Monday, February 20, 2012

"Cheer up, I like your body"

I'm a member of quite a few fat acceptance and body acceptance groups with lots of message boards full of people asking for advice on how to improve their self esteem because they don't like X about themselves. Inevitably in almost every single one, one or more people reply with "I find X attractive".

The problem is that these people are offering validation or a self esteem boost by basing your worth on how others view you. It feeds back on the problem that these people have to begin with- that they base their self esteem on the male gaze (and I'm using the male gaze here because these people are overwhelmingly women who are judged by how men view them). In other words, it places the woman as a sexual object and boils down to "if people want to fuck you, then you should feel better about yourself"

What do my responses to these women look like comparatively? Here's an example from a recent post by a woman who was having trouble with her breast size:
Your breasts are probably never going to bounce or curve or jiggle like you want them to- we all have something about ourselves that we hate and will never be like we want it to. Those things just have to be accepted. I still have difficult days when I look at other women, especially plus size models and feel really down about my breasts- but it passes because I know that, in every way that matters, they're just fine the way they are even if they don't fit some expectation or ideal.
Is it a perfect response? No, probably not, but I like to focus on accepting your body despite social ideals while the "but I'd fuck you" crowd relies on whether or not a person's body is acceptable to others. And I'm guilty of the "but lots of people find that attractive!" response too, but I did indeed believe that self worth was based mostly around if you could find someone to love you/have sex with you. That's the problem, that's what we need to change. I've seen plenty of people base their self esteem on how many people want them sexually. Maybe this works for some people, but from my experience, it never leads to actual improved self esteem.

I once had a friend who strutted around like she owned the moon. "Yeah, see that amazing glowing thing in the sky? I own that. What do you think of that? Because I'm awesome, that's why." She was social, flirty, had a full sex life and danced like she was the queen of the dance floor when she'd go to a party. But I was her best friend so I knew that when she went home and she didn't have to put on a show for anyone else, she hated herself and her body. And I couldn't help her because I did too. We'd cry together and talk about becoming old cat ladies together. She force fed me when she found out I hadn't eaten for two weeks, and we went to prom together because hey, who needed a date when we had each other? The point is, that basing her self esteem on how attractive other people found her only made things worse.

And, from someone who's been on the end of "don't worry, there are lots of people who like girls like you", it doesn't help. Really loving and accepting yourself means doing so internally and not using external validation. This doesn't mean that you can't say  thank you when someone says that you're beautiful, sexy, or anything else, it simply means that you cannot and should not base your self esteem on those comments. And no one should try trying to boost your self esteem with those comments either.

Your worth is not based on who wants to sleep with you.

So I'm asking everyone to please stop responding to posts about self esteem and body issues with "as a person who thinks you're sexy/attractive, you should feel good about yourself". Instead strive to let them know that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks- because no one has any obligation to look good for anyone else. Wouldn't it be great if we started judging people, not by their bodies, but by their character? Yeah.. I thought so too..

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Loving Yourself

It's Valentine's Day. I have to admit, I never really got what the big deal about this day was. I get the whole 'celebrating your love' thing, but I always thought that if you do that every other day, then what makes Valentine's special? Not to mention, it's created an obsession with not being single on this day. What's so bad about being single? A lot of it has to do with the fact that we often judge our worth by whether or not someone else finds us attractive. I take issue with that. So how about this Valentine's day you make it all about yourself ? After all, it doesn't matter how long term you think a relationship is, you'll always have yourself- why not learn to love that person? After all, a lifetime with someone you dislike or even hate is downright miserable. And yes, I have photos for you, but I wanted to make a point to say that you'll always be loved if you love yourself.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Artistic Nudes revisited

For me, it's been a difficult week with my moods bouncing all over the place, family issues, three cancelled shoots and feeling sick almost every single day I've been stressed, irritated, and feeling down. I don't have to tell you that the blues and body dissatisfaction are deeply linked for someone who lives in a body negative culture like ours (and, let's face it, not just ours- pretty much every culture is a body negative one. For as long as people have realized they can manipulate, control, and tear people down using their bodies, they've done it. People are great like that). Sometimes, no matter how far out you get, you fall back on that old body hating brainwashing. Now, I'm not so far gone that I would even think about those old destructive weight loss habits which don't work and aren't healthy- it's more about a frustration with and anger at my body for being the way it is, much like I'm often irritated with my body for having bipolar, or being hypermobile, or having dermographia. I can't change any of those things, but sometimes I feel angry that I wans't born free of them. Anyway, one of the biggest steps for me in my body acceptance journey was letting myself be photographed nude. So in this time when I'm struggling with body image again, I wanted to revisit those shoots. These are photos that weren't posted the first time and are all by Dan Smith.

Dreaming of Wheels

I finally dreamed of myself in a wheelchair . How we view ourselves is often hard. What we think of ourselves, even how we picture ourse...