Tuesday, 31 March 2015

On Body Image - The Bloggers Say #1


Da-daaaaaah! And here we have the first ever shiny issue of 'The Bloggers Say' - a way to discuss and debate important topics to a wider importance within the blogging community.

This month I am joined by the wonderfully talented writers: Shannon, Tori and Lauryn, on something every person with a body will have an opinion on.

April's Topic : Body Image
One thing which has been and always will be true, is that this girl loves pizza. I even won a kid's club award on holiday when I was 6 for the most slices of pizza ever eaten by a child. The certificate was lovingly made out to 'Pizza Muncher'.

But one of my earliest memories of realising what this, among other things, was doing to my body, was when I was about 8 years old and I recall grabbing my tummy fat with one hand and a pair of scissors in the other and genuinely wondering if I could just.... snip it away. Because even then, I'd become aware that having a bit of a tummy and going back for seconds wasn't what little girls should do, only further proven by the pretty, popular skinny girls with all the friends. 

But perhaps my most ardent bodily battle fought growing up, was the one with my boobs. 

I was 11 when a boy first jeered at me for being flat-chested. Eleven.

At 12 I started stuffing my bra with tissue paper, hastily grabbed from the toilets.

By the start of secondary school, I bought the most ludicrous gel-padded bras in attempt to fill out my chest to match the rest of my less-than-slender frame. It didn't help when the females of my family were genetically rather ample, and I'd always find myself the butt of their jokes and comments.

I'd spend my evenings frantically googling ways to make boobs look bigger, breast-enhancement pills and reading forums from girls describing when they first began to develop. 

I glanced at the girls in my year with envy and inadequacy as I snuck into the toilets to get changed for PE, lest someone decided to point out I'd forgotten to put on a bra that day, because when you're an AA cup, it's something surprisingly easy to forget.

I would give anything to go back now, sit myself down and explain it all. 

I'm now 22 and a 34C (which apparently decided to spring up overnight between the ages of 17 and 18) and the painful irony is... oftentimes I fight that battle with myself again because... I wish they were smaller. I'm left with stretchmarks from the sudden growth and as a lover of baggy jumpers and oversize clothes I find these two noticeable mounds incredibly unflattering and so annoying that I genuinely sometimes where sports bras too small for me to try and squish them down.

Christ, if younger me could hear me now...

Because the grass is always greener isn't it? 

No matter what we do, especially in regards to our bodies and physical insecurities, there will always be that equal voice (if not deafened by that of the fashion and entertainment industries) telling us we'd be happier if we were this, more attractive if we were that.

But self-love and appreciation is one of the aspects I decided to work on in 2015 - this year of spiritual discovery, and in doing so bought me to one important truth.

I am SO more than just my appearance.

So any time I disliked something about myself or found myself wishing I was different, I stopped and asked myself  ' yes but is this for me to feel good? Or is this to impress/create envy of others, to make me feel good?' and the results were pretty staggering. 

And so 2015 is going to continue to be a year of revolution, and a conscious decision that I'm really not that actually fussed about being 'hot' or 'attractive' any more. I'm just gonna do what the fuck I like, decorate and mould the body the way I want for ME, and just do what makes me happy.

 Even if that means digging out my old Pizza Muncher certificate and ordering a Large Dominos for one.

And so below here we have three beautifully unique and individual insights on what it means to be the owner of a body.

Shannon - Awash With Wonder


Pic via Awash With Wonder

'It is a difficult to write about bodies when my words are not coached in the careful language of body positivity.

It feels like a disservice to other women to occasionally not like my body, like I’m co-signing the impossible standards of beauty created by advertisers and suggesting we all try to live up to them.  

It’s never my intention to give power to ways of thinking that are harmful. I hate the mild but insidious body-hating conversations we're taught are acceptable as small talk. I don't want to discuss the "No, I shouldn't's" women repeat like a protecting mantra before they allow a slice of cake to pass their lips. But I do want to talk about how my body is careless with my secrets -- and how much I hate that.  

My problem is not only about beauty or the lack of it. It is not only about being desirable. The problem I have is one of weakness and self-control, and the way my flesh can become an outside manifestation of all the things I’m trying to hide. 

I think this is why we throw around the word “fat” like it’s the worst thing a person can be. Clearly it’s not – but it is one of the only weaknesses we can see.  That word “weakness” is so judgmental and awful, isn’t it? So let me clarify. 

I am a naturally quite small person, and I’m also an emotional eater. If I’m sad or lonely or any emotion that isn’t completely neutral – so 99% of them – I eat.  So when I inevitably gain weight, it’s very noticeable to me, and it isn’t the extra weight itself that is upsetting; it’s that it’s a physical representation of all of those things I felt. It’s a way of carrying around those burdens, and it’s no longer an invisible hurt in the way that emotions are. 

So: weakness. Maybe that’s not the right word; maybe the better word is imbalance. I don’t feel this way about other people’s bodies – I see other bodies as countries I don’t live in and therefore don’t need to have an opinion on – but I have intimate knowledge of myself, and when I grow bigger, I feel exposed in ways I didn’t before.

For a long time, I tried to convince myself that it was morally superior or enlightened to separate my spirit from my body. This was silly. I am more than my body – but I am also my body. My emotional health is connected to my physical health, and often it is our bodies that will let us know when things are not as they should be. 

I see myself as someone with pretty healthy self-esteem. I know that I am worthy of love and that my value transcends my appearance, but I also think it’s normal to occasionally not like my body. It’s not a hatred that’s all consuming; instead, it’s a retroactive act of self-care. It’s a dislike of the actions that transformed my body into something unrecognizable; a way of saying, “It makes me sad that you ate that cupcake (or 5 or 6 or 10 of them) instead of dealing with those emotions; I hope you will make a more loving choice today.” 

And if I don’t make that choice? It’s not the end of the world; I will still hang out naked, I’ll still see myself as beautiful, but I will also have the reminder that, at some point, I have to deal with whatever it is that’s fucking with my emotions.

What’s ultimately changed about my approach to my body as I’ve grown up is that my main concern is not about fitting into some narrow definition of what is beautiful; instead it’s about honoring myself. My body is the only country I will ever truly live in, the only home I’ll ever call my own, and I’d like to become someone who takes better care of it.'

Blog: Awash With Wonder - Twitter


Tori - Tori's Tales
Pic via Pinterest 

'I have no recollection of being aware of my body until my time at secondary school arrived and, with it, a mass of unfamiliar, growing-into-themselves young’uns all battling for attention in a space too small to contain the hormones pulsing between not-yet-fully-developed-bodies. My awareness arrived through comparisons made in changing rooms where (most) girls picked corners to shrink themselves into, occasionally offering a try-to-be-sly side-eye at mottled-from-the-cold-of-outdoor-PE thighs, (what were flat, yet we never realised) tummies, and blossoming (under t-shirt-bra’d) breasts. It arrived with the rubbing of shoulders in classrooms where we were sat, girl-boy, in some strange attempt to coerce out of us a ‘you’ll get along swimmingly’ communication with the opposite sex. It arrived when we spent breaks circling around each other warily, like wild animals and their prey on the plains, eyes momentarily widened to the varying landscapes of body types. A hip here. A waist there. 

I remember feeling a pressure to look like the girls who caught the boys’ attention, although I was aware early-on that theirs was a mould I didn’t quite fit. I’d enhance myself in any way that I could – padded bras and a slightly-unbuttoned blouse to embrace the ‘fashion’ of showing-off one’s vest top worn underneath, fairly heavy-handed make up-that emphasised the ‘good’ and covered the, what I was told was, ‘bad’ (the mean-spirited words of other schoolchildren tore open crevices that proved tough to avoid falling into) – and willing myself to create a character that captured the eyes of others, so swift were we all to pin our negative judgements, or positive praise, to appearances (at a time when our perceptions of ‘real’ beauty were warped by the existence of teen idols who danced in belly tops, and cut offs, parading their taught-and-tanned skin under bright California sunshine, all captured by the frame of our television sets). 

In an attempt to single myself out from the heaving crowd, I often thought it ‘fun’ to show off a ‘party trick’ that, for some reason, I believed added a dimension to my personality – that of the ‘clicky hip’. I’d leap off of stools and snap my fingers, or tap on arms, urging others to watch as I jutted out my right hip, pressing until the familiar ‘clunk’ appeared, offering up its unnatural motion as some kind of barometer of cool against which others could measure their ‘talents’. The ignorance of youth. What I then thought was a benign side effect of a growing body has since manifested itself as a symptom of what has become the focus of my personhood – joint hypermobility syndrome. 

The insecurities flooding my teenage-self have since been swallowed up by those that amass themselves around an ever-establishing illness – emphasis on chronic pain – that leaves sleepless nights and exhaustiveness-filled-days in its wake. The pain prods at my psyche, pushing me into those familiar corners from where I now compare my rife-with-physical-pain body – and the sharp dips in mood that result from those angry, hot-heat moments – against those of the people I meet who can’t seem to understand what it all means. To my surprise, I am more trapped at 29 to the binds of an invisible-to-others illness than by those expectations I felt a pressure to meet in the years of yore. I seep a want to fit in with today’s peers (from the places it has settled under my skin, bound to the joints so grossly affected by my weak-of-muscle body) more than that secreted as a teen, because it has become tiring to say ‘I may not look different, you may not see that I’m ill, but I am.’ I yearn to not wear the mask I plaster on my face when outside my norms - a mask that hides my pain, quashing the hurdles made necessary to traverse to move onwards in my journey – because I seek acceptance from others. I see-saw between acknowledgement of my disability, and an-ingrained-in-me hush to keep it hidden. 

The perspective may have changed, and the teenager may have grown into a woman, but that overarching want to fit an unfillable mould lives on.'


Lauryn - Lauryn's Notebook
Pic via Lauryn's Notebook

'Hello, my name is Lauryn, and I am 15. Each and every passing day I witness the effects of ‘body image’ within the current teenage generation. When, at 13, my ‘best friend’ (at the time) outright referred to my nose as, ‘your worst feature, but probably not bad enough for surgery’, my largest insecurity to date was transcended into my previously untarnished self-perception. In the two years since, it is the part of my body image that I have most struggled with. Only recently, has this insecurity begun to ebb gradually away - something that should have happened a long time ago, lest it not happening at all. I was thirteen.

My age may insinuate a naivety and immaturity. Neither of those things I can deny. But I am part of a generation so innately bound within social constructs that it pains me, deeply. And from within this pocket of adolescence, secreted with harrowing truths of distorted self-perception, heard and witnessed first-hand, I feel the need to use my voice to speak out on behalf of my generation.

It isn’t unknown that a disproportionate number of young people suffer at the hands of negative body images. ‘It’s just a hormonal thing’. Perhaps so. That doesn’t stop it being a real issue. For the majority, body confidence amongst teens is a false illusion. Now that is the real issue: the need to strip back the layers of self-imposed false confidence to cradle the vulnerable underneath. And when cradling these haunted souls, we need to stop seeing our bodies as broken; overly large; overly small; weirdly shaped; appalling or existing to fulfill others desires. We need to forgo all of those perspectives. We need to see our bodies as a shell of flesh and bones, bodies capable of what we define them as: beautiful, strong, healthy bodies. We need to encourage a mind-set of un-fractured adolescent confidence. I’ve held in my arms the drunk girl at the party intoxicated with her own depths of despair, and whilst comforting her, have reflected on the flaws in our self-depreciative society. Self-depreciation is so often passed as humour in British society, but the promotion of negative self-body image isn’t something to be joked about.

Just like that – in nonchalance, we encounter the pressures to conform to a certain illusion of self-perfection each day, every day. In the media, in art, in music, in fashion, in literature; it’s there. As humans, we mourn the unattainable. We will always grapple with the ‘what if’s’ between thoughts threaded with self-loathing.

But if this reaches anybody, then know that on the days when the mirror isn’t granting your wishes, remind yourself that you are capable of what your mind desires. Make your own decisions on your body. Don’t let anybody tell you that your body is flawed, because it can’t be. As long as your thoughts exist, and your heart beats, your body is doing a terrific job. Because the sole purpose of your body is to house the real fabric of your existence: your thoughts and your heart. As long as those two function, even if they do so weakly, you’re here, you’re alive, and you are invincible for every second that your thoughts fill your head and the beat of your heart rattles against your ribs.

We are all different. We are unique, marked by our own tales of triumph and tears with our stretch marks and scars and personal perfect imperfections. Embrace it all. Be healthy and be happy. And lastly, I will leave you with two of my favourite quotes. The first is as Oscar Wilde famously once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” And the other, is from Roald Dahl, “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”'


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What are your thoughts on body image and body positivity? How has your perception of your body changed since you were younger? What greater significance for society do you believe the issues of 'Women's bodies' are? Join in the conversation in the comments, on or twitter using the hashtag #WeWhoWrite 


17 comments :

  1. I loved this post!

    Majority of my problems resolved around my disability, I'm sure a lot of people are probably sick and tired of me talking about it. At times I am too. I've been trying to get better at not complaining about different areas. I've never hated my belly - my weight has never been an issue for ME but as far as others having to lift me to various places, hearing them grunt and complain rips me apart because I can't stop eating and gain weight. There's no point on going on a diet, nobody else wants to go on one why the hell should make myself do it?

    I feel so broken hearted whenever I see different girls and women doing absolutely everything they can to be skinny and be at the my weight, which is less than 100 lbs. I was just on somebody's account on Twitter, and this one had so many girls (youngest was like 13 I think) and she had so many things that she said she did, she self harms, she had what she weights now and her goal weight...I just wanted to cry. Why are we so judgmental to ourselves that we strive to be perfect? All sizes and shapes - our differences makes us beautiful. I just don't understand it anymore. :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Literally loved this post! It would be amazing to write a piece for it one day!x

    Beauty & lifestyle blogger at vavaviolet.com
    YouTube ‘vavaviolett’ x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loved this post but I wish people wouldn't always associate 'skinny' girls with being bitches to larger girls/women. I have always been skinny and have suffered from bullying and rude remarks throughout my whole life, as well as remarks being made about my wonks teeth and small boobs. It really is disgraceful that so many people suffer bullying and abuse based on their body size or appearance, when they can't really help it.

    Holly Olivia

    www.hollyoliviacreates.blogspot.co.uk

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