You might wonder what fashion has to do with vulnerability and shame. After spending a day in the mall, trying on all the fashionable shit i could find, i’m here to tell you it has EVERYTHING to do with vulnerability and shame!
I decided to go to the mall and try on the new fashion, which for me means probably anything that’s popped up in the last 10 years. I was pretty sure i wouldn’t buy anything. But i had a day to myself and nothing to do, so off i went in my red Prius, music blaring, per usual.
H&M, forever 21, and Free People. I combed the racks and picked up items that made my eyes widen and my mouth go “ooo” in a bad way. Because today was about learning something.
In all honesty, I like fashion. It’s intrigues me. I admire people who are bold and self assured in what they wear. If there’s one thing i can get behind, it’s going against the grain, and fashion is a perfect way to do that.
Thank God for reminders from my sweet mom though….
Yet always and forever, the thing that holds me back is this shame i have around how my body looks.
“I look awful,” (as you can even hear me say in the video. Those scripts, still there.)
“It looks horrific on me.”
“What if people see that i have rolls?”
“I could never wear that!”
“What if people thought i was just trying to get attention?”
“No one will find me attractive in this.”
“I’m too fat.”
“I could never look as good as she does.”
And the list goes on and on. I’ve said things TO myself and ABOUT myself that I would DIE if i ever heard a friend say about herself. And let me point out that i had this exact script, used these same phrases, when i was “skinny.” My body hatred and shame has spanned all waist sizes, and i have a feeling that i’m not the only one with that story. 10 years ago, when i was first married, i was the skinniest and healthiest i’ve probably ever been (physically speaking, mentally i was a damn wreck). And i distinctly remember one time my husband put his arm around me as i lay on my side and he touched my stomach. I tried to suck in and hold it there but i was tired so i threw his hand off of me “because i just feel really fat and self conscious with your hand there.” My body shame kept me from enjoying a moment of connection and love. And that’s precisely what shame about does to us—it shuts us down, keeps us from connecting, blocks those feelings of love and belonging.
The fashion industry has long gotten flack for marketing to women who are not your ordinary women. Sizes and styles not made for women over a size 8. (The average woman is a size 12, and that might even be pushing it a little.) This past year i have done a lot of body work, meaning i’m learning to love my body right where it is. Not when i loose 20lbs, not when my stretch marks are less visible, not when my double chin disappears. Right now. Exactly how it is. I am beautiful, period. This is lifelong work. It’s really hard work that takes constant reminders and check-ins. I have found myself on the floor in front of my mirror crying because i decided that my worth was based on how my eyes perceived my body. Thank God i have surround myself with women who rarely, if ever, shame their bodies (at least out loud). There’s no room in my life for my disordered eating to return. None. I choose to love myself. Today. As is. No matter what the critics, and the commercials, and the latest dieting fads try to tell me.
Body love comes from within. It will not be found externally, and if it is, i assure you it will be temporary. I am not speaking as someone who has overcome all her body shame and now runs naked and free in wheat fields happily enjoying the feeling of a jiggling body swaying on the off beat. Nope! But i’m working on it.
Here are a few things that have helped me muster some body love.
1. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO SPEAK POSITIVE WORDS ABOUT THEIR BODIES (And about everything else, but thats another post for another day.)
If you surround yourself with people who shame their bodies—people who say things like “look at her, she’s so skinny,” or “I’m so fat,” people who are constantly talking about their new diet and how much weight they need to loose, people who think they’re not good enough right where they are—then can i suggest you start a movement among your friends to flip the script? Be a rebel. Speak body love and positivity, even if you don’t quite believe it yet. That’s the minimum requirement. But if you really want to up the body love game, get new friends!
2. ASSUME THE TRUTH
Assume that you’re beautiful. Because you are. Just wake up and go: “DAAAMMNNNN, i love how my hair gets all sexy when i sleep on it.” “Stretch marks = love.” Speak whatever love you want to speak to yourself and say it often!
Here’s what i do and it has done wonders for my confidence! I get up. I toss my hair around, or i shower and get ready. I look at myself and i think “You look really good today, Karly!” And then I assume that the rest of that day. I stay away from mirrors and scales. (I was a chronic mirror watcher. Every mirror i passed, i looked in to see how i was doing in the moment.)
So get ready (whatever routine makes you feel beautiful, even if that means staying in your pajamas), look at yourself one last time—and here you can take an index finger to your bum and let it sizzle there because DAMN! you’re hawt!—walk out of the room, and assume you look that good the rest of your day. Even when you go out for the day only to realize you’ve worn your shirt inside out the entire time (yup i just did that.) Rock what you got, girlfriend!
3. TELL SOMEONE
If you have a day or a week or a month thats been heavy laden with shitty feelings about who you are and how you look, tell someone. Brene Brown says that “shame loves to keep us quiet.” Tell a friend or friends that you’re struggling, and i bet that they’ll tell you how amazing you are inside and out and really truly mean it. Speaking shame takes away its power.
4. ASK YOURSELF
“What has hating my body ever done for me?” Really. What has it done? Has it gotten you the body you want? Has hating your body inspired you to do amazing things with it? Has hating your body allowed you to set the kind of example you want to set for your kids? Has hating your body made you look better in your clothes? Helped you shed pounds?
Has hating your body kept you from doing what you want, wearing what you like, and loving fully? Has it made you attempt a bunch of fad diets only to gain all of the weigh back because you couldn’t keep up? Has it made you hate all the skinny people? Has it kept you on the beach towel and out of the water where spectators might judge how you look in your bathing suit?
If you love and are proud of your body just how it is, and even how it is 20 lbs heavier than you’d like, then KUDOS! But if you’re struggling, or if any part of my story feels like yours, take heart. It’s never too late to love yourself.