I know I said it yesterday but it bears repeating: I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to read my post on the Special K challenge. The response I received was overwhelming and I am still trying to process it. I’ve pinched myself multiple times over the course of the past day, but so far I haven’t woken up. I guess I should probably stop pinching, that spot is getting kind of bruised (okay, so maybe that wasn’t funny. Moving on).
It’s been my experience that women tend to have difficult relationships with their bodies–I mean, this has pretty much become a cliché, evident in jokes about the dangers of answering when a woman says, “Does this make me look fat?”, assumptions that having to try on or buy a bathing suit is inevitably traumatic, and even vanity sizing in all kinds of clothing stores–and reading through the comments both here and on Jezebel really solidified that belief for me. We’re bombarded with so many messages that equate our weight and appearance with our worth as people that it’s hard to imagine that any woman could escape having some kind of negative feeling about her body. The undercurrent of frustration that runs through the comments this post received demonstrates, I think, how tired we all are of being subjected to the amount of scrutiny we deal with on a daily basis. This scrutiny comes from all kinds of sources: marketing and advertising campaigns (as the Special K challenge so readily demonstrates), the media, television, movies, and magazines, from other women, and (sometimes most destructively) from ourselves.
Personally, I think it’s time we tried something different. Rather than subject ourselves to scrutiny, judgment, and criticism, I say we adopt a different tactic.
This is my body. To be entirely honest, when I look at this picture, I wince a little bit (actually, a lot). Why? Because I see every single flaw. I’m not sure what you think when you look at this image, but when I do, I see: a disproportionate body, a tummy that could use some toning, thick thighs, large hips, and sausage arms. Whether or not any of those terms actually describe my body is irrelevant. What’s important is that it takes effort for me to look at the picture above and think positively about it.
The thing is, though, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that body, and there’s absolutely no reason why that body shouldn’t be treated with love and acceptance. After all, it’s my body, and deep down inside I know that no matter what I may tell myself on any given day (today, for example, I didn’t get up early to go running and I feel terrible about it) and no matter what sort of messages I may get from the outside world, I deserve to feel good about myself and treat my body and the rest of me well.
Everyone has their flaws, nobody is perfect. It’s fine to want to work on your flaws or make improvements. But doing so shouldn’t preclude your appreciating your body for what it is, right now. Don’t wait until you’ve lost the five, ten, or fifty pounds you’ve been working on taking off; don’t wait until you’ve run a 5k or a marathon; don’t wait until you’ve completed your New Year’s Resolutions; don’t even wait until tomorrow. Promise yourself now that you will work toward loving yourself unconditionally, and accepting the things you don’t like, and even the things you hate about yourself. No matter who you are, what you struggle with, and how you feel about your body, you are worthy of your love and the love of others. Your self-worth should not be based on anything other than the fact that you are a wonderful person.
It is in this spirit of acceptance that I’d like to start Embrace:Me, a project designed to encourage body confidence and treating yourself with a healthy, accepting attitude. I feel strongly that by adopting a more positive attitude toward our own bodies, we can combat the effects of the pressure we feel from external sources, and from ourselves. To show your support for Embrace:Me, I would love to hear your stories–stories of accomplishments, of body confidence, of anything that makes you feel good about yourself. Maybe even a story about why you don’t have to justify your reasons for embracing the person you are to anyone else. Feel free to email me your stories at icametorun (at) gmail (dot) com, send me a link to them via twitter (@icametorun), or send me a message through Facebook. Ultimately, I would like to share your story here on my blog. Let’s use this positivity to counter the frustration we all feel as a result of the things that make our relationships with our bodies difficult.
Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on the phone with someone from Kellogg’s about the Special K challenge. I really think that this is an opportunity to increase awareness about all kinds of issues related to self-confidence and body image, and I sincerely hope that we can all continue to work toward bringing these issues to light.