I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.
I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.
And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.
I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.
I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.
I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.
But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…
But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.
What if I lived by Grace’s words?
Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.
And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.
Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.
And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.
But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.
It’s not realistic.
It’s not something that works for me.
It’s not ok to not be ok
Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.
When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.
When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.
And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.
It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:
I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
But that’s ok.
When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
And that’s ok.
I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
I’m making headway.
What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body?
Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.
He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.
He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.
He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.
He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.
He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.
He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.
He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.
And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.
To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.
What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?
It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.
To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.
To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.
To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.
To not be defined by how I look.
To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.
When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.
It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.
It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.
Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.
Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.
So where do I go from here?
I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.
I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.
I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.
I see the small seed of hope for the future me.
I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.
And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:
“You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”