April 1, 2016
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!