I was receiving mixed messages. One comment from my step sister stuck with me and made me aware early on that I was chubby and that that particular trait made me uncool. And the fact that all my favorite Disney Channel stars were skinny didn't really help the issue. My mom did her best to drown out the noise. I recall being forced to say, "I have a sweet sweet ass," every night for a while because I told her that I hated looking at my butt in the mirrors at dance class. But one voice just isn't strong enough. Especially when that voice is fighting it's own battle with self love.
Kate Winslet said:
"As a child, I never heard one woman say to me: 'I love my body.' Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. Not one woman has ever said: 'I am so proud of my body.'"
I read that and it really spoke to me. Dove can't pass out positive messages about loving your body when the next commercial is full of Megan Fox-esque models jumping on men for Axe Deodorant, which, by the way, is owned by the same corporation as Dove. Sentimentality sells, people. They don't actually want you to love yourself as you are. Otherwise they wouldn't sell beauty products as well as the soap, which is the only thing they advertise with their plus-sized and older models. And we're smart enough to know that it's just a commercial. We know that most people do not celebrate rolls of fat and cellulite in our culture.
The reason we can pull off Santa but not self-love is this: The whole world is going along with you with Santa. No grown-up wants to be the one to tell a kid Santa isn't real. Even movies made for adults sometimes leave Santa in as a kind of grown-up guardian angel. Everyone is acutely aware of how they speak around children on the topic of Santa. But when we talk about our bodies, we don't think to edit ourselves around children.
Television defines what is attractive and magazines deem women either anorexic or overweight within twenty pounds of one another. Every other commercial on television is about some kind of weight loss solution. And every OTHER one is an advertisement for a fast food chain. We're sending mixed signals, and a little girl will never pick what her parents tell her, because she just assumes her parents have to be nice because they're her parents.
The reason I stopped watching television is because I knew that whether or not I wanted it to, those messages were sinking into my brain. And I refused to let a Victoria's Secret commercial define beauty for me. Beauty is so, so, so much more complex than that, and to believe otherwise is laziness.
But I haven't always been on such good terms with my body.
My first year of college was a dramatic bipolar roller coaster. (I actually have bipolar, so I'm allowed to use that word to describe my experience; unlike the people who call pregnant women, someone who is a bit moody, and dysfunctional cellphones bipolar). I was a mess. And I remained a mess until my diagnoses near the end of that school year. But when the end of that year came, I discovered a lot of things:
- I did not believe in God, and I did not believe in fate.
- Happiness is a decision. Sometimes you have to call on help from a counselor, or medication, or a strong support system to get there. You don't have to do it alone. But if you don't want to be happy, then you won't.
- I was worthy of love and connection.
- And my sexuality wasn't a crime.
- And my body was not my enemy. Those were five hella important realizations.
Realizing happiness is a decision meant that I didn't believe that depression had complete control over me. It meant that I could kick depression in the ass just because I wanted to. That was crazy empowering, and it put my life back into my own hands.
Realizing I was worthy of love and connection meant that I knew that I was a cool enough chick that people should like me. And furthermore, if I was a cool chick, there had to be other cool people to share my coolness with and that if I was myself around them they would like me.
Coming to terms with my sexuality was one of the harder things I did, because it was something that not everyone necessarily agreed on. Laci Green helped majorly. I still give a great deal of credit to her for my recovery that spring. She was just some YouTube vlogger that convinced me that I was okay like I was. She taught me about sexuality and about slut-shaming, and fat-shaming, and the effects of patriarchy. And she doesn't even know me. It's kind of magical how the internet works that way. I accepted that having sex is not necessarily a bad thing, it's a healthy part of life, and that loving yourself is the key to healthy sexuality. I linked to her videos in numbers 4 and 5. Check her out.
And lastly, I learned that my body was not the enemy. The belief that my body was the enemy was the actual enemy. When I learned to love my body, I learned to take care of it better. In turn, my body started to look like the picture I wanted from when I was busy hating my body. Funny how things work out that way.
So, okay. I turned around my thinking. But there are millions of women out there who haven't. And there are even more generations of girls that will be born into that struggle. Solution? You have to ACTUALLY LOVE THYSELF DAMMIT! You can't just tell other people to love themselves. You can't just like the Dove page on Facebook because one of their models has an ass. You have to believe it. If you want to fix something, the first step is to fix yourself. How incredible would it have been to see a woman completely accept and love her body when you were a little girl? Basically Awesome, right? You can be that Awesome! Be the Awesome you wish to see in the world. <--And that, my friends, is positive statement #4.