On Bad Body Image, The Brain Washing That Brought Me Here & Why I Need To Start Dealing Already

For starters, kittens, I consider myself a pretty confident broad. Over-all, I love myself. I know who I am, what I want and I surround myself with people who treat me the way I deserve to be treated. I know my value and no one can take that away from me. But……

Like most women, I can admit that I am seriously fucked up about my own body. My head has become very muddled on the whole subject, my thoughts conflict each other. I’m usually decently proud of my body, and always feel that way at burlesque shows. And maybe that’s why I’m feeling this so intensely, I haven’t performed in about a month.

This post is going to be therapeutic, I’m figuring out my feelings as I write them down. I’m trying to figure this shit out, I’m tired of hanging onto it.

This is something I’ve been struggling with lately.

Oh my god, what am I talking about? This is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. It’s just been right in my face lately.

I remember being about 7 years old and refusing to wear sweatpants because I thought they made my legs look fat. At 7 years old. What the hell?

I’m not one to blame my parents. It’s not blame, per se, but just like anyone my parents input and actions certainly had a huge affect on me. And a lot of this I’ve only come to realize in the past few years. I just thought it was me, I never thought about why I felt this way about myself.

My mom was a dance teacher. So, I was raised by someone who was very body-concious. When we moved up to Northern California and she became a High School PE teacher,  (she still led the dance team but could not be as active due to multiple knee and foot surgeries), she was on a constant diet. It was always this battle. She’s 5’2″ so any extra poundage seemed to be immediately noticeable and cause for immediate action.

As a PE teacher, about once a year she would get out her little machine and test her students BMI (Body Mass Index). Guess who she would test it on every year? Yup. I got to hear how much of me was fat, bone, muscle and tissue. And how much I should weigh for my age/height….and how far from that I was. I was never where I was “supposed” to be. And I guess that’s always stuck with me.

I remember being given protein shakes for breakfast around the age of 10. And I know that my mom genuinely meant well, she just wanted me to be healthy. But she didn’t realize what affect this would have on my young mind and self esteem.

My father retired from being a fire fighter when I was about 11 or so. After a quadruple bypass, the constant smoke inhalation was clearly a no-go. He was a stay-at-home-dad for a few years and still cooked like he was still feeding the entire fire station. He was also a “clean-your-plate-that’s-perfectly-good-food” dad. To this day, I have shame when I don’t clean my plate. I will keep eating until everything is gone, despite how full and sick I feel. Without even thinking about it. Unfortunately, this time coincided with my pre-pubescent and pubescent years. Awkward Weight Gain Engage! Plus I had a Dorothy Hamill bowl cut. *Cringe*

The bottom line of what I believe: Body Shaming is wrong. For everyone ever. And for some reason, I cannot extend this compassion to myself. What the eff, Whendy?

As I developed very quickly, and was very shy, my body was a constant conversation piece for my peers and my mother and her friends and any talk of it made me feel ashamed and sick to my stomach. In Junior High, my friends were all about 4’11”-5’1″ and still had pre-pubescent bodies. I was tall and had almost-C cups. I felt like a freak. That and my mothers input taught me that basically my body is wrong, not what it should be. Not like everyone else’s my age.

I consider myself a “Middle Sized” person. I’ve never been skinny or slender, not since childhood anyway, never had a flat stomach or muscle definition. And considering I shot up to 5’5″ in Junior High and then continued to 5’7″, I’ve never been what one would call dainty. But I’ve never been large enough to be in with the Big Beautiful Women. I don’t quite belong to either camp.

*I realize the problem with this statement. This isn’t a binary zone. There is more to the world than Skinny or Fat*

I started working in an office a year ago, outside of San Francisco. The time I spent walking to and from work is now spent sitting and commuting. I’ve gained 20 pounds and my energy is lagging. I feel it. I see it. I hate it. Before gaining this weight I already considered myself over-weight.

And I’ve had this moral conundrum for a while, and the next two things I’m going to say…I’m pretty ashamed to admit.

I feel that I would have more value as a woman if I was skinnier. But I feel as if I would have less legitimacy as a burlesque performer if I was skinnier.

The first statement is obviously ingrained in me from the media and all the other garbage I’ve been fed from a young age.

The second statement….well, let me first say that in NO way do I think skinnier/smaller burlesque performers are less legitimate. This is purely a statement based on my personal experience and how I feel about myself, no one else. Amazing performers come in all genders, shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.

But, what brought me to burlesque was the body positivity. I belonged somewhere! And I was celebrated for exactly what I was! I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had curvy gals and larger women come up to me and thank me for my performance, “It was so amazing to see someone with a body like mine celebrating it.” The fact that I was doing what I was doing with no apology made them feel better about themselves and encouraged them to like themselves just a little bit more. That’s a powerful thing and I’m grateful to be a part of that.

Honestly, becoming a burlesque performer gave me the permission to like myself more.

So when I say I feel that being smaller would make me less legitimate, what I really mean is that I would be losing the part that made it feel really rebellious, exciting and scary for a shy girl who always thought she had no business putting her body on display like it’s something to be proud of. The part that makes me feel like an activist. Being a sparkly naked lady already IS rebellious, but I’ve always felt it was on another level when you don’t have a “commercially-acceptible” body. So it’s like I’m scared of losing my effectiveness, if I was more slender. Not that that’s going to happen any time soon. But then to feel that way seems to say that more slender performers aren’t as effective, and I certainly don’t think that’s true. ARG jumbled thoughts!!

BBW Trigger Warning: I’m highly aware and sensitive to the fact that some things I may say might be offensive or triggering to women who have larger bodies than me. This is not my intent, I’m trying to approach this with as much respect and sensitivity as I can. I don’t ever want to be that smaller gal who whines,”Ugh, I’m so FAT.” in front of her larger friend. I don’t talk like that anyway, but I’m aware of that behavior in others and the way it can make others feel.

Sometimes I look in the mirror on a “bad” day and just feel disgusted with myself. I just look at myself and think “BARF”. And then sometimes I think, “Get it together, you’re not gross. You don’t have rolls really or a double chin that doesn’t go away when you stop looking down.” As if having negative feelings about oneself should only happen when you reach a certain weight. As if reaching a certain weight means you should look in the mirror and think “BARF”, as if that’s the way you should feel about having a larger body. WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF THINKING IS THAT??!!

And the converse side of this, is that I apparently feel that since I am not a certain size, I don’t have the right to be unhappy with my body. And the base issue with that, is that I am telling myself I don’t have the right to think or feel however the hell I want about my own body.

Yes, I have the right to think negatively about my body. What I’m debating today is should I? And, well, I know the answer.

Step One is to stop comparing my body to other bodies, as if some are Better or Worse. I know this thinking to be a big ol’ stinky pile of bullshit. I want to purge this type of thinking from myself immediately. Bodies aren’t good or bad. They just are. It is your story, your vehicle, it is YOURS. And the way it works and moves through the world is amazing

Earlier, when I said my thoughts conflicted, I was referring to some of this. I have so many amazing friends, many are burlesque performers, that are larger women. And I genuinely think they are powerful and beautiful and amazing and inspiring, and not just because of their body types clearly. They are all of these things without taking size into the equation. They are not these things DESPITE their body types.

What’s conflicting is that I feel this way about them, and cannot extend these feelings to myself.

When did I get so brainwashed and judgmental towards myself? Well, I guess it’s been part of me for about 20+ years. I’m only now beginning to see it for what it is. It is a self-worth issue. I can extend these thoughts of body positivity and support to other women but not myself because I believe I am not worthy of it. I am not skinny enough to be comfortable and “acceptable” to the masses and I am not large enough to be boldly proud of my body and sticking it to the Patriarchy by not hiding it.

So I’m saying I’m not skinny enough to be proud, and I’m not large enough to be proud? I am losing my damn mind.

And I clearly know and accept that ALL shapes battle with this. And that it is different for every person. God, I just want to hug everyone when I think of the similar feelings weighing on all our shoulders.

But, the truth of the matter is, just be being a woman and refusing to give up my autonomy; by being a burlesque performer; hell, just by being a woman and refusing to shut up, that IS standing up to the Patriarchy and status quo. Body mass doesn’t even have to be a part of the equation, although it is a powerful part when it is. I am not any more or less of these things because of my size.

And then I just get irritated with myself for spending so much time thinking about this. Quit being such a bitchface to yourself already, what a colossal waste of time! SAME TEAM, dude.

At the end of the day, I have an over-all healthy body. It’s strong and can carry heavy things, walk long distances, dance for hours. I have all my fingers and toes and things work the way they should. So be grateful, fool.

Step 2 is to change my relationship with food. I am a HUGE comfort and boredom eater. I give myself food as a treat. I give myself food when I am sad or stressed. I eat when I have nothing else to do. Which wouldn’t be such an issue if my metabolism could keep up, but frankly it’s a boring way to pass the time. I should teach myself to take comfort in other things. Take comfort in my ukelele. Take comfort in my hula hoop. Take comfort in a book.

Even just going over all this is exhausting. My own neuroses are tiring. But, just putting it out there feels good. Just to get it out of my head.

Step 3 is to dance more. Simple as that. I’ve been meaning to register for 2 dance classes, but haven’t made the time. And that’s a theme with me. Not making the time for myself. Not making the time to take care of myself, love myself, do what I need to to make myself feel better. I’m a dancers daughter, I took dance classes for about 13 years, why has it been so long? Plus, it gives me so much joy. So what am I doing here?

If I took the time to support myself and make myself feel better, not even from a weight-loss stand point,  I think my body issues wouldn’t feel so prevalent. That’s what it’s really about: feeling good.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. This was actually really difficult to write about. Maybe I’ve helped someone think about why they’re so hard on themselves. Please do. Examine where these ideas come from. Maybe then we can all learn something and get rid of harmful, useless thinking.

I was going to add pictures, but then I decided it would derail from what this is about. This actually ISN’T about what I look like on the outside. This is about what I feel like on the inside. And I’m ready now to do the work I need to do to change that.

And I mean really do the work. Not just in the way I present myself to others, but in the way I think about myself.

2 comments

  1. Mona Darling · September 11, 2013

    Great post! I think we all feel this way about our bodies, wether we admit it or not. We think we need to be taller, thinner, firmer, curvier … Then we would be happier with ourselves. I’ve also been trying to do your three step plan, although I hadn’t really put it into words. Just working to make myself feel healthy – at whatever shape or size I am.

  2. Red D · September 23, 2013

    Thank You Whendy! This is a wonderful post.
    I have been feeling very much the same about myself lately.
    STRUGGLING to be fine w/the body I have & it has been really difficult.
    Un-intentionally ( I hope ) my Mum also passed on her weight issues to me. I think I went on my 1st diet when I was 7!!!
    It has been a major focal point of my life for waaaaayyy to many years.
    I recently threw my scale in the trash as I am sick & tired of the dysfunctional relationship I have had w/it for so many years.
    I agree whole-heartedly that is it time to find a new way to look at myself.
    Smooches to you!

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