The Overthinking Shawty's Guide to Body Acceptance
I’m writing this because it is an active and permanent task on my to do list. It’s never fully done, but some days it feels like it’s quite easily undone--the task of accepting my body. The task that comes bundled to us as girls with puberty and our periods, or maybe even earlier; where from that moment forward, our bodies become a marketplace where there is a whole industry of products that are available to fix every single inch of us. And I do mean every single inch. Just for my face, there is:
A spray to even out my hairline
A primer to smooth the pores around my nose
A gloss to burn and swell my lips so that they appear larger
A pearlescent powder to make my cheekbones appear more prominent
A contouring powder to slim my nose and hide my wide forehead
If you’re a woman reading this you know that I’ve not even begun to scratch the surface. There’s still my nails, my lashes, my hair, my hair color, my skin color, my skin texture, the size of my breasts, the shape of my breasts, the size of my waist, the size of my butt, the cellulite and the stretch marks depending on the size of all these, the hair all over my body, my cuticles, my smell, my weight.
Billions of dollars hinge on my choice to agree that all of me needs to be first fixed, and then maintained. And truthfully, why is there a part of me that loves the challenge? I realized that working towards being beautiful is one of my full time jobs, one that I am very committed to, and one where I am never off the clock.
More recently though, I am exhausted. I am tired of the constant day-dreaming of self improvement, and of imagining who I would be and what my life would be like if I had a perfect poreless doll’s face and a big fat juicy butt and if my pussy smelled like a cinnamon roll. I pushed back and asked myself how I could live in such a way that I might actually feel content in my body today—now and not later.
But I still love beauty. I love fashion. I’m not ready to give it all up and I don't think that's necessary. My aim is to ease the pressure and be kinder to myself. This is lately how I do it:
1. Buy clothes that fit
Over the last few years my size fluctuated up and down between a 2, 4, and finally 6 (where I am now) . At that point, I purchased myself one new pair of jeans in a size 6 and I went literally a full year wearing the same one pair. Why? Because I hated being a size 6 and was unwilling to buy anymore pairs or invest any money into myself at that size. I fantasized about losing the extra weight I’d gained so that I could wear my old tiny clothes and buy beautiful new clothes in a size I considered acceptable. Consequently, as I refused to buy anything that fit, I wound up with literally almost nothing to wear.
To be clear, being a size 2 or 4 is difficult for me to maintain. It means I am on a permanent diet. As I tried dieting and exercising to be a weight my body didn’t want to be, I luckily became exhausted and said "fuck this,” upon which I bought a gorgeous pair of high waisted denim culottes in a size 29. Pulling up the zipper and fastening the button in the dressing room felt like taking a shot of 1942--a warm peace drizzled over me. It was like waking up from a nightmare where your boyfriend cheats on you, and realizing that no he didn't and everything is fine; that the problem torturing me was something I'd imagined upon myself and all I had to do was wake up and realize that I could just buy the fucking clothes I liked in a size that I currently am. From there I bagged up all the items I knew weren’t going to fit me anymore and started buying the clothes I wanted to wear, in a size that fit me, and not in a size smaller as “motivation.” Seeing beautiful clothes actually fit me as I am today, in a way that was flattering and comfortable, calmed that urge I felt to to “fix,” my body and actually allowed me to enjoy it.
2. Quit social media
Cold turkey, completely. While social media is an amazing place where all sorts of connections, movements, and art can bloom, I find it to also be a constant and unrelenting assault on our self perception as women. Scrolling a feed of countless images (many of them arguably pornographic) of women’s bodies that have been altered either by surgery, retouching, or extreme dieting and exercise—or a combination of all three—will inevitably have an effect on your mind and inform your own expectations of your body. We cannot participate daily in something without absorbing and internalizing it. Our bodies are so overtly sexualized on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, that women can literally make an entire career out of taking semi nude photos of their butts, and what does that do to our minds individually and collectively, witnessing that again and again as a reality?
When I took a break from Instagram for a year and half, I was far less exposed to the constant images that I felt were hindering my ability to shift the tone of the way I spoke to myself. I returned to taking photos for the sake of gathering memories and not validation. “Detoxing” is such a popular trend in our culture as something that’s necessary towards our bodily health, but what about all the toxicity that we absorb mentally? The same way we accumulate self doubt and criticism by way of these images over repetition and time, we also need an extended amount of time to to fill our minds with different kinds of influences, and drop the self comparison we're so used to practicing day by day, post for post. Throughout my social media break, I felt my perspective reshape into something more aligned with reality. Before I took that time away, I shamefully remember always feeling a flavor of disappointment when I would meet someone in person in comparison to any pictures I'd seen of them. I almost always found the person to be "more beautiful in photos." Meeting someone in person means that they will inevitably appear human and therefore have "flaws," but at that time I had grown to prefer a manufactured, doctored image of someone, to the actual real life person. After I spent some time away from social media, I came full circle and grew to be very charmed by details like freckles, fine lines, under eye bags. That critical eye with which I perceived myself and others, became softer and more loving.
3. Make maintaining a healthy lifestyle a high priority
In all things--not just my body-- I can be quite accepting of the outcome if I am at peace with the amount of effort I put in. I am not particularly satisfied with myself or my body when I practice no discipline at all against binging for weeks on unhealthy foods, or going months without exercise; but the times that I've fanatically adopted a healthy lifestyle, where every meal is planned and I obsessively monitor my progress, have not made me very happy or confident either. I do however, feel a responsibility to do my best within my means to: purchase and feed myself nutritious and organic (when possible) foods, complete an hour of exercise 3 times a week, get a full night's sleep, and avoid excessive drinking. That is what my current best looks and feels like. A bunch of variables like knowledge, income , and time will inform what everyone's personal best is, and that's okay, as long as you're content with what you're putting in. Once I reached a rhythm of making the above into a habit, I felt like I was taking good and legitimate care of myself, and like whatever size and shape my body settled into as a product of that, was a good size and shape to be.
To be truthful, I've actually many times rolled my eyes at the phrase " self love." It was a ghost that kept escaping me every time I tried to wrap my arms around it. I imagined it as merely a feeling that I needed to will myself towards, and that if I was lucky, one day would click. That day never came no matter how much I wished I could access this love that I'd heard so much about. I hated being counseled to "just love yourself," as the solution to my problems, or worse, to feel pathetic at someone’s questioning of “why don’t you love yourself?” I wondered if it was possible or even real until I discovered the password to be a consistent practice of actions. Love is action more than it is a feeling. Take inventory of what things make you feel good or bad, and why--and from there develop a short list of actions you can make habits of to combat any negative influences or thoughts holding you back. These habits will likely be a mix of things you do more of and pay more attention to, and some things or people that you may strictly cut out. Best of luck deciding who and what gets to stay on your island.
The Feminist Housewife