11/04/2013

On (Not) Hating Your Body


...yes, I say "fuck" sometimes. And I really like this picture.

I read this article on HelloGiggles yesterday and while I agreed with the writer on almost everything (except fitspiration: I’m a fan), this sentence caught my eye:

“Most people I know either hate their own bodies  or spend their time judging other people”.


I did some research on this and found this on the Daily Mail. 
I remembered a great piece I read in Marie Claire a while ago about women NOT hating their looks. I thought about what my friends say about their bodies and what the media image of a woman’s body image is. Do all women really hate their own bodies? 


Magazines and websites would have us believe so: every other article is full of “get in shape!” tips, which implies that we’re unhappy with our shapes as they are. I’m a yoga freak, so I’m all for getting in shape. But why not emphasize the health aspect of it? Why not say, “exercise for a longer life and less risk of cancer!” instead of “be the hottest babe on the beach”? Not because there’s something wrong with wanting to look good. But is this our top priority, over health, energy and well-being? Are we so narrow-minded that we’ve forgotten that being under- or overweight is dangerous to our health? I don’t think so.

It seems to me that it’s expected of women to be critical towards our bodies. We’re supposed to want to try the new celebrity fad diet and see every pound shed and every cake refused as a victory, a testimony of our steely willpower.  But at the same time, we’re supposed to say “no to size zero” because curvy is the new skinny.  Real girls have curves, right? Screw the fact that there are naturally slim women that are every bit as “real”, beautiful and sexy as their curvier sisters. What we’re forgetting is that we’re all individuals. Beauty is not about inches (or centimetres). It’s about radiance. It’s about confidence. It’s about knowing who you are and actually liking that.

I don’t hate my body at all and I say it proudly. After years of eating disorders, depression and anxiety attacks, I can finally say that I feel quite at ease in my own skin. I know I’m no Miranda Kerr and I’m fine with that.  I don’t feel the need to call myself fat or ugly anymore – anything that I wouldn’t say to my best friend, I don’t say to myself.  People often tell me I’m thin and I don’t really like it. If what they mean is that I look good then I prefer to hear that. And if what they mean is that I look sickly: hi Mum. I eat like a horse. Just ask my personal chef slash boyfriend. One comment I used to get a lot while living in Italy was, “but why do you go to the gym? You’re already skinny!” It was like it never crossed people’s minds that I might be going to the gym for my health.

Going vegan and re-discovering yoga has given me a whole new harmony with my own body. I now concentrate on how it feels rather than how it looks. My goal is health and energy, not having thighs that don’t touch. But saying that I like my body is somehow taboo. Of course I’d change things about myself if a Body Genie popped out and granted me three wishes. I’d want longer and more toned legs, more definition to my arms, firmer boobs and an olive skin tone (okay, that’s more than three wishes!). But as no such magic is yet available (last time I checked), I’m perfectly happy to accept myself as I am. Flaws and everything.

I refuse to believe the depressing notion that all women are disgusted by their physiques. I think most of us have “bad body” days, just like bad hair days, when all we want to do is crawl back under the covers. Then the next day we look in the mirror and go, “wow, I don’t actually look too bad.” I also have friends that, just like me, are in awe of and inspired by pictures of beautiful models and actresses instead of falling into an endless pit of self-loathing. I love looking at pictures of women like Mila Kunis, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone and Natalie Portman to pick up a beauty trick or two. I also love studying women with great sense of style, like Olivia Palermo and Leigh Lezark.  I take fashion inspiration from celebs similar to my own body and colouring, such as Katie Holmes and Rachel Bilson. And none of these women make me feel inferior or horrible about myself. Honest. Not even the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. I know these women are all more beautiful than me, but this doesn’t make me feel bad about myself. I am secure in my body and don’t need to be prettier than anyone else. I look good enough as I am.

At the same time, I realize that this is because I work in fashion and have seen what goes into creating a photo for any kind of media. It’s all about Photoshopping, retouching, fixing, erasing. The perfection we’re all used to seeing is an illusion and that goes for men’s bodies as well. Still, men are usually expected to either live up to the bulky gym-guy ideal…or not care. It’s somehow unmanly to hate your body. Appearance-related self-loathing is seen as a female thing. This is mainly due to the fact that, despite the calendar saying 2013, women are still getting judged on their appearances in areas such as the workplace, friendships and of course romantic relationships. A woman is expected to look perfect at all times, whether she’s going on a first date or a job interview, whether she’s heading to a party or to the grocery store. Caring about how you look and stressing out about it is not only accepted but expected from you. And if you refuse to let it bother you, then you’re challenging the system. You’re opting out, saying no. Liking yourself is an act of rebellion.

I used to fret a lot about my looks. Even after getting over my bulimia, I could get seriously irked because I hated my thighs or because someone said I looked pale. But after seeing a friend lose a leg to cancer, I gained perspective. These days, I love my body because it’s healthy. I give it yoga, good vegan food, nice hot showers, pretty clothes and flower-smelling body lotions because I want to care for it. I wear jewellery and makeup because I like the creativity of it, like painting a picture.  I take pride in having won over the demons in my head that told me to hate my body. 

I wish that women saying, “I freaking love my body” were highlighted more in the media. Not in an obnoxious “hate me because I’m beautiful” way (yes, Samantha Brick, I’m looking at you) but in an inspired, happy, uplifting voice, one that says “we’re already there”. It’s greatly needed.



Picture from WeHeartIt

7 comments:

  1. finalmente qualcuno che dice apertamente queste cose! grazie sascha...post da stampare, appendere allo specchio del bagno e leggere ogni mattina! dico davvero! non ti ho mai scritto ma ti leggo da un po' e abbiamo diverse cose in comune...sono francesca, freelance, giramondo, amante di Stoccolma, neomamma e ormai quasi del tutto vegan. mi ero ripromessa di scriverti, soprattutto per ringraziarti della "compagnia" quando avevo il pancione, ho letto un post dopo l'altro. capito ogni tanto a londra, magari ti scrivo. un abbraccio...e non sei sola nella causa eco-friendly!

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    1. Super grazie Francesca, che bel commento! Mi fa piacere che anche tu ti sei appassionata alla causa eco. Se vuoi scrivimi pure quando vieni a Londra!

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  2. Thank you so much for this post! You inspire me to get better in my eating disorder and I wish I will become just as strong and confident as you one day! <3 love from sis :*

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  3. I like my body! I'm not a HUGE fan of my face but i don't hate it.. I just don't like the way it looks in photos haha xx

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  4. Brilliant post! I think there is soooo much pressure on woman and young girls to fit in to this 'one size fits all' idea of beauty that 'society' dictates to us on a daily basis. I don't hate my body, I agree with what you say and I have bad body days, the same as I have bad hair/skin/clothes/mood days. My body has been through an awful lot and I am proud of the fact that I have reached 41 and my body is still in pretty good working order. There is far more to be sad about having a health body than having a 'perfect' body.

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