There are a lot of posts I could write about my struggles with body image and my complicated relationship with how I view and value my body. I’m sure I could write an essay about each of dozens of facets of it, and maybe before my blogging days are through, I will. I’ll write another one tomorrow and probably the next day too, because it’s on my mind a lot right now. But for today, I’m going to write an introduction about why, although I consider myself body positive and I am 100% anti-body shaming, and I’m a generally optimistic, positive person, I have some specific issues with the body positivity movement.
The first one is, Positivity Culture™ is kind of annoying to me sometimes, even as a pie-eyed, self-identified Pollyanna level optimist. Sometimes it’s okay to not be upbeat and chipper and can-do about things. Sometimes it’s okay to be down and frustrated and bummed out and resentful. And pushing those feelings aside and repressing them isn’t positive at all, in my opinion.
I can’t speak for all people with anxiety, but this ^^^^^? IMPOSSIBLE for me, personally. Social Anxiety picks on me all the time, including my body and its function and appearance. There is no way I can totally eliminate negative thoughts. Do I actively try to replace them with positive ones when they crop up? Yes. But I still have them. Often. And I don’t think that makes me flawed and weak-willed. I think it makes me human. We’ve all been so socialized in the US, particularly, but not only women, to view our self worth as tied to what we look like and our desirability that it’s extremely difficult to remove all of those repeated, often subconscious lessons from our minds and emotional lives.
The other issue I have with the movement is that it still tends to be focused on a person’s appearance as a means of discerning worth. Get a load of this…
I totally understand the underlying sentiment and appreciate the affirmation. But it’s still, ‘Hey, you’re physically attractive how you are; someone will find you physically attractive; all people should find all other people physically attractive,’ and maybe that’s true to a degree and comforting to some people. Maybe even most people. But to me, that’s still, ‘Hey. Don’t get down on yourself for not feeling cute. You’re cute no matter what, so you still have self worth! Because self worth is and should always be based on cuteness…’ (I’m going to write an entire post about body positivity and benevolent denial and dishonesty in a couple days…stay tuned).
I like this one better, because it takes ‘cute’ and ‘beautiful’ out of the equation.
It still can be taken in the ‘physical attractiveness’ vein, but it’s also more ‘appreciate your body,’ and it doesn’t assert all the ‘health’ caveats that go with the mainstream body positivity movements too, which are the last thing that’s always bothered me about them. It’s true. You can be healthy and fat. I usually appreciate my body. I’m healthy. I have good blood glucose and cholesterol levels and good blood pressure and a low resting heart rate. I don’t even need minor vision correction, and I’m 40 and still have 3 baby teeth that have never had cavities in them. My body made a pretty amazing person and my body has kept up with being his mom for almost 12 years. My body can hike trails in National Parks and ride thrill rides without getting sick or even tired. I like vegetables and fruits and enjoy eating a wide variety of foods. I’m a healthy person. But right now, I’m about 20 pounds heavier than any personal trainer, nutritionist, beauty magazine editor, or probably even most medical professionals despite my testing numbers would want me to be. And honestly, I’m about 20 pounds heavier than I like to be, for health reasons, although not my physical health…but that’s for tomorrow’s post.
My issue with this is I know a lot of thin people who live unhealthy lifestyles and who have major health issues that no one seems as concerned about as they are about my weight, or certainly someone who is heavier than me’s weight. And also, the emphasis on having a ‘healthy’ body is subjective. What’s healthy? Which numbers are they going by? Weight? Body Mass Index? Blood pressure and resting pulse/ox? Fasting blood glucose? Hormone levels? Physical fitness measurements? Lung capacity? Liver and kidney function? All of the above? Why is healthy now the new focus instead of beautiful? Because there are people with severe and chronic health conditions that should now feel…negative…about their bodies? Cancer survivors? People with multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy who are wheelchair bound? People with asthma or cystic fibrosis? People who contracted hepatitis? Type 1 diabetics? People with arthritis? Or only the fat ones should still feel negative?
See…I have issues with the movement, but I believe in the sentiment. Just wanted to put the issues out there so readers know I’m aware of them before I start getting deeper into this body positive series.
And for fans of my fiction, I wrote a short love story that deals with body image and weight loss issues, Weight.
I believe that every person’s body is worthy and should be respected and that no one should be treated as ‘less than’ because of their body, regardless of its appearance, size, or health status. But I still, personally want to lose weight right now. My current weight hasn’t affected and isn’t affecting my health…physically. Mentally, though? I’m ‘off.’ Because of the excess weight and size. And while, like most women in American culture, I’m sure I’ve internalized some objectifying socialized beauty standards, for me, that’s not what this is about. I don’t need to be a certain size to fit into a beauty mold or even into a party dress or bathing suit. I’ve never been that woman. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t dress very stylishly, I don’t put effort into my hair beyond washing, conditioning and combing it. But my body shape still lingers as a regular concern for me. Staying active and eating healthy portions of food, for me, is about feeling in control of my decisions and emotional mindset, and when I put on weight, I have a sense of losing control. And that’s closely tied to my personal and family history with food. Which is what tomorrow’s post is going to be about.