a note on body positivity.
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
i can't believe i ever stopped eating bread.
Several weeks ago I shared the above photo on instagram. I wrote a paragraph, or as much as instagram would let me write, to accompany it. But I have been feeling the need to expand on the thoughts.
I have spent so many years of my life quietly obsessed with my weight and my body. Striving to look like super models and celebrities, wondering why, no matter how hard I tried, I didn't look like them. Now I realize, perhaps it was because I don't have a team of professional make up artists, personal trainers, and photographers following me around and editing my appearance constantly. Oh, how teenage Sarah, hell, young twenties Sarah, would have scoffed at such logic!
I was once so focused on my physical appearance that I’ve spent months at a time not eating bread.
Yeah, I know. Not. Eating. BREAD. Are you f*cking kidding me?! And honestly, for what?
I cannot recall one time between the ages of 14 and 24 that I was honest to god *HAPPY* with my body. That is a DECADE. A decade of unsatisfied staring in the mirror, pinching at my skin perceiving it as fat, wishing for a thigh gap, and exasperated with the fact my breasts were flat. Feeling like I was somehow less of a woman because I didn't wear a C cup. At my skinniest I was a whopping 113lbs of skin and bones and I was still looking at my body in the shower, thinking I would feel and look so much better if I was just five pounds less.
No number on a scale was low enough and my body was never what I thought it was supposed to be.
I believed so strongly that I would be so much more attractive if I was just skinnier. I was constantly focused on the validation that I would seek from other people subconsciously knowing that it would never be enough. And that's the rub, isn't it? A "mainstream" version of how my body should look didn't just teach me to hate my body and feel like it defined my worth. But it taught me that I could seek validation from others based on how I looked, and that the feeling of knowing someone considered me "hot" was a high that did not last, and needed to be constantly maintained. I was taught, conditioned by societal norms, to seek out those compliments, and over time learned to mistake them for affection. YEP, read that again. My unhappiness with my size ended up having a direct connection to how I allowed myself to be treated for years. It caused me to seek out the validation of being found attractive constantly. Exhausting myself, and feeling heartbroken and worthless when that "affection" I was perceiving faded.
We accept the love we think we deserve, and when you don't accept your body for everything incredible that it is, how the hell will you ever believe that someone else does?
The body standards I, and many of my friends, have held ourselves to have been, across the board, impossible. I forced myself into sizes too small so I didn't have to admit my body had changed, and thereby making myself look and feel bigger because of how I was resisting the totally natural growth of my body. And looking back, truly how FOOLISH was that? Who else was looking at the tag in my size 2 jeans. The ones I desperately wished were a size 0. No one else was seeing that my tank top from Pacsun wasn't an XS. And have you ever realized how much women's sizes differ brand to brand? Knowing we put so much value on the little letter or number on those tags, and none of it is ever, EVER, consistent.
Accepting change has always been hard for me, especially change within myself. Only within the last year have I finally begun to really love my body. I am learning to reclaim something that I have been told for years was for other people’s consumption and pleasure. I have begun to appreciate what it can do and endure, and truly appreciate how it, and I, can evolve and change, and how it is, and always has been, for the better.
Not too long ago I would have looked at that photo above and I would have been disgusted with myself. I would have stared at it and picked apart every detail. I would have hated that my stomach isn't flat, it would likely have sent me spiraling into some eating regiment that ultimately would make feel deprived and unhappy. I would have wished for my hips to be slimmer, my skin smoother, my arms more toned. I would have immediately deleted that photo from my phone, so that I didn't have to confront how uncomfortable I was in my own skin. I certainly would never have posted it on the internet. Now I am almost sad that it took me so long to realize that, when it comes to how I look, the only opinion that matters is my own.
Your body is for YOU.
Only you. It is not for anyone else to dictate how it is used or how it should look. Even when you choose to share it, it is only yours, and it is absolutely extraordinary. It changes, just like you. It endures trauma. It gets stronger. It is made of nerves that have the ability to feel everything. Your body is magical. Take care of it. Fuel it with good food. Indulge in things that make it feel good. Give it rest.
Stop trying to morph it into something it is not.
Don’t mistreat it. Especially don't let other people mistreat it. Appreciate it in the same way you wish your friends would appreciate theirs. Embrace it, and everything it has survived. Everything that it has conquered. It has carried you this far. Respect it. Be kind to it. Cherish it. Love it. Love it. LOVE IT.