I discovered this cooperative art project while I was browsing around the Tumblr page for Wil Wheaton. Its a body project kind of idea. Exploring how we as women feel in different ways about our bodies really isn't something super new, but I think the collaborative idea of it really draws me in. Something I have been more perceptive of lately is discovering just how many other people can share a similar experience you have had. Its not until you finally open your mouth to talk to someone about something personal do you realize just how many people you know have experienced something similar. Its such a relief when you realize other people just like you have an idea of exactly how you feel. It might not change your situation, but it sure as hell takes the weight of feeling alienated off your shoulders.
Back to the project. Its a project about how often at some point in time every one of us (this project is more women centered) struggles with some sort of body image, eating disorder, or self esteem problem. It seems like its the kind of thing we all know other people struggle with, but until you get down to the nitty gritty and REALLY hash it out with someone, it always feels like your floating in your own little corner of self hatred hell. I have known people with serious eating disorders and self destructive habits and I am very grateful I managed to avoid them. The body image problems though I can certainly relate too.
I've always been on the short side and I've never been very thin (although looking back at pictures I was much thinner then I remember, but I guess thats part of the image problem). Those of you for a long time have known I have always struggled to just accept who I am and how I look. The only way I can describe the feeling is that you are never "right" or you never look "how you should". Its a constant, ongoing thought that invades your day, your mind when your trying to sleep, your dreams. It rattles around in your head constantly and you don't know what to make of it. Constantly telling yourself you need to do better, bet better, diet more, exercise more, look more like this person or that person. Once this is done then you think you will finally be successful and feel "right". Of course you have set yourself up some almost impossible goals and for all the wrong reasons.
It's only recently have I discovered that myself and other people I know (friends for example) have begun to discuss these ideas in a more distinct manner. Maybe distinct isn't the right word. In a way I guess its almost a discussion in a more abstract manner. Gone are the middle school days of just complaining about being fat, or that your legs touch, or your arms jiggle. Now we have moved on to being able to discuss more of the inner feeling of the beast, and being able to connect WHY this makes us feel the way it does. It sure doesn't make the emotional train wreak days go away, but it does seem to help make them less frequent.
You become more confidant in who you are, not just the body you inhabit. You learn to be gracious when people tell you to "not worry because your beautiful" where as before this would just make your mind yell "LIAR!". You start to pin point specific things in your life that may have triggered these feelings other then just stars on TV or in a magazine. Times like when you were young (maybe 1st grade) and the ballet teacher told you to "suck in your fat". Not you specifically and it was a school that hoped everyone would go on to be a real ballerina, but still it stayed in your mind. Or how about the time when someone (probably a boy) made a comment about your "fat hips" or "jiggly arms" or how "you were just so short". You noticed that no boy ever told you that you looked pretty. They hurt, you brush them off since you know most of the time they weren't meant to be mean, but it made you realize you were not like the popular star, or the popular girls. You were just you, and suddenly that wasn't ok anymore.
I won't lie, this was and is absolutely me (if there was any question). No amount of people telling me I looked fine would ever sway my mind. No amount of feel good text set on some flowery image would change my mind. I always felt like an ogre stuck in a body. Then I realized women (and girls) of all shapes and sizes, who were all beautiful, unique, wonderful people who I looked up too, had similar feelings. Some more then others. Even some of my closest friends had these feelings, we had just never been able to articulate them in a way to make us really know that we all felt kind of the same way.
I had to buy jeans the other day and if you know me this is a once every few years torturous affair that ALWAYS ends in tears. Once again it ended with me sobbing in a dressing room after trying on about 25 pairs of pants none of which fit. Not even close. That feeling creeps in that you must be a freak because you can't even buy a pair of jeans. You fear it will be sweat pants and elastic waistbands forever. You pick yourself off the floor and head home defeated. You go to sleep vowing to diet more, exercise more, and of course not to just be healthier but for all the wrong reasons.
After this whole ordeal I got some great feed back about where else to look for jeans which was encouraging. Once again I found that I wasn't the only one who really struggled. Its just nice to know you aren't alone. Its just a feeling, no matter how many times you tell yourself how cool you are, how many skills you have, what you are good at, its how you look that seems to overtake everything else. Its all you can focus on.
Recently I have become a more confidant person. I feel better about who I am, the way I look, liking myself for just being me. I have a wonderful group of people who surround me in amazing things every day. I am so eternally grateful to the part every single one of them plays in my life. They bring me little bits of confidance and willpower if they know it or not. They will listen and not judge, offer advice if needed, or just help me take my mind off of things. So I have learned to take a deep breath and learn to relax a little. Tell yourself things you know you are good at, try to push the negative thought just out of your mind and replace it with something else.
Now that my long winded rambling is done we will return to our regular blogging. If there is only one thing you take away from this its to be mindful to tell those people you care about that they are a beautiful person. Tell them often. Be specific, be vague, talk about their skills, talk about how much you love their eyelashes. I don't care! Connect with them, love the people in your life, boost each other up, and keep walking the path.