April 1, 2016

Body Shaming

This post is going to go in a couple different directions, but the overarching theme is body shame, particularly female, and particularly mine. Quick backstory, one of my favorite people is my friend Freya West, who happens to be the headmistress of Nashville's only burlesque finishing school, Delinquent Debutantes. You can read more about Freya and my experience with Delinquent Debutantes here. Freya is a magical unicorn sent here from another universe to teach us all how to love our bodies and ourselves. Spoiler alert:  she is very successful at this.

This week a member of Freya's tribe wrote an article for HuffPost Women titled, "Big Girls Can't Dance? Oh Yes We Can". The body shaming incident that sparked the article, as well as the response to both the shaming and the article from shero Stacie Huckeba, got me thinking.

I can't remember how early my own body shaming began, at least fifth or sixth grade, if not earlier. With the help of a great therapist and three Brene Brown books, I've realized my "disordered" perspective on my body is connected to shame. Like everyone who is alive and has parents, I received some bad messaging as a child. I believed I was selfish and mean-tempered. It's taken over two years of therapy and an astounding amount of out-of-pocket money to learn that I am neither selfish nor mean-tempered. But these two things are shame triggers for me, and when I get triggered, my body image issues flare up.

So what does this look like? Does someone call me selfish and I eat a carton of ice cream? I wish. I am currently disconnected from my family until I work through this and can re-enter as a healthy, wholehearted person. I'm not there yet, but I'm close. My mom turned 60 in January. I haven't seen or talked to my mom in a year and a half, which is a pain so acute that there are days I can't function. On the day of her birthday, I woke up, looked in the mirror and saw my old body - my body 40+ pounds ago. I stayed in that headspace until I could see my therapist, who had to reality-check me by having me weigh myself. It worked and I went back to seeing my actual body.

An important part of my therapy is learning how to create and maintain boundaries. In learning how to do this, I've struggled with what the people I've had to create boundaries around think of me. If I think someone perceives me as selfish or mean, I get neurotic about my body image. I'll spend a week telling everyone how much weight I've gained, restricting my calories, and restructuring all of my workouts.

You guys, that's shame. And no one is talking about it. Because I am a woman who lives not in a cave, I have friends who are struggling with their weight. A) I feel you. B) I want to ask you what messaging have you received that makes you connect your worthiness to your size? Is there a pattern? Does your body shame spike when you're worried someone thinks something about you that you don't want them to think? Mine does. Big time.

On a scale of one to ten, I'd say I'm a two on how much of a grasp I have on this, and I've had two years of therapy, not to mention the honorary LCSW I've awarded myself for reading three Brene Brown books. All of this to say, I'm no expert and this isn't easy stuff to navigate. But I need this conversation to happen. And maybe you do, too. I've learned that shame can't live out in the open; it needs dark, secret places to thrive. So let's get this shit out there. I don't know about you, but I've lived long enough believing things about myself that aren't true and measuring my worth by my pants size.

Optional Homework Assignment:

If you're in the Nashville area and can throw some money towards women who are empowering other women to reclaim their bodies and their self confidence, buy a $15 class at Freya's studio. You can find a class schedule here. It's easily accessible from downtown, and she has lunchtime classes for you Real Life Business Babes.

P.S. Do you know what helps with body shame? Dancing. And twerking.

P.P.S. Rise up, diet industry drop-outs!


Sarah Shearer said...

i love this, Kim! and i love you :)
i do have a life time's experience with this as well. for me, it started with the consistent message that i wasn't "good enough" growing up. so i carried it with me and i often feel fear that i will be forgotten/ unnoticed/ unwanted in life - since i'm "no good". the drive to achieve physical perfection feels as if its a way i could get people to want and notice me. i'm aware of how unhealthy it is , and do a lot of work to change this thought pattern, but for me it sparks when i have a bad day at work, feel hurt/disspointed by a relationship, etc.... but reading about how hard another friend (who i respect and admire) works to get to a place of self love is very encouraging :)

Paige Vinson said...

I think you are asking an important question -- what is the real cause of the self-shaming and punishment? (that's the question I got out of it at least). Once you know that and identify the triggers then at least you can be more aware and prepared to deal with them. There may or may not be ways to avoid those triggers but I'll bet, in most cases, when the root cause is identified and you can figure out that you don't deserve the shaming, that, instead, you deserve a lot of encouragement and love from yourself, moving forward in a healthy way with supportive relationships and, also, the ability to forgive others when they do "mis-step" (because even people who truly love you will say the wrong thing sometimes and you may need to give them a break for the temporary gaff), can happen. My self-shaming doesn't have to do with size as much as it does with my ability to interact with others -- I interpret so much of what I hear into a rejection of who I am just in general. I think I deal with it okay - I'm aware that my feelings are mostly irrational and, if others do really reject me, who cares. The unhealthy side though is some paranoid thinking (literally that people laugh at me as I walk by them) and not initiating friendships -- I would probably be ok living in the woods by myself to be honest. I've come to think that those feelings I possess are likely hard-wired (I would have probably been labeled as developmentally delayed and on the high-functioning end of autism spectrum as a child) and not necessarily the result of any particular experiences, but, I could be wrong.

The Blonde Mule said...

Sarah - aw, girl - thank you! It helped me so much when we sat down together and talked about all of this - whenever it was, man two years ago now?! I love and respect YOU! There aren't a lot of people I'd let watch me twerk. xoxo

The Blonde Mule said...

Paige - that's exactly what I'm asking. It's more nuanced that I'm presenting it - because it's such a big issue and because I'm just a person who read three Brene Brown books. I agree with everything you're saying though. And I have had to learn how to love myself. Forgiveness is tricky. I'm working towards compassion in lieu of forgiveness, at least for now.

Your perspective on yourself is so interesting because I would never describe you in any of these ways. You have such a bright, funny energy. You've always been warm and welcoming towards me and everyone I watch you interact with. I look up to you, and if I saw you more, I would ask for your advice and counsel ALL THE TIME. But I know that rejected feeling. I've been there, and I've got your back.


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