By: Elaine Fraser.
I remember looking down at my legs in a gymnastics class and wondering why they were chubby. That was the first time I thought I was fat. The first time I compared myself to others.
Comparison leads to dissatisfaction
In grade seven I was the third tallest girl in my class and the third heaviest. I felt shame.
When I was thirteen, our phys ed teacher pulled a few of us girls aside and told us we were heading to be overweight and that we’d better do something about it. I went on my first diet.
When I was 15, a girl who was walking behind me, said, ‘Your bum is huge.’ I started running around the oval after school until I was exhausted.
I could go on and catalogue every time I noticed I was heavy or heavier than someone else.
As the years passed, I was never satisfied with how my body looked, but at some point I decided I didn’t think I’d ever be skinny. I got very, very tired, of exercising and starving, just to try and reach a number.
I decided I’d be whatever size is healthy for me and rest when I need to.
What it seems the world wants me to be: really skinny and really tired. If I could shrink and hustle, I’d be right there, skinny and tired.
Battling body image and ageing
I still exercise. I still eat healthily. I say I accept being medium and not small, but there are still days that I feel less than. Added to the same old battle with body image is the battle with ageing.
I don’t mind getting older, but the pressure to age well is very strong. Women get older, but not in media. Extreme thinness, anti-ageing, appearance-focused “fitness” and sexual objectification are a few of the dangerous ideals we are faced with.
Making ourselves fit the physical image is costly. Spray tans; laser hair removal, tattooed makeup, collagen lip injections, facial fillers, lash lengthening prescriptions to anti-cellulite procedures, pore-minimising and anti-ageing products have become a part of the normal beauty routines in the last decade or two.
Each year, women put hundreds of billions of dollars into the latest procedures, products, and prescriptions to try to reach that bar the media is raising. The messages telling us we are not worthy of love, happiness or success unless we are unattainably beautiful, thin, and sexually desirable are lies, but they are powerful.
Self-compassion is something my friends Amanda and Rochelle have been writing about recently and a theme that Shauna Niequsit picks up in her book Present over Perfect.
I may never be totally free of those complicated feelings about my body, but I will accept them and look after my body instead of punishing it, or trying to fit into an image.
I don’t always love my body, but it’s strong and does what I want it to, most of the time. I’ve learnt how to be happy being medium. I’d love to be small, but genetics seem to be against me. This is how I was built, and unless I want to spend hours every day exercising instead of just one, unless I starve myself, unless I beat my body into submission, I’ll never be small.
So I will do as Shauna Niequist has done and I will practice hospitality–the offering of grace and nourishment to myself. Instead of being starved and small, I’ll be medium. And I will be happy.
I will offer hospitality to my very own body–you can rest, you can be nourished, you can be loved. And I’ll practice hospitality to my complicated feelings about my body. Because that’s part of me too.
In what ways do you feel you need to practice hospitality to your own body?
In what ways do you feel you need to practice hospitality to your own complicated feelings about your body?
Article supplied with thanks to Elaine Fraser.
About the Author: Elaine Fraser is from Perth WA and is a teacher, mentor and author.