Wellness Wednesday #17: Visibility (part 2)

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Last week, I talked about becoming size-aware. That size awareness kept me in a place of hiding for most of my life. I dressed to be invisible, in larger sizes to hide my body. I’ve talked about this before. However, a funny thing has happened to me on the way to getting healthy.

collage3Then: Two years ago, I nervously walked into a Victoria’s Secrets. I’d received a gift-card nearly a year before, when I’d hit my goal of losing 100 lbs, but I’d been too self-conscious to use it. I finally had the courage to spend it because, in a month, I’d undergo abdominal surgery, and I thought – literally – that soon I’d finally “be able to” wear cute clothes. Sigh.

Rare have been the moments in my life where I thought I could wear cute clothes. Before abdominal surgery, it had been since early college that I’d last felt that way (left). Even then, it was a short-lived thing, a year and a half or so. Only once I was at a healthy weight and I underwent reparative body surgery did I feel comfortable in cute/fun clothes again.

Now: So you’d think, with all my life-long self-consciousness, that I’d stop wearing cute clothes while/after regaining 50 lbs. Except I didn’t and haven’t. I kept shopping at VS for underclothes. I started playing with patterns and leggings and clothes that made me feel good even at larger weights (below). I kept taking silly selfies and photos with family and friends. And while I still feel size-anxious from time to time, I’ve also spent a lot of time not giving a flying f–k what anyone thinks about how I look.

09 LunaWhen I went to Dallas on vacation last month, none of my friends cared how big I was. I doubt anyone even noticed. I certainly didn’t. Not once on vacation did I think about my size or hide from pictures or worry that my friends – or strangers – were judging me. I was having too much fun to think about any of that! A few weeks later, I was at the zoo with family, wearing a completely pattern-clashing hoodie, skirt, and leggings. I saw one stranger visibly look me up and down, and knew they were looking at my outfit, not my size. And you know what? I wasn’t in the least bit self-conscious about it.

dressI may not be 100% perfect, but I’m getting better at being visible, and at not letting the world’s opinions affect me. I’m learning confidence and body positivity. Recently, I came across a quote from a book I plan to read in 2016 (Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls): “Our bodies are installation art that we curate publicly.” And a similar quote from one of my own novels: “You’ve turned your skin into a canvas. Made yourself into a work of art.” I love this concept, and am trying to internalize it. As the creator, I can make this piece of art anything I want it to be, and never mind that the world will always be divided – as it invariably is – on whether or not it’s “good.”

True Confessions
I used to compare my body all the time to former selves, to friends, to strangers. “I think I’m about the same size as that person.” “I’m the biggest/smallest person in this room.” Etc. This was terrible, because it meant that I was continuously reinforcing size hyper-awareness, and it led to judgy thoughts (toward myself and toward others). Like in that quote from Zoe Heller’s The Believers: “Years of attending to her own physical failings had made her, if anything, more closely attuned to the nuances of bodily imperfections than most.” Exactly! Worse still, it led to judgy thoughts that were cloaked in impassive, clinical observations, so that they didn’t seem judgy, just factual.

I am happy to say that I’ve mostly trained myself out of this habit by now. As I’ve focused less on my body, I’ve focused less on others’, and vice versa. I’m less judgy of everyone, including myself, thanks to trying to break this habit. I’ve also freed up a lot of mental energy, giving me room to notice more important things, like a person’s style or laugh or kindness or quirks.

*****
Dear younger Manda,

11 zoo selfie collageThere are some people in this world who will judge you on size, shape, beauty, whatever…no matter what you look like, or what you wear, or what you do. Most people, however, pay far more attention to how you behave. If you’re laughing and smiling and playing around, that’s what they’ll see, far more than your size. Remember that quote from The Bell Jar about how if you do something incorrect or strange, but do it in a confident manner, people will think you’re witty and original, not incorrect or strange. It’s true. And really, it’s kinda more fun to take silly, ridiculous selfies and to wear bizarre combinations of patterns than to try to fit into the norm. Forget everyone else, and not only will their judgments cease to matter, but they’ll mostly cease to come your way at all.

Love, modern-day Manda

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About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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4 Responses to Wellness Wednesday #17: Visibility (part 2)

  1. Michelle says:

    Oh! Epiphany time for me after reading this! I used to not be aware of my size in comparison to everyone else, and then Holly started dancing. I look at the teenage girls with envy but with the realization that those days are long past me. I have had two kids and experiences those girls have not had yet. What gets me in trouble are the other mothers. Most probably don’t care, but I cannot help myself from comparing me to them and finding fault in everything. My skin, my clothes, my hair, my nails, my body size. It has been probably the biggest factor to me not only gaining weight but becoming miserable about it. Somehow, I am going to have to figure this out because Holly is not going to stop dancing any time soon, and I will be around these other women for years to come.

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    • Amanda says:

      Two things struck me while reading this. The first is of course that it’s especially hard because you don’t want your daughter to take on your own issues with body image. I don’t have any girls, but my boys already struggle with this to a certain degree despite how I’ve tried to hide it from them. I know one of the big reasons for my struggle was my mom’s issues. That’s a big thing that Brittany Gibbons discusses in Fat Girl Walking. The second was that difference between teenager and woman. The media standard is a teenage body, but so many changes happen in the 20s, and what’s “thin” is difference after your pelvis and shoulders finish developing! I read a study a few years ago that for women who have had children, they are actually generally HEALTHIER at a BMI that’s slightly overweight. Their blood stats are generally healthier. Strange, huh? The other day, I watched Freaky Friday with my youngest, and seeing teenage Lindsay Lohan (and the other teens) next to adult Jamie Lee Curtis (who I adore), I see how they both look normal for their ages, and good for their ages, and I see how I dont’ want to be like Lohan or the teen bodies, despite what media tells me. I want to be like Curtis.

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      • Michelle says:

        In my heart of hearts and even in my head, I know that being envious of younger girls’ body types is ridiculous and something I really do not want. And yet, there is a part of me that looks at that and is simply envious. Perhaps because I had looked like that years ago and it is a reminder of what I used to look like? I’m not really certain.

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      • Amanda says:

        I know, I know, I do the exact same thing. I have to keep reminding myself that there’s a huge difference. We talk to kids so much about the changes they’ll go through in puberty, but then no one educates any of us on the various changes that’ll happen to our bodies throughout different phases of life. Except pregnancy. I keep looking at pictures of myself at 18 or 19 and thinking I should be able to get back there.

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