Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Body Image


Body image.

I started this post forever ago and haven't been able to write it.

So many jumbled thoughts in my head and an understanding that this is a topic that is hard to talk about because whatever I say, it has the potential to hurt someone's feelings in some way.

But body image. It's a thing. And seeing as a lot of yesterday's age post really relates to me feeling like I LOOK "old" and that that, really, is body image too, I figure I may as well try to babble something out here.

I can't remember the last time I genuinely liked the way I looked but it probably was some time before I turned 11 or 12.

Why? Well, when I was in grade 7 I started to get acne. Pretty badly too.

I was dancing, fairly seriously, at the same time and starting to compare my body to the taller, thinner, more flexible, stronger dancers.

I had a serious injury the year I was 12 and my body took advantage of the recuperation time and threw puberty and curves my way.

Curves don't work in the world of classical ballet and all of a sudden my face was ugly and my body was wrong and I couldn't even find my balance anymore. Literally. (When you go from a flat chest to having breasts overnight, it's hard to find your center of balance for pirouettes.)

Those of you who struggled with bad skin in high school know that it affects how you think of yourself in a major major way.

I was never able to see past the spots on my skin and figured no one else could either. I was ugly. Hideous on bad days. Tolerable on good days, but uncomfortable in my body and so I'd try to hide it. Hunched shoulders, baggy sweaters, whatever it took to make me blend and disappear.

I look back now on photos my parents took on a family trip to Hawaii when I was in grade 10 and I am blown away by how amazing my body was.

I had a stunning figure, thin but with curves. A tiny waist, but full breasts.

Dear lord if only I'd known.

I wish I'd known.

But I didn't see it. I didn't come anywhere close to seeing it.

I was still dancing and the best girls, the girls who got the solos and the partners and the girls who got the boyfriends were thin. Rake thin and my curves were so ugly compared to them and their lines.

And my skin. Everywhere I looked there was my face, red and raw glaring back at me.

You know how it is with your face, you get one little spot and you swear it's all anyone can see. So imagine being a self conscious teen aged girl with lots of spots on her face and just think about what she must have thought everyone saw.

It took me a long long time to stop hiding my body. It took me until a few years ago to actually buy clothes that fit instead of clothes that are a few sizes too big but work to hide things I imagined I saw.

When I look back at photos of myself now I can see how beautiful it was. But when I look at myself today I can see all the parts I want to rip apart.

The belly that's no longer smooth and flat. The arms that have those floppy parts I never wanted. The wrinkles that I'm supposed to want to fight on my face. I can see thighs that aren't tiny and calves that can't fit in to regular sized boots.

But there's also a part of me that knows that if I think my body's big or ugly now, I'll be looking back at pictures of me in twenty years and wishing I knew how hot I was.

Because I don't think they teach us that.

I don't think they teach us that our body is only ever going to change.

We're told that puberty will bring changes and weirdness and then I think a lot of us spend the rest of our lives fighting to hold on to the body we had then.

I was a hundred and twenty pounds when I got my driver's license.

A hundred and twenty pounds and I still thought I was ugly. Probably told myself I was fat too.

I fight a lot to get back down towards that weight. To get back to a point where I can fit back into the size four grad dress I still keep in the back of my closet.

But me at a hundred and twenty pounds now would not be a healthy sight.

So why am I still struggling with my weight? Why am I still fighting to lose ten, fifteen pounds when people keep telling me I look great and asking if I've lost weight? (Which, no, I haven't, but thanks)

Because no one told me my body would never be the same.

No one told me that I should expect a different body every five or ten years.

No one told my Mom that either. Pictures of my Mom in her bikini after my birth are not the same body shape that my Mom has now, and she's not happy with that.

We need to tell each other this. We need to teach the next generation of girls that you only get that body shape for a while. That you need to enjoy it now because you'll have some slightly different version to learn to love soon.

I think we maybe all have body image issues, men too, so the question is, how do we learn to love ourselves how we look? And how do we learn to adjust to the changes our body has to go through and to accept the extra pounds that may come or the lines that turn into wrinkles.

How do we learn to be beautiful in the body our age brings us to?

How do we learn to know we're attractive as we are?

And how can I look at myself and not want to see the body of me at sixteen? A body I didn't know enough to be proud of at the time.

How do we stop being so cruel to ourselves?

And how do we find a balance between wanting to improve our bodies and accepting that we'll never be where we once were. . .

11 Comments:

Blogger Kas said...

IDK, but I wish I did.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 8:49:00 am  
Blogger Just Sayin... said...

OMG I know this feeling all too well. I went through the same thing in highschool. Had curves etc before it was cool to have a great body and compaired myself to rail thin girls. If only I had known.

The media seriously needs to start doing their part in promoting a healthy imagine for young girls and boys. And stop with the magazines that have been cropped to look perfect. Bless the souls of celeberties that come forward and insist the magazines protray them in a true light.

Even designers today (okay only a few so far) are using real women with curves in sizes 8-14 in the runways now. But that fashion industry would tell you that's large. It's not. It's the real size of the every day average person who is going to buy those clothes etc. So why not make them to fit us.

blah blah blah.. my point is, we can stop buying into the media that says we're not beautiful due to A, B or C reasons. Its unrealistic.

I'm sure you're gorgeous and others see it too.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 9:19:00 am  
Anonymous Claus said...

Hate to say it, but it's not the media's fault (as much as I would love to blame them). It's us. We (in a global sense, ofc) are consumers that demand everyone to be skinny and beautiful. We hang on every actor/actresses words and workouts like they are the ideal we need to strive for.

The media sees this and sells their products accordingly.

It starts with us. Today. We need to teach our children (though they won't listen - we never did) but if we don't try then nothing will change.

The few designers that are finally doing the right thing. We need to support them, buy their clothes, rave about their ads, make them our ideal and the media will follow.

Sadly, there are too many of the Weekly World News/Star/People/E-online, etc... consumers that our voices will not be heard as they are all shouting loudly and the media is still listening to them.

As someone w/ two daughters, I am trying my damnedest to get them in the right mindset to ignore this, but at 4, how do you fight Disney's Princess images w/ pink bows, blonde hair and perfect princes w/ castles?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 11:22:00 am  
Blogger Just Sayin... said...

@claus - well said.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 11:33:00 am  
Blogger Single and Picky said...

@ Claus I agree with JS well said.

@ Victoria - I am try to take responsibility for my own self loathing and how that projects onto others. I think that's where we as women need to start. We need to start being okay with differences. We are not the same and that is a good thing. I think when we can embrace the beauty in changing and being different in others we can do that for ourselves.

Aging is hard - they tell you puberty is the worst, personally my 20's were much harder - your body changes more, moles appear, skin doesn't do what it did before and on and on... but it's okay, I think somewhere in there I've found a little piece of I don't give a damn about what the world says. It's a teeny tiny piece, often really hard to hold onto but on the days I find it makes the embracing who I am now easier.

PS Thanks for sharing

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 11:49:00 am  
Blogger Jordan said...

Thanks for writing and sharing this V.. it's not an easy one to write.

For me a lot of my journey was/is a struggle with weight and the perception fostered by it growing up. I saw myself as fat for years. I look back at the pictures and realize it was more in my head. But when I look in the present moment that's what I see.

It became unhealthy at times.. I was fairly.. well.. depressed during my high school years and it often revolved around weight as the root cause (or so I perceived). I actually contemplated doing some not good things for awhile there. Of course my love for the sea that I'd always lived by made it my choice for "the way to go"... yet drowning makes you bloat. So I also learned to laugh even more... at the crazyness of how my love for the ocean and the effect of drowning trapped me in that place where I wouldn't follow through and instead.. in the pressure cooker of life.. in the forge of life.. I learned and grew.

Getting taller helped spread it out a bit. And then because I was tall and big people left me alone. And I read and kept to myself. And was left alone. And so time passed.

At some point I got super healthy, down to almost below 200.. I'm 6 foot and a bit.. and all the weight things always told me that healthy was under 180lbs. I didn't know that those arbitrary figures weren't honest targets for my giant viking frame lol. More struggle.

Yeah it sucks. These lies and mindsets that we can get stuck in. That whisper and assault us.

But I learned that sometimes my friends see more clearly than I do.. and that my own self view was messed up.. and over time it's been tackled.. bit by bit. And at times it sucks. And at times I really like cookies. ;) And at times it is gone.

I know guys like to answer things ;) haha but I'm fine saying I don't have an answer for this conundrum. And the way our culture/world values and views and chases things. No answer except to walk alongside each other and encourage and support and speak love and care into each others walk.

We all get squirrely at times ;)

Oh to be human.
Oh to be imperfect.
Oh to live and learn and cry and laugh.

For me it often is a living and a learning, one step at a time. And heck.. we're still here so we've got to be doing some things right! Right? :S hahah

Oh and I still get squirrelly about my weight and my friends still tell me i'm a sucka for doing so ;) haha I think a good tattoo to get would be "work in progress" lol!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 3:44:00 pm  
Blogger Victoria said...

Thanks for all your thoughts, they've been great to read and think about.

Me too Kas.

I hear ya JS. Totally.

It's all a bit muddly Claus, but I think your daughters are blessed to have a Dad that's aware and thinking about it. Thanks for that :)

Thanks SnP. And, yes, aging is difficult. :/

Thanks for sharing your story Jordan. And, listen to your friends!!!! :D

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 7:44:00 pm  
Blogger Singlicious said...

Amen. I dieted to lose weight before I started college--I weighed 105 lbs. at the time. Got down to 98 lbs. What the heck was I thinking? I actually still own several pairs of jeans from those days (very cool '80s ones). They look like they're meant for a child.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 7:53:00 pm  
Blogger Victoria said...

Yikes!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 8:01:00 pm  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Amazing post! I've always been tall and despite how many people swoon over my height, I have only felt awkward and wished that I was smaller so that I would blend in.

I LOVE your thought, "We need to teach the next generation of girls that you only get that body shape for a while. That you need to enjoy it now because you'll have some slightly different version to learn to love soon."

All I can say is genius...and that I plan to promote this attitude from now on...not only with myself but with the kids I work with as well. Thanks for sharing your wisdom :)

Monday, April 11, 2011 6:58:00 pm  
Blogger Victoria said...

Thank you Rebecca, really. It's amazing to me to hear that :)

Monday, April 11, 2011 7:26:00 pm  

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