small, hourglass, pear and square. Those whose hearts are still pumping, lungs are still breathing. So pretty much everyone – celebrate what you are.
Be healthy. Because we want to keep you around for a while. Don’t ignore your health because you want to ignore the media. Look after you as only you know how! If you know that you need to lose a few pounds so that you have a healthy heart, then do it because you love this life so much you want to make every heartbeat count. If you need to start eating healthy because starving yourself is shutting your body down, do it. Not because you’ve been taunted and want to prove those bullies wrong. Not because you think you won’t be loved until you look like a runway model. Don’t try to change you to get acceptance. Be who you are, right in this moment, and love it. Once you accept yourself, the other guys won’t matter any way.
I am choosing freedom over carrying around a bucket of self-doubt. I’ve been around these free souls, and they inspire my freedom. We can change the world through positivity. Through shining and celebrating and eating our lucky charms (or our kale). Be free, and others will suddenly see that freedom is an option. The only way we will ever change this world is if we learn to love ourselves so deeply that it spills out into loving the world.
“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”