author – activist – faculty – mom
Please don’t feel like a failure. It’s not you, it’s me.
Despite all of your hard work over the years, I still can’t seem to kick the habit of loving my body. I know I’m supposed to feel bad about myself because I’m kind of fat and out of shape, with the soft floppy tummy of a middle-aged woman who had a baby. I know that during my pregnancy I wasn’t supposed to put the baby’s well being before the maintenance of my pre-pregnancy figure. At least I should have had the decency to have a tummy tuck afterward, which I neglected to do (plus my homebirth midwife did not offer that service).
I want to apologize to all of the professionals in the beautification industry for failing you. I know you might feel like you failed, but I want to tell you, it’s not you, it’s me. You did everything you possibly could to make me feel bad about my body. You showed me images of young women, white women, thin women, women who had never had children, or who had children and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it look like they never had children, and you told me that I should look like them. You told me all day, every day, thousands of times a day, for decades and decades on end. And I want you know that you weren’t a complete failure. As a younger woman, I felt very bad about my body at times. In spite of the fact that it was, in large part, conforming to your beauty standards. Ironically, when I was the most conventionally attractive, I felt the worst about myself. And I also don’t want all the oppression professionals out there to feel like you failed, either. I found this society to be extremely oppressive. I felt oppressed every single day. And you can take pride in the legions of women who are anorexic, bulimic, doing cosmetic surgery, crash dieting. Let’s face it, you’ve got some big successes going out there.
But here’s my dirty little secret: In spite of all your hard work, I’ve had the revelation that the quality of my life wouldn’t actually be any better if I had the most conventionally attractive appearance. There’s nothing that I could change in my appearance today that would make me any happier. Not that I’m perfectly happy, but I’m clear that what’s lacking in my life has absolutely nothing to do with my appearance. And in that, I must admit, you have failed completely in your quest to tie my happiness in with my appearance.
And there are things about my body that I want to change. But unfortunately those desires have absolutely nothing to do with your work anymore. Healthy eating and exercise to live long and have a powerful body actually have nothing to do with appearance. They may, coincidentally, have an effect on my appearance, such as weight loss or gaining muscle tone. We won’t know for a while, because I’ll be pursuing them in a leisurely, sustainable manner. But if my body does eventually get leaner or more toned, and you want to take credit for that, feel free to accept it as a consolation prize.
I am clear that the quality of my life, the joy of my days, the pleasure of living would not actually be improved at all by any external change. I wouldn’t be a more successful artist, a better teacher, a more effective parent. I wouldn’t have a better marriage, a cleaner house, or more money in the bank. In fact all of these things are minimally affected by my body image, in spite of your extensive efforts to link them.
So we’ll just have to agree to disagree, but I do feel moved to acknowledge the many tireless decades of work that you’ve put in. I’m giving you an “A” for effort, and I’m definitely grading on a curve.
Fantastic! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am a very large sized woman who is extremely happy in her own skin. I’m not ugly (by any means), I dress nice & I’m clean. So tired of all the news & commercials about obesity & unhealthiness & do this or do that to stay in shape. Believe it or not, I am healthy! Had a recent physical & blood work-up. Everything is normal! My cholesterol was 160! So, take that all you flippin’ “health” nuts!
So with you on that one Janis. The only number too high on my chart at the doctor’s office is my weight. But, as she always tells me – as long as I am healthy and have no problems getting around in my daily life – don’t worry about it. If I lose any numbers off the weight – great, if not, that is fine, too. I love how she put it one day – the shape I am in does not reflect the shape I am in.
This is a spectacular bit of writing. I echo your sentiments and thank you for posting it.
HAHA! You are absolutely brilliant, I hope you know that!!
Beautiful beautiful beautiful. Thank you, you are beautiful.
Thank you for sharing this, I think it’s time women started loving themselves just as they are instead of allowing outside forces determine for them when it’s okay to begin loving themselves.
Reblogged this on CURVES à la mode and commented:
Love this post by Aya de Leon on loving yourself regardless of what the media and world throws at you.
YES!!! And thank you!!! : D
Wow I almost cried it’s powerful I mean go girl power
And in this way the truth is revealed. Thank you.
Mag-ni-fi-CENT!!!! I can’t wait to share this with my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop!!!
THANK YOU, Goddess. xox
This is wonderful. Thank you!
Sending to my daughter whom will send to all her friends and have it posted at the women center at her college. Lets get this message out far and wide. Thank you.
Thank you so much for this post.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. YOU ROCK!!!!
Spot on and bravo!
THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for this article. I am on a journey to loving my body, but not there yet. Your words are an inspiration to me, and show that the goal of truly loving myself, regardless of the mirror image, is possible.
Brava! Brava! You are our voice, you are the revolution, you are a most beautiful shaman for self love. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I couldn’t agree more! So proud to know this beautiful brilliant amazing woman. You go girl! xoxo
and well written
Awesome. Thank you for this essay.
life changing. amazing. thank you.
Thank you so much for this! It’s funny how I have also (finally!) come to this realisation. Maybe it’s turning 40; maybe it’s facing reality. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. It beats the way I thought about my body before.
I love you, your body, my body, and especially the truth and humor coming from the spirit housed in your body! Thank-you!
This is your the first piece of writing I have read. Thank you for your thoughts. How refreshing!
This is too fabulous for words. Thanks for sharing it. It’s WONDERFUL!
Epic! Brilliant! LOVE!
I SUPER love this. Awesome, awesome, awesome. I shared it on my facebook page This is not a diet-it’s your life
Great post. I totally agree with what you have said … even though I am a woman who is on a quest to lose weight … for health reasons. I wanna look good too, but loving ourselves as we are is super important–something I struggled with a LONG TIME. 😀
Thank you. I’m recovered from an eating disorder, and a self-named activist for positive body image, and I totally resonated with the following – “Ironically, when I was the most conventionally attractive, I felt the worst about myself.” That was totally me. What a witty way of calling out the media and giving voice to your own strength. Thank you!
Wooot Aya I love this! I’ll be linking over here because I just laughed all the way through! Beautifully said 🙂
Brilliant!!! I love it. Sharing. Thank you!
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I think you’re a beautiful woman, for what’s more beautiful in a woman than wit? 😀 I work in media, and it could do with some of your self confidence.
It is considered so because the bank doesn’t require any office work nor does he ask you about your credit score. You is able to see that they are one of the easiest and easiest loans you can take.
Wow, Sis, thank you! On behalf of women everywhere let me say that this is much needed and appreciated.
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