There must be very few people in the world who look at their bodies and are completely happy with what they see. I certainly wish I were one of them, but that most certainly isn’t the case: I have intimate knowledge of all my imperfections and therefore find them difficult to ignore. In fact, I have spent a large part of my life trying to hide these imperfections because compared to other bodies that I see, my body is far from perfect. That being said, I find myself most often comparing myself to the “ideal” bodies of models and actresses that undress for the camera as these are the undressed bodies I most regularly encounter. And comparing myself to the “ideal” (aka: nipped and tucked, and photoshopped) bodies I see in the media simply isn’t fair.
Many of us regularly see our spouses in a state of undress, and friends and family less. Some of us may occasionally see people undressed at the gym. But in most of these cases, we aren’t taking a long hard look at other bodies: we are changing, using the loo, having sex, etc. It isn’t an inspection. The only time we are really free to study another person’s body is when we see it in a picture, and 99% of the pictures we see of naked or semi-naked bodies are staged, photoshopped pictures of unnaturally beautiful bodies. Good or bad, loads of people are attracted to these photoshopped bodies, and advertisers use this to their advantage. Because of this, it is unlikely that the use of “perfect” models will ever stop.
It can all feel so hopeless, but there is something that can be done: we can help normalise non-model, un-photoshopped bodies by encountering and seeing these kinds of bodies. Not bodies in a Dove commercial that have still been photoshopped, but real bodies. Bodies that have had babies and bodies that have had accidents, and bodies that were never “normal” to begin with. Bodies with scars, and stretch marks, and birth defects, and birth marks, and lots of hair. Bodies that have lumps and mismatched boobs, and small penises, and inverted nipples, and spots, and scabs, and wonky toes, and rashes, and bulging veins, and double chins, and discolouration, and bodies with invisible emotional scars. Bodies that have survived molestation and rape. Bodies that have survived drugs and alcohol. Bodies that are the wrong sex. Bodies that have survived being beaten and put down, and made fun of. Bodies that have been abandoned. Bodies that are unloved.
Surely we can all relate to something in there? I certainly can. And though I admit it has taken me longer than I wish it had, I have only recently gotten more comfortable sharing my body. A few months ago (completely spur of the moment) I posted a picture of myself in a two piece bathing suit while on holiday in Spain. This wouldn’t have been a big deal if it hadn’t included a clear shot of the stretch marks I have all over my belly. And you know what? I didn’t get one single negative comment. I did, however, get over a thousand likes on that photo (I usually get around 200) and over 100 supportive comments. Can you guess why? BECAUSE NO ONE CARED ABOUT MY STRETCH MARKS. It was only me all along.
But it isn’t just the stretch marks, before babies, I used to be mortified that someone might notice that one of my boobs is bigger than the other. MORTIFIED. But in reality, no boys ever seemed to care or even notice, and my husband has convinced me that it is a non-issue. Where I saw shame and ugliness, he only saw boobs. Now that I have stretch marks, and wobbly bits, and all sorts of other fun stuff, the mismatched boobs became less important. And as I get more wrinkles, and spider veins, and achy knees, my stretch marks are becoming less important. At this rate, by the time I have white hair and a colostomy bag, I won’t give a damn at all what my body looks like! But it seems a shame to wait until the end of my life to finally be at peace with my body.
While I wish I could wrap this up by saying that I won’t care what I look like from here on out, that would be a complete and utter lie. It feels good to look good. But I will be doing my part by sharing in Clemmie’s (@mother_of_daughters) #bodypositive campaign on Instagram and joining Natalie (@stylemesunday) in her #warriorwomanproject3 on June 16th. These women (among plenty of others!) are doing great work to normalise bodies. Don’t feel like you can’t participate if you don’t want to share a photo, it isn’t for everyone. Supporting and encouraging the women (and men) who are sharing is also an essential part of this movement.
Would you share, or have you shared a #bodypositive picture on social media? What are your reasons for posting or not posting? (If you have posted, feel free to drop the link below so we can go give you some love!)