"My arms look like I am a prisoner from Auschwitz." I looked at his arms. They looked like regular arms to me. This was the first in a list of many things a friend of mine was telling me he didn't like about the appearance of his body. I pointed that out to him and asked what he did like about his body. He listed four or five things. Everything he liked had to do with what his body was able to do. His list all related to what he was capable of physically.
I pointed that out to him as well, and asked him if he thought there was any connection. He thought about it for a while, but I knew, and I knew because for me, it is the same, and I would guess that it is the same for many people.
We have been trained to see ourselves as objects. The training is overt, subliminal, and nefariously destructive. We are not objects. We are subjects. Subjects act. Objects are acted upon. This is a simple but profound difference that many people miss.
When I was a kid, I was a bit of a whirlwind. Running around, climbing trees, playing football, baseball, bounce and fly, kick ball, I did a lot of physical stuff and it brought me a lot of joy because I was very coordinated, very fast, and I got a lot of attention for my abilities.
Around the time I turned eleven, when I started looking more like a woman, I started being judged on how I looked. This was a great shock to me, because I had never thought about how I looked. How I looked had never mattered.
The summer before I turned 12, for the first time ever, my mother sent me to summer camp. It was a brutal experience, It was so bad that at one point I actually regressed to a child-like state and peed in my bed. Of course, soon after I returned to pre-teenhood and I moved that mattress to a mean girl's bunk and washed my sleeping bag without anyone noticing, but that summer, I also started bleeding, and I started growing boobs, I was being seen in an entirely different way by my peers at camp; as if my value as a person was derived from how I looked. It was deeply tramatic, and to this day, I still remember the girls at camp who made fun of me and gave me my nickname, DEFF (dull eyes, flat face).
For decades after that, I attempted to balance my life as an object. I tried make-up, I tried wearing very tight clothing. I tried to curl my hair, but the only time I was truly happy with my appearance was when I didn't have to think about it; when I was feeling good about something I accompished, or some new skill I had acquired (I will never forget the day I threw my first tumbler on the potters wheel.)
This is the world. I didn't make it, but I have tried to play by its rules only to find that the rules are fucked and have been created by profoundly unhappy and unreasonable people. So, on this day, the day of new beginnings, I give you permission, and in fact invite you to say to yourself, and everyone else who pushes this objectification upon you, "Fuck those rules. They don't apply to me because I am far too capable to be judged on the basis of an unreasonable beauty standard." I mean, you don't have to use that quote verbatim, you can totally put that in your own way, but I think that if we stop seeing ourselves and each other as objects and train ourselves to be grand and glorious subjects, we will waste a lot less time agonizing over shit we have no control over and crap that in the end, doesn't really matter.
I am not saying that caring about how you look is a waste of time. I am saying that basing your value on it, beating yourself up over it, or feeling inadequate because of it, is. In that moment, if you decided to, you could celebrate yourself. You could cheer yourself on. You could re-train your mind to see yourself in an entirely different way. All it takes is a decision to reject the dominant paradigm that says your value is based on your looks.
You have been given your body and it is your job to love it. Be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up for NOT being something that is unreasonable. Decide to love what you got because it is yours. Defend it in the face of tyranny. Boast its achievements. Write songs of victory and might about its accomplishments.
Do not let other's criticism and judgement sway you against it. They speak only of themselves. They are not the voice of reason you give them credit for.
We live in a highly uncertain, volatile world. There is not a whole lot we can control. Do not let your light go out without having known the feeling of truly loving your body. Do not move through the world carrying the burden of shame, guilt or insecurity over what is a gift. Learn from your body. Develop a good solid relationship with it. Listen to it. Your body holds a wisdom older than its age. It represents millions of years of evolution, and is too spectacular, too complex and dynamic to be judged on looks alone.
So get busy loving your body. Here are some ways I choose to love my body every day.
You see, in order to get better, in order to love your body and all that it implies, you must not only focus on the internal, but shut out a lot of the external as well. Recognizing and creating a strategy for the bullshit that society does in order to control your behavior is a reality of the love-your-body scenario. The good news is that you are not responsible for changing society, only for ignoring it when it becomes unreasonable. Which, granted, is a good chunk of the time.
Let me know how it goes, and let me know if you need help with that. I am good at figuring creative ways to ignore society and stick it to the man.
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