Today I had a strong revelation. I used to have revelations/epiphanies /earth shattering moments quite often in my early twenties, but in the last year or two these have become less frequent. I will take it as a good sign I am learning from the world I interact with each day. If you have been reading my posts you would have seen I am on a mindfulness quest, so today in between clients I decided to do some light reading on the Body Positive Australia website. I came across an article which gave great tips on improving body image and promoting body positivity in Australia, it even had a great hashtag, #ownit. I only got to point 1 on their list before I had my OMG moment. The tip was:
- Understand your individual body story and whose voice it is you hear (a parent, the media, or a comment from years ago) and then ask yourself if you can let go of even a little of that negative voice.
I didn’t even have to finish the sentence before the memory that aided (not caused) a spiral into low self esteem, yo-yo dieting and binge eating struggles came to mind. A little back story is required to give this allegation some explanation. Like many 17 year old girls, my body started to change. I stopped being able to eat without putting on weight, my energy requirements declined in line with a slight change in the sports I was playing and my growing (or lack of) had stopped (reduced expenditure). I also had greater access to unhealthy options and thus started binge eating to rebel to my previous healthy diet (increased intake). It was a year or so of changes that really disrupted my body image and food intake. In conjunction with these changes the voice that I can still hear now that I identify as a real underlying issue to my poor body image originally came from a place of love. My then boyfriend said something that to any boy really would have been an off the cuff comment but to a young, self conscious girl it was a kick in the guts. He loved me dearly, and I him, but what he said is still entrenched in my memory today. I know he didn’t mean to say it the way he did, yet it stuck none the less. You’re probably begging me at this point to bloody come out with it, I’ll warn you it will appear petty and minor but upon reflection it’s one of the strongest memories I have to connect to that time.
“You used to look like X and all those girls”. X was a beautiful friend of mine, inside and out, and I know most people did and still do find her ridiculously attractive. My short and athletic stature has always made me much more stockier than my friends and as they became more womanly and attractive, I felt like I merely got ‘fat’ and somehow lucked out in the boob department. I had always felt like I was ‘different’ to other girls, I didn’t fit the ideals that society had created and maybe that’s why I took the comment the way I did. I was never overly confident in my body, but this final dip in my confidence caused me to avoid being in a bikini or enjoying the beach as I was so self conscious of how I looked. Society’s ideals had not only infiltrated the way I viewed myself but also the expectation for my boyfriend of what girl’s should look like. That comment really rocked my core and I still remember it vividly to this day. A casual comment that may not take a second thought drastically changed my body image for several years.
In no way do I blame this boy for what he said, he is merely an example of the expectations that society places on what people SHOULD look like. He is an example of the way we all judge other people’s appearance rather than their inner beauty. Might I add that these appearance ideals are unrealistic, altered from reality i.e. photoshopped, and creating a culture that is reducing the confidence of both young girls and boys. I know the boy in question is likely no longer immature and has greater knowledge of how to convey messages regarding inner beauty, but how great it would be to instil this knowledge from a young age? How awesome would it be if we taught children about accepting yourself, accepting others and the beauty each that each of us uniquely have. That is something I hope to teach my own children and a message I try to emulate in my role as a sporting role model.
I was lucky enough to work through my poor body image. I surrounded myself with people who helped me improve and I found a career that introduced me to the power of self love and care for my body through food. I still struggle with looking a certain way, now it has changed from wanting to be ‘womanly’ to wanting to fit the expectation of what an “elite athlete” SHOULD look like. The expectations, judgements and emphasis we put on weight and appearance is ultimately holding us back from achieving a great life. If we are constantly looking to change we never appreciate the incredible things our body can do right now. I do not have abs, nor am I 15% body fat, yet I am still incredibly strong, quick and fit. I also know clients who people would look at and assume they eat unhealthy food when in fact their nutrition and physical activity is wholesome and balanced. Appearance or weight do not define who you are. It is not a measure of your worth or your body’s ability to be healthy, skillful or strong. What does determines those things are your behaviours, your thoughts and your actions. Focus on the present, in particular what you can control and you may find a side effect of this is change in the future (if that is what you wish to happen).
In light of today’s revelation I promise to actually let this ‘voice’ in my memory go into the universe. It has served me enough angst and it’s time to move on. Instead I have a voice of encouragement. I have a voice that is cheering me on as I work towards being kind, compassionate, curious and non judgemental to my body. I also wish to support a community that encourages diversity, inner strength and wisdom, and one that let’s young girls and boy’s know that they are different and unique, but that is the joy of life. How boring would it be if we were all the same?!
I hope this little OMG moment has helped you work towards improving your own body image. Likely, it is something you have struggled with for a long period of time and have found difficult to move on from. I encourage you to visit the Body Positive Australia website to look through their incredible resources and seek further guidance if you require.
Peace, Love and Food xx