The female form has been exploited, sexualized, criticized and idealized for centuries. I don’t generally like to discuss mine, or anyone else’s, because I believe we are ALL much more than just our figures. Too much of my life I’ve spent obsessing over my image. It’s been exhausting. I wish I didn’t care about the way that I look, but I do. So maybe this means I will always find a reason to cringe at the sight of myself in the mirror. However, as I reflect on the history of my body in terms of my gratitude, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is pretty extraordinary considering all it’s endured.
I’m grateful for the way I have adapted to and greatly overcome my body dysmorphia. As we know, American women are raised by television, internet, magazines, and recently, social media. I, like many others, have been spoon fed images of what I’m supposed to look like since before I even knew what I was looking at. These toxic messages caused me to place too much value on my physical appearance and desirability. This not only made me feel desperate for validation from men, but in turn, it forced me view myself with a hyper-critical lens. It got to the point where I could not physically leave my mirror until I felt I looked picture perfect according to various standards that had been set by ….. my peers? The patriarchy? (Both.)
Years later, I was doing some random internet research and found out that my seemingly “neurotic” behaviors were due to an actual psychological disorder called body dysmorphia. Because I am now aware of my symptoms and behavioral patterns after discussing with doctors and counselors, I have found necessary support. Over time, through constant improvement and shadow work, I’ve been able to counter a lot of the toxic societal messages that’d been beaten into my brain.
Since then, I’ve committed myself to a consistent exercise routine. This was not only to improve my physique, but also my health, energy and confidence. My relationship with my mirror has evolved from self loathing to self motivating. It has been an amazing experience to measure my progress and prove to myself how much I can do. This does wonders for my self esteem. I often feel great and genuinely believe that I look great! Sure, there are still instances where my reflection horrifies me, but I now feel I am in control of how I appear. If I feel I need to work on a specific muscle group, I am able to do so. I have this ability, while many others do not.
I am grateful for my unique shape, because it is mine and unlike any other. I am also quite privileged because, according to patriarchal beauty standards, I am considered to be skinny and “desirable”. I did grow up with self esteem issues, but I did not have to grow up with the bullshit stigma of being considered automatically unattractive due to my weight. There were other factors that apparently made me unconventional and inadequate (which were harmful, but not as severe as the affects from a society steeped in fatphobia). However, I am still a woman, so my “attributes” are often up for debate. I’m slim, so I’m not voluptuous. I am tall, so I am not petite.
“Which female body type is sexier?” This is a normalized topic of conversation, often when women are literally in the room. Not that it’s that much better to discuss these things when we’re not in the room. However, I am grateful that I do not let the words of insensitive men who sexualize and prioritize the female form affect me anymore, because the power and control that I have relinquished over my own physical strength continues to boost my self belief. I used to keep my mouth shut about such issues. Now, I’m not only grateful for the ability to open my mouth and speak out against toxic masculinity when the situation calls for it, but also for the fact that I eventually found my voice. I’m incredibly proud of myself for growing in this way.
Most of all, I am grateful that my body has never given up on me. It has recovered from trauma and abuse, no matter how severe. It continues to fight and improve. It is resilient, and always stronger than the day before. I’ve come a long way, both physically and mentally. I like that I’m tall and slim, these qualities make me feel powerful. Because my body is mine, and it’s not built this way to appease anyone. It’s for me to use, to nourish, to please, to share. It is my home.