I watched a documentary (or most of it) on YouTube this weekend called Killing Us Softly 4. I cannot get it out of my head, and it makes my heart cry out for the women in my world every time I think of it. I don't know how succinct or coherent this will be, but bare with me as I pour my heart out to you.
I like to think that I am an intelligent, self-preserving woman who doesn't allow society to dictate my self-worth. Obviously, I have struggled with this concept for many, many years, but I thought that I had finally found myself in a space of acceptance, love and appreciation. I wear what feels good, I do what feels good, I buy what feels good. I try not to conform to any set of expectations other than that which I am. I built HAWT Mama on that platform: that self-love is better than societal expectations and stereotypes.
Then I watched 40+ minutes of Jean Kilbourne's amazing documentary. I cannot even begin to eloquently express what she says. This is the 4th edition of her amazing study of advertising patterns in North America on women's self-esteem. I've always been aware of the feminization or defeminization of women in advertising and media, but like I said, I am an intelligent woman who knows that my worth is far better measured by my accomplishments than my waist size.
How do I tell you about this breaking my heart? Every word she said, every point she made cut through my facade of impermeability to prove that I have been just as susceptible to the media as anyone. It isn't rah-rah feminist manifesto or bra-burning rage against men. It's just real perceptions and misperceptions.
Don't I spend my time analyzing and worrying about this and that? I am constantly in a state of flux: feeling good about one part of my appearance while simultaneously loathing others. Scrutinizing the mirror, lamenting the youth I didn't appreciate, joking self-deprecatingly about the twin-skin leftover from my pregnancy. Joking about breast reconstruction while worshipping the stretch marks that brought me my girls.
Years of working through pain, both mental and physical, to achieve an ideal appearance. And it is SO much more than just the aesthetic. It's the competition to be better and be more than those around you. It's the cutthroat way in which women compare themselves, always looking to one-up their friends and enemies. You did this, but I did more.
Over and over and over, in this environment of hatred and self-hatred.
Even now, I am SO guilty of this, despite all this personal growth. Feeling guilty about the extra 20lbs on my frame ... even though my body is enviable to thousands of women who are so much heavier. Hell, before I watched this film, my goal was to lose 25lbs, and I haven't weighed 125lbs in years. I was 135lb when I got pregnant.
And dammit, I still look good!
The part of the film that broke me down was the attention received from a photo in a Glamour Magazine article, showing a woman who was not Photoshopped to be slimmed down and recreated:
Yes, the response was hugely, overwhelmingly positive. But that isn't the point. The point is this: THAT is my body. I cannot even tell you how closely her shape matches my own.
I cried. She is beautiful. And she is real. And honest-to-god, I should take a photo in the same pose because she is my size. THAT is what I have been so damn hard on myself about. That.
What the hell is wrong with us???
Why, oh why are we chasing this insane concept of "perfection"?? There is no such thing! You only need to watch the Dove Evolution commercial to see that:
It's so true: these images that we are constantly comparing ourselves to aren't even REAL human beings - they are shadows, pixels of what was real.
And the live media we compare ourselves to? How many times have I watched Vampire Diaries and found myself jealous of the actresses svelte figures? Until I watched this film and realized that they are supposed to be portraying TEENAGERS. It doesn't matter that the women are in their 20's - their bodies are supposed to represent teenagers.
Wow. Last time I looked, I wasn't 17. Nor do I want to be. Sure, I'd love my body's ability to regenerate and recuperate and bounce back like a 17-year old. But I surely do not want the rest of the territory that comes with 17. None of it, thank you. I much prefer my 29-year old body and mind.
I can't even look back on this post right now - I'm not getting the right words out onto the page to tell you how much I want you to love your SELF. I am so sick of hearing women complaining about their perfectly good bodies.
PERFECTly good. As created, grown and used as they are.
WHY? WHY? WHY are we waiting for perfection, struggling to survive, drowning in a wash of negative self-image??
This is so much more than disordered eating or low self-esteem! It is commonplace and accepted. We start our girls at SUCH a young age, pouring them into unattainable moulds. Showing them pictures and videos and telling them stories of women they will never live up to.
I spend every day of my life now telling women to love where they are in this minute, to honour and respect the journey that brought them here and the gifts it has afforded them. To look at every inch of saggy skin or stretched tummy or dark-circled eye and LOVE IT. To embrace it for the experience it gave them.
To love themselves in their current shape, size and form. To throw away their tape measures and diet counters and scales.
To stop this messed-up attitude of imperfection.
I'm so upset, I could swear. If I wasn't such a goody-two-shoes, I'd unleash my real-life trucker mouth LOL!!
But honestly! Don't you know you're beautiful?? Don't you realize how perfect you are?? Don't you realize that your reality is what makes you so stunning? There is more beauty in self-love and acceptance than in any other shape or size.
It's not about throwing off the shackles of makeup and fashion and exercise; it's about realizing that you can do them for yourself, not for the self you want to be. I dance because it makes my heart sing. I run because it makes me feel like I'm part of nature. I do Bikram because it feels holier that any religious experience I've ever had - I talk to God in class, to thank him for that body that can feel SO much. I eat what I want because it tastes GOOD. I eat real food because it tastes better. I wear makeup because I LOVE to play with the colours and contours of my beautiful face. Yes, I cover up my zits and redness, but I don't hate them. I know that my skin is just doing it's job.
Now, I do it all more. I am SO very aware of every aesthetic decision I made. I have thrown away my weight loss plan. I don't care what size I am. As long as I am happy, healthy, and energetic, I will honour this body. I will do good things for it, and wherever the measurements and scales stop, so be it.
SO BE IT.
I am so done fighting for perfection. I want you to come with me, to look hard in the mirror and love every inch of life in you. Men and women, together.
We are real.
If you believe in the idea, God created you in His perfect form. If that is true, then what you are IS perfect. Any altered form of that is a deviation from your true nature. It's one thing to be unhealthy; it's an entirely other to be unsatisfied.
I vote for healthy and satisfied. Do what feels good and nurtures your body.
Stop aiming for the skinny jeans, or the bigger boobs, or the tighter skin or, or, or... You'll never win. My goal is to get you focused on the PROCESS, also known as LIFE, rather than the result.
Once you get to the finish line, it's either over or you start again. But if racing has taught me anything, one finish line is never enough. You'll always find something else to "fix" or "improve". It's a horrible addiction, never being satisfied with yourself.
Why don't you spend today focusing on your beauty, rather than your perfect imperfections? Why not enjoy being an individual today, instead of a mass of look-a-likes?
Why don't you just love yourself today??
For those of you with the time, here are the 4 links to the 4 parts of Killing Me Softly 4. If you can, I highly, highly recommend it. It isn't pushy or overly liberal. It's so very real, raw and embarrassing. It's something we are all guilty of of, and that we all hide behind. It will force you to look at yourself and your preconceived ideas about yourself.
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