Monday, 1 July 2019

Body confidence is a feminist act

The bathing suit I'm wearing in these photos (it's this one from Aerie) arrived in the mail about 3 weeks ago. I had been impatiently waiting for it and the bikini I also ordered, and squealed with delight when I saw the package in the mailbox. Ten minutes later, the squeals of delight had turned into squeals of horror, and the old enemy I thought I had left behind for good several years earlier was suddenly back, grinning at me triumphantly in the mirror. Every woman reading this will know whom I talking about: our well-known nemesis body-loathing, causing the unpleasant but oh-so-familiar "I-feel-shitty-about-my-body" sensation that makes us want to hide in a big old paper bag. 


I thought I was done with body-loathing. For many years now I've been practicing self acceptance, have worked hard towards loving myself inside and out, and I have been vastly successful. Gone are the days where I wake up and my first thought is that I will starve myself today. It's been decades since I cried myself to sleep because of my chunky butt or my belly fat.
Entire weeks can go by where I don't think much about my body at all, except in terms of "I should shave my legs", or "let's have a shower". Even my weight-gain over the past year (I don't know how much because I don't weigh myself, but I would guess 10-15 pounds) didn't faze me, and I was extraordinarily proud of that.

Like I said, I thought I could embrace my body fully and love it as it is. The good news is, most of the time I can. I would go as far as saying that 95% of the time, I am so at peace with my body that I don't think much about it. This body neutrality is something I value highly, because it frees up so much mind space! You won't believe how much more you get done when you don't obsess about calories and weight anymore. 
But there are still the pesky 5% that get me once in a while, and that little scrap of sky blue nylon managed to make me feel bad about my body last month.
The long and short of it is that this beautiful bathing suit that looks great from the front and whose colour and white binding I adore gives me a giant wedgie when I walk. 

This butt is far from a sample size. 

Not only that, I was also rudely reminded that cellulite spares no-one, and even though I know that, I had secretly hoped that I would get away with a few cute dimples on my butt and nothing else. Sadly, I'm getting the all-around-the-thighs variety, which, depending on the light and on the scrutiny of the observer, is either mildly noticeable or the first thing anyone will see because it's so in-your-face, it may as well have flashing arrows pointed at it.

Wild exaggeration aside, I was caught with my defenses down. Feeling good about yourself 95% of the time gives you a false sense of security. You simply don't expect the 5% to rear their ugly head, and it's an unpleasant surprise when they do. Add to that the artificial light of the bathroom mirror (at least I wasn't in a public change room, or I may not have made it home) and my general disbelief that I'm entering middle age, and you can understand how that can discombobulate even the strongest woman. 


The thing is that you are never "done" when it comes to being confident. Even the most self-assured person will have days when they doubt themselves. Just as with happiness, confidence is something that we have to work on and that we have to choose over and over again. I can honestly say that I'm successfully past the stage where I compare myself to photo-shopped pictures of models or girls 20 years younger than myself. But what gets me once in a while is witnessing the changes in my body. I will see photos of myself from 5 years ago where my middle is trimmer than it is now, where the cellulite really is limited to a few cute dimples on my butt and where everything is a bit slimmer and more toned, and I will get a pang of nostalgia. If a genie would pop out right now and offer me my 35-year old body forever, you better believe that I would take him up on it!  


But I will be damned if I become one of those women who desperately cling on to their fading youth and fight it kicking and screaming. You want to know why? Because it's not important.
I believe that a body full of scars, marks and blemishes is a fair price to pay for a head full of memories and a life lived to the fullest.  

I want to eat all the food and drink wine with my friends under the stars without worrying about if it's fattening. 
I want to be happy about the donuts someone brings to work to brighten everybody's day, instead of quietly resenting them for ruining my diet. 
I want to strut my dimply and wrinkly stuff loud and proud in my beautiful sky blue swim suit, enjoying the warm sun on my imperfect skin and the cool water around my feet with the chipped nail polish, and not agonize about the fact that my butt cheeks used to be smaller. 

I want to feel at home in my body the way it is now. I do, 95% of the time, which is one of the biggest achievements of my life. Will I get to 100%? Only time will tell. A good start is to remind myself of everything my body does for me every single day: for rarely giving me any pain, for being strong, for having all my senses to appreciate the beauty around me every day.
But, again, the most important fact to keep in mind is this: there are about a million more important and interesting things in the world than what we look like. 


Body confidence is all about freedom. 
Unrealistic beauty standards and diets keep women distracted, weak and docile. If you have ever been on a diet then you know that you have little brain space left for anything besides counting calories and obsessing about food. It's the most successful tool to keep women too preoccupied with their appearance to take up the same space men do. I'm not playing that game anymore. 

By letting go of the pressure of constantly needing to improve something about our looks a new world opens up. Suddenly there are so many more hours in the day! Chasing an impossible beauty standard is a full-time job that you are doomed to fail at. It's a lose/lose situation, and the sooner you quit, the sooner your real life can finally begin! 

All the energy and creativity you used for chasing the illusion of the perfect body can be used towards new hobbies, adventures, job advancement, a new career, or spending more time with friends. Literally anything is better than wasting it on obsessing about what your body looks like. 


Coming back to the scrap of nylon that threatened to pull me back into the old, treacherous waters of body insecurity. I put the suit away for a few days, realigned my priorities, and then wore it calmly around the yard and by the river today. I read a book, started to write a short story for a writing contest, ate a warm chocolate croissant and two icy popsicles, walked Lily, went to the hospital twice to x-ray patients, and had a fabulous day. Starting a new writing project made me feel as wildly alive as it always does, the sky was as blue as my new swim suit, and the entire day was infused with a feeling of deep peace and gratitude. 

That's what body confidence is: peace. It silences the toxic noise and frees up your life for everything that's important and worthwhile. Every person in the world deserves to feel this way. 
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2 comments

  1. The suit is adorable, I would say the wedgie is caused by a flaw in the design and not the body wearing it for sure! I try to remind myself "You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do." while strutting my stuff...all of it... around the pool this summer!

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    1. Yes, exactly!! We have been programmed to be so concerned about what our bodies look like that we miss out on all the fun - but only if we let it. Everybody deserves to live life to the fullest, no matter what age, colour, size or shape they are!

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