Saturday, January 13, 2024

Be Kind to my Body

My internal work for this first season lies in being kind to my body. 

I am a Gen X woman who grew up on the Seventeen Magazine/Barbie ideal. We were always compared to unattainable images spoon-fed to us in all avenues of television and movies. Before Social Media and cell phones were a thing, we had to go to the mall and make phone calls on pay phones to invite our friends to join us. While there, we were bombarded with capitalism-based advertisements designed to make us purchase new clothes, or makeup, or diet pills, preferably all three. It was madness, and we had no idea.

I have done loads of work in this area since I became an adult, but the negative self-talk is always there. Body image is the one thing I can't completely get over, the last great symbol of the damage of my youth. I have gone through many diet and exercise phases, given up and overindulged, and constantly battled with weight and self-acceptance. I don't come from a line of thin women, not on my father's side anyway, and unlike my sister, I have battled being overweight since I was in elementary school. And people are mean. 

People are mean, ads are designed to make you feel bad about yourself so you'll spend money, and I have adopted some coping mechanisms that aren't healthy. The biggest lesson I have learned in my head that needs to sink into my heart is the idea of internalized oppression. Internalized oppression is a term used most often in the psychology of marginalized peoples.  It is "a recognized understanding in which an oppressed group accepts the methods and incorporates the oppressive message of the oppressing group against their own best interest" (Wikipedia, of all places. Their entry is actually very good.). When people are targeted, discriminated against, or oppressed over a period of time, they often internalize (believe and make part of their self-image – their internal view of themselves) the myths and misinformation that society communicates to them about their group. People with disabilities might internalize the ideas that they are incapable of doing anything meaningful, that they are a burden to their families and to society, and that they’re worth less than people without a disability. People of color might internalize the myth that they are not good workers, that they are lazy/unintelligent, that they are worth less than anyone whose skin is lighter than their own, even within their own race. Women might internalize the stereotype that they are not good at math and science, that they must always defer to men and to women who are "better" than they are because of their appearance, or that they are worth less than women who meet more of the societal standards for beauty.  It is individual and completely lives within the mind as a silent voice of negativity upholding the stereotypes of our society.

My work this season, then, is to make good choices for the health and well-being of my body, to take care of myself in addition to others instead of ignoring my own needs, and to notice and break the cycle of negative self-talk that tells me I am less-than for whatever reason. While I am not perfect and I have many lessons left to learn, I am good enough as I am and worthy of love and kindness. I may not meet the societal standards for beauty in any real way, but I have people who love and accept me, just as I am. I will be kind to my body. My body is not an apology, and I am worthy of love--even from myself.

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