I have a confession to make and its a serious one. And, as a women it seems to be quite unique.
My confession is that I do not have any issues with my body image and never have.
Why am I writing about it?
Because I guess I want to explore why. There is so much in social media either feeding body hate or battling it. When do we hear from people who just don’t think about – as in ever!?
Well that’s me and this is my story of how I came to not have issues with my body.
I’m not sure when my not having a body issue ‘life philosophy’ or ‘way of being’ commenced. I guess maybe its more in the absence of certain things in my life vs the inclusion of anything specific.
I did not have parents who had body issues.
Sure my Dad’s weight fluctuated as mine does (I certainly know where I get my genes from) but Dad never said ‘I hate my body’… he was more likely to say ‘I want lose that extra weight, so I’m going out for a bike ride every day until that extra weight is gone’.
Dad had simple health rules like – ‘you have to keep moving everyday’ or
‘our ancestors got through the potato famine so don’t eat carbs.’ (ahh Dad logic!)
I never grew up in a household where women’s gossip magazines were ever present.
Or as Dad would say: ‘Don’t read that rot!’
or ‘ Don’t read that !! It will rot your mind!’
or ‘All that’s good for is fish and chips.’ (or maybe that was the Herald Sun, I digress)
The only magazine that appeared regularly in my house was National Geo or Australian Geographic – the only pictures of men and women were usually naked and these pictures showed ‘real’ men and women naked, there was no photoshopping then.
Some other random memories that come to mind was I remember desperately wanting to grow older and have laugh lines around my eyes because then I knew I would have had a happy life.
There is however one very specific memory that I have that maybe helps explain why I don’t have an issue with my body.
I chose not to.
Picture this, little Beatrice – 12 years old, end of year 7, puberty rapidly encroaching, breasts ‘blooming’, wearing a pink (slightly see through) leotard, end of year dance concert, standing at the edge of the stage, behind the side curtains, waiting to perform in front of all the parents.
It was my last ballet performance (before I began ballroom dancing) but I remember being very aware that my nipples were almost certainly visible beneath my pink leotard (seriously, why we weren’t allowed to wear black is beyond me) and that I would be performing in front of adult men and women.
And they would be able to see, almost certainly see my NIPPLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I seem to remember taking a breath at the edge of the stage just before the performance begun and thinking something like : “well they’re just going to have to deal with it and I’m am not going to feel embarrassed about this at all, I’m just going to get through this and then it will be over”.
And, so the performance began and I sashayed out – presumably with nipples blazing – and got through the performance.
Two takeaways – can we please make ballet wear age appropriate for developing girls bodies, and you can chose what hurts you.
I had a choice – I could have ran off, I could have performed with my arms somehow across my body, I could have been ashamed, I could have hated myself, I could have hated Mum for making me do this stupid routine, I could have hated the Head of the Ballet School for selecting the uniforms, I could have been embarrassed, red faced, ashen faced, I could have thrown up, I could have cried – I could have….
I could have hated my body for developing.
But I decided not to.
Somehow at 12, I knew that it wasn’t my decision to choose those outfits, it wasn’t within my control to decide when my breasts first appeared and I knew I wasn’t in control of what other people thought.
I knew all that I was in control of was how I felt about me and how I performed in that routine.
I made myself control my thoughts and feelings, and focused on performing that routine as best I could.
And, it worked!
I got through the routine, everyone clapped, I’m pretty sure a man in the front row looked red faced and we curtseyed and that was it. End of memory.
Maybe being forced to make a choice at age 12 with no family influences of body hate meant I could make that kind of decision.
Maybe it was just something within me.
And, maybe if I was forced to make that decision later in life when more influences could have crept into my psyche, it would have been harder to make and the decision may have been less powerful.
Maybe because I made that kind of choice so young, something stuck.
I do believe that there is something in how what you surround yourself with – sticks.
I’ve never bought women’s gossip magazines (ok, when I was 14 I did buy Dolly, CLEO, COSMO and stuck up pictures of Ethan, Johnny, Sean, Jason Preistley (*sigh*),New Kids on the Block – all over my wall) but I’ve never looked at women portrayed in women’s magazines as aspirational.
I think family must be a big influence and friends too. It wasn’t until university and corporate workplaces when I then and still now meet lots of women who have MASSIVE body issues (hello girls schools and your cult like diet regimes) that I realised how BIG of a problem it is.
That’s why I love – Body Image Movement’s message (https://bodyimagemovement.com) – because it really helps reset our thinking and view of ourselves.
I would love to have a pithy little ending here, a cute instruction on what to do next. I don’t. I think my story is unusual (sadly).
If there is one thing I would say is – your body is a beautiful gift – it will help you pursue your passions, make love (hopefully lots!), explore the world, remind you if you drunk too much the night before when you had an AWESOME time!, swim in oceans, help you see a night sky anywhere in the world you want to go – its part of you – not a seperate thing.
Love it for what is gives you not hate it for what it can’t.
(And, I love mine for helping me walk for 6 days on The Great Wall in China, crawl through tunnels in Vietnam and wander around Angkor Wat!!)