What follows is a rant about body image and my ways of dealing with it.
I'm 27 years old and I've kept a personal diary since I was 13. I tend to burn the note books I use as I finish writing them. However, this last diary has lasted me since spring 2008 depending on the fact that I haven't written as regularly as I might have needed to for my own sanity's sake. It's been a tool to sort out and get rid of bad feelings that would otherwise fester and turn into even bigger monsters than they already are to begin with.
Sometimes I decide, against my better judgement, to leaf through this diary just to see what's happened in my life. I mean, it is over seven years of my life compressed into text and ticket stubs, including the time I spent studying in Belfast. Not much has happened as it turns out, apparently I'm not that adventurous, but something radical may have happened to my self image.
When I've written anything about my body or my looks I have always used the word "disgusting" or a variation thereof. Always, without exceptions. That word seems to have been synonymous with my body throughout many years of my life, but I am so SICK and tired of disliking myself based on societal norms that I have internalised over years and years of being exposed to all the wrong media. About four years ago I started following a massive amount of body-positive blogs on Tumblr and actively tried to see the beauty in people's differences. Fuck body-hate and all of that. Like, if this person on my screen can look this fucking beautiful and confident and amazing then why can't I with all of my similar imperfections? It's sunken in slowly and gradually. It's taken years. At first I was furious because I was absolutely certain that I couldn't possibly be as beautiful and feel as good (or even deserved it) as these perfect people I came across every day on my Tumblr dash. It was only recently that I accepted that I will never be really skinny or, seeing as I'm a tall person, even close to petite (which is the only way I've been told one can be beautiful) and that I would probably rather look like She-Hulk than Angelina Jolie. AND THAT'S OKAY because not everybody does or can and what the hell, I will never look like She-Hulk either, who am I kidding but that's ok too. I'm me and I'm fucking awesome.
Strangely enough, getting tattooed was one of those things that really helped me feeling more beautiful. I've covered pieces of me that I didn't appreciate (my legs have always bothered me, especially my thighs) with artwork and now I can't wait for summer so I can show them off without further excuse. Who gives a shit about stretch marks and cellulite when there's gorgeous art attached to the same piece of skin?
Other things that pushed me to see myself in a different light include getting full length mirrors and taking a ton of selfies. Yes, selfies. It works for me.
It's a slooooooow and constant process but it gladdens me that I don't use that word about myself as much anymore, but that's much because I've gone from talking about my "disgusting" body and how much I resent it to not mentioning it much at all. My body is there, it exists, but it doesn't bother me in the same way anymore. My body is not the most important thing about me. I have good days and I have bad days, obviously, but I am getting closer to a point where I can accept my body and use it for all the good it can do me. The point is that there's less anxiety surrounding it now and for once I actually feel like I have some sort of control over it. Autonomy. Freedom to do as I wish with it; be it dying my hair green, going to the gym (or not), wearing certain types of clothes (or none at all), eating food ("good" and "bad") or sticking jewellery in my nose (or other parts of my body). That's my choice and I've been too preoccupied with what other people might think of it to consider how it might make me feel.
I'm surrounded by good people these days. Good feminist people that will not take any bullshit from anyone. That helps, A LOT. Reading feminist body-positive texts about how I am beautiful independently of other people's opinions is also good because I feel like I really need that reminder whenever possible. I am allowed to love myself no matter what other people might think.
I must refuse to be the product of somebody elses desire but my own.
This has been a rant.
Over and out.