I don’t feel bad about my body

"Not feeling bad about my body is something I’ve never articulated because feels like such a defiance of convention."

"Not feeling bad about my body is something I’ve never articulated because feels like such a defiance of convention."

I don’t feel bad about my body, though heaven knows, I’ve tried.

I’ve found myself splitting a bottle of wine with friends who get on to the topic of how they’re trying to change or improve their figures; I’ve remained silent. I’ve pored over fashion spreads that purport to offer the right swimwear (or dress, or jeans) for my figure, provided I can categorise my figure by what is wrong with it, the way in which it is too much or too little; I’ve failed. I’ve pondered whether ill-fated romances fell apart because of something repellent about my physique; I’ve concluded that while there are many reasons someone might not want to date me, they’re all more compelling than my being too tall or too short or too hippy or too anything.

Not feeling bad about my body is something I’ve never articulated because feels like such a defiance of convention. An utter subversion, when in the cultural narratives most familiar to me are so often focused on the problems that women have with their bodies – and that the rest of the world has with women’s bodies. From the hundreds of daily articles in the tabloid press breaking them down into a collection of inadequate parts; to the products endlessly marketed to help us conceal and improve and reshape them; to the perfectly well-meaning people we all know, who greet a woman they haven’t seen in a while with, ‘Oh, you’ve lost weight!’ because they assume it must always feel like a compliment.

I don’t feel bad about my body not because it’s a particularly outstanding one. In fact, it’s fairly average, a sturdy UK size 12 topped with a kind of enormous head that I suppose should give me a complex. I don’t feel bad about my body because I made a conscious decision not to. In the late years of my teens, with friends and classmates in the evil clutches of eating disorders, I decided that this was one area of self-abuse in which I would no longer be a participant. I stopped weighing myself, because I knew that whatever the number on the scale, I would want it to be smaller. I stopped reading magazines that attempt to explain to me how to fix my body through fashion or exercise or diet. I did start doing more exercise, though – not to lose weight, but with the aim of feeling healthier and more at ease in the body that I had so that I would not be seduced by the prospect of longing for a different one.

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And for the most part, it worked: I am these legs and arms and back and bum and spleen, and I remain determined not to feel bad about any bit of it, even in spite of the plenty of things about my body that people have now and then pointed out to me as things that are wrong, because that’s just something that people feel they can do to women. The university boyfriend who told me that at first he didn’t think I had a pretty face, but that over time it had ‘grown’ on him. The lingerie saleswoman who screamed: ‘this is so weird!’ at the sight of my breasts, exposed for a bra fitting, because one is ever so slightly larger than the other.  The gym instructor I shocked at my induction session when I declined her offer to weigh and measure me, because I wanted to use the gym to maintain my fitness level but not to attempt to fix things about my body that I hated (and also because I am not competing to be a prize farm animal).

Regarding our bodies as flawed things that need to be fixed is pretty much the reverse of the truth, isn’t it? They are the only things in life that we really can’t get rid of. Which makes them all, in their way, intrinsically flawless. Instead of despairing that we’re not good enough to fit into clothes or work as supermodels and blaming ourselves for these shortcomings, we should be blaming the dresses for being badly cut and the aspirations for being unrealistic. We can wear a different T-shirt. We can celebrate different kinds of beauty. But we can’t get a new body, not really, no matter what the plastic surgery ads tell us.

And that’s why I think it is time to admit that I don’t feel bad about my body. And I hope that more women will admit it, too – to encourage an interrogation of why we’re made to feel that we should consider ourselves flawed, rather than continuing to analyse how we can mitigate the so-called flaws. To stop assuming that as women, it is natural to consider our bodies to be flawed; that we need to be fixed. That anything can make our bodies perfect except loving them ourselves. Unless someone can recommend a bikini that will make my giant head look smaller. In which case, of course, I’ll take six.

44 comments

  • I have always been that woman, never hated my body - although society has intended me too - size 18/20 and all that. My husband and I have always got a lot of pleasure from my body and I have three amazing children that grew in it.

    However, recently my husband has started an affair with a petite - Kylie Minogue sized blonde, and all the self love for my body evaporated in an instant.

    Now all I see is the flaws.

    Commenter
    Sidney
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 22, 2012, 8:57AM
    • Cheaters usually cheat because THEY are lacking something, not because their partner is.

      Don't allow his infidelity to lure you into the trap of hating your own body.

      Its the only one you're ever going to have and the best way to keep it amazing is to love it and respect it - which, from the sound of things, is what you had been doing until now.

      Commenter
      Adrian
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 9:23AM
    • Sidney, the problem is your (hopefully ex) husband, not you. Don't for a second think your body is "wrong" or "flawed." Some men just seem to have an inexplicable inability to keep it in their pants.

      Commenter
      Laurie
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 9:32AM
    • I bet you his body ain't anything special...and he is feeling so inadequate that he has no alternative but to go for a bimbo (who we have to feel sorry for too for getting sucked into this).

      I agree with Laurie. Hopefully he is your soon-to-be ex. Then he'll really be lacking something special.

      Commenter
      dangerdame
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 11:53AM
    • So wait, she is a petite blonde and is therefore a bimbo? Is this really the answer to issues of self esteem, to denigrate those that have what you profess not to want?

      And it's very presumptuous to assume that cheating is cause by a man having "an inability to keep it in his pants". It is a symptom of a faulty relationship and both parties will have had a role to play. People are people and sometimes they will be desperately unhappy and take whatever chance they can to seize what they think will make them happy. Yes as an act (the cheating) was bad (vs honest and open discussion and if necessary the end of the relationship), but discussions about who in a relationship committed the worst act are pointless and don't allow either party to properly understand the relationship, their (ex) partner and most importantly themselves. This in turn denies them the ability to see the opportunities in the crisis - a purging fire to make way for rewarding personal growth.

      I'm sorry to hear your story, Sidney. And the others are right, it isn't your body and happiness won't be achieved by trying to change it. But if you aren't happy then you do need to change something. Try lifestyle.

      Commenter
      Biggles
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 12:39PM
    • There's a lot more to cheating than someones looks.
      Get rid of him. Pamper yourself with a trip to the hairdresser, go walking, the gym etc and get fit, get on a mission with a reason to love yourself again.
      Lot's of us can get a bit too comfortable/complacent n a long term partnership. He no doubt has too, and went looking for adventure, sadly at your expense.
      Good luck with your new you and new life. He doesn't deserve you.

      Commenter
      Me
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 1:53PM
  • Thank you for such a refreshing article. There is no limit to the dissatisfaction that women are expected to feel about their bodies; and the many ways that women can improve their "flaws". Our bodies are all we have and they should be celebrated for allowing us to experience life. While dealing with an eating disorder a decade a go, I too stopped weighing myself and breaking that negative habit was life-changing, especially refusing to be weighed in at the gym as a "prize farm animal" to the horror of my trainer. I agree that the focus should be on pursuing health rather than pursuing a number such as clothing size or numbers on a scale. Well done on publishing a positive and psychologically healthy article.

    Commenter
    K
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 22, 2012, 9:25AM
    • @Biggles. Bimbo if she is aware that he is cheating on his wife.

      Commenter
      dangerdame
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 6:05PM
  • Hooray! good to read your piece this morning....have been thinking for a while now that I was out of step because I don't hate my body/my parents/myself....maybe I'm not so much out of step, as ahead of the game? Buying out of the whole beauty myth we all perpetrate is the simplest most sensible act of personal freedom and responsibility a gal can attempt. What are we ladies- independent free thinkers or sheeple?!

    Commenter
    Fiona
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 22, 2012, 9:36AM
    • I wish I knew what it felt like to accept how you are. I hate my appearance, from top to bottom. I am always dieting, I am constantly starving in order to lose the next 5 kgs. I am always on the lookout for products/clothes/treatments that will improve my appearance and body. I am never satisfied and when I look in the mirror, I feel repulsed. I wish I could just be able to accept myself - I would not know where to start!

      Commenter
      dianav
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 10:05AM

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