This photo was shared on Instagram. Meeting a friend for lunch, she commented she’d seen it, something innocuous like “I thought I spotted you on the UFit post today.” My mind immediately jumped to ‘oh no, I hope I looked OK. I hope I wasn’t in the foreground.’ I hurriedly jumped onto Instagram to survey the post. “That’s you, front and centre isn’t it?” enquired my well-meaning friend. “Umm, yes, it is. Look at the size of my hips and thighs!” was my horrified reply. “Oh, I was thinking you looked really good,” she said quietly. The conversation soon moved on to other matters – a new puppy, teenage sons, ageing parents. Interestingly, when I texted seeking my trainer’s permission to use his photo and mentioned the topic, he replied, “I looked at your posture today when you happened to be doing one arm rows and thought, ‘Anna’s back looks the strongest it’s looked,’ actually.” All three of us saw the same body on the same day, yet I was the only one with negative thoughts or comments. Why was this?
What reason do I have to body-shame myself? Indeed, what right do I have? God has blessed me with this amazing body and it’s served me well in various shapes and sizes for almost half a century. This body is strong, both mentally and physically. It has carried and birthed two big, strong, healthy babies. It has climbed Borneo’s Mt Kinabalu, walked Peru’s Inca Trail and Papua New Guinea’s Kokoda Track. Those big hips and thighs have done a great job in all those situations and countless others. They continue to carry me through life. This body is healthy; my doctor often tells me I’m a ‘very fit, healthy lady’. Blood pressure, cholesterol and other counts are, apparently, ‘perfect’. My healthy body is even able to help others by donating plasma monthly. (No whole blood until I stop visiting malaria-ridden travel destinations.) I have known others who haven’t had the blessing of even reaching my age or who struggle daily with serious medical issues. I should be grateful for and proud of this strong, healthy body, rather than ashamed of it.
I’ve come a long way with my body image and accepting the body I have. This has taken many years and is a blessing many women in our forties experience, finally accepting and being happy with who we are. Or maybe we just don’t care what others think anymore. Today, as I completed a recovery walk as part of a gym session, I thought to myself how comfortable my new tights were, how I was embracing my curves and too bad if anyone thought that was a bad idea. Just hours later, I came crashing down to experience a body-shame relapse over a photo of me I those very same tights. Clearly I still have a long way to go before I truly accept and embrace my body.
What is it with that?! Why can’t I get my act together and be proud of my body for how it looks and what it is capable of? I know I’m not alone in this and I even have some absolutely stunning friends who struggle with it just as much as I do. I could blame the media. Yes, they are guilty of propagating an unrealistic image of women’s bodies – nipped, tucked, adjusted and augmented until the original is almost unrecognisable, either surgically or with the swipe of a computer mouse. I could blame society as a whole, where young, slim, attractive women get better service than older, larger, more average-looking ones. (Sadly, I encountered this exact situation today, but that is a story for another time.) However, I’m not one for passing the blame or making excuses. I’m willing to take full responsibility for my thoughts and actions.
The blame lies with myself and with every one of us who allows our bodies to be shamed.
What if, just for one day, we could be proud of our bodies? What if, just for one day, we could be proud of what they can do and what they allow us to achieve? Or, an even more shocking thought, what if just for one day, we could appreciate and actually like or even love how our bodies look?
What if that one day stretched out indefinitely and we didn’t allow ourselves to be body shamed any more?
I commit to strive to put a stop to my own body shaming and to look for my body positives every day. If I can do this for others, why not for myself? We owe it to ourselves, our daughters (and all girls we are role models for) to stamp out body shaming.
It starts with the individual – it starts with you.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ghandi
Photo credit: Ryan O’Neal.