A couple of months ago, Brooke wrote an awesome post about body issues and self-perception. It was something that I’d been thinking about a lot post-baby, for obvious reasons. This was part of the comment I left on her post:
This is very top of mind for me, for obvious reasons! I have been lamenting my post-baby body for months. I’m softer in a lot of places and my jeans are kind of tight right now, and when I sit down my belly flops over the waistband a bit. I have a nice little handful there where I didn’t before. It’s really hard getting used to a new body on top of getting used to a new human being who is yours forever.
I wish it wasn’t something I thought about so much, though. When I think about my body from a less critical place, I realize that I take it for granted. It has been good to me; it gets me from point A to point B (and C and D and…) every day. It is generally healthy and allows me to pick up my son and cuddle him and follow him around on all of his little crawly adventures. It saw me through the trauma/miracle that is childbirth! It has done nothing up to this point for me to look at it with anything but love and appreciation.
I know that when I’m scowling into my mirror, I am buying in to the media’s perception of what is beautiful or perfect. Hey, no one’s perfect, least of all me, but also the photoshopped-to-death celebrities in magazines. There’s really nothing wrong with a little cellulite or extra cushion. Are you healthy? GOOD. Count your lucky stars! This is the kind of stuff I have to tell myself so I’m not crying about the number on the scale.
Fast forward to last month when I watched a documentary called Miss Representation, which explores how women are portrayed by the media and how that affects us in our everyday life. It was a total eye-opener. Not because I didn’t already know that the media’s representation of women is absolutely skewed, but because I saw so clearly the havoc it’s wreaking on us. According to one of the statistics shared in the documentary, 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% when they reach 17. Insane, right?
The message that the media is putting out is that we’re only as good as our bodies and/or faces. And we’re listening. What’s worse, we’re believing.
But even as I became more aware of how I was buying into that idea, I still found myself nit-picking at my body. I’m sure my weekly consumption of People and Us Weekly didn’t help. And by didn’t, I mean doesn’t because I cannot and will not quit them.
Every week I noticed there was at least one article about how quickly celebrities were getting their body back after baby, or how Kim Kardashian was holed up in her house and chained to her treadmill so that when she finally made her first post-baby appearance she would be acceptable.
Don’t even get me started on the articles that came out after Kate Middleton gave birth. People were commenting that she had a baby bump one day after delivery.
So you get where I’m going with this. I was thinking a lot about my body and my relationship with it. I was aware of how effed up it was to have this constant inner dialogue of what was wrong with me and how I should/could fix myself, and yet I couldn’t stop.
Then a few weeks ago I got sick. It started out as a cold and morphed into a sinus infection, which then turned into bronchitis. I was miserable. As silly as it was, when I got into week two of still feeling totally crappy I started to forget what it felt like to be healthy. I thought to myself, “if I ever get over this (note: I am prone to dramatics), I will learn to love my body.” And, oh how I meant it.
Because when it comes down to it, this body is the only one I’ve got. It allows me to do anything I want and need to do. I’m able to climb the insane hills of San Francisco and chase after Bug on all of his adventures. I’m able to run and dance and full-body laugh. I don’t have to deal with chronic pain. It’s a blessing that most days the worst I can say about my body is that my thighs jiggle. Who gives a shit what some middle-aged white dude sitting in an ad agency office thinks I should look like? I am more than a face and a body.
Does that mean I’ll never lament over my imperfections again? Of course not. But now there will be an asterisk attached to that negative thought to serve as a reminder that I’m healthy and I’m happy. That’s the good stuff. I’ll take the cellulite along with it.
How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women? Does it affect the way you see yourself? Do you know how awesome you are? Let’s chat in the comments!