Operation Rad Bod has been kicking my butt this week. For some reason, I’ve been really struggling with thoughts that I am not the right size, that I am taking up too much space in the world. I find the Olympics incredibly inspiring — the stories of victory as well as watching how champions handle inevitable defeat and disappointment. However, I think two weeks of watching perfectly chiseled bodies has chipped away at my newly found sense that my body is awesome, just the way it is.
I keep noticing scales in people’s bathrooms, and feeling the temptation to step on them and see what number will arise. But really, I have been basically the same weight range for 4 or so years, barring the 9 months of pregnancy. What would a couple of ticks up or down on the scale really tell me about myself? Would it tell me how I’m doing in my life, if I’m succeeding or failing? Would it inform me that I was a “good enough” woman, mother, member of society? Nope.
I am realizing that whether we intend to or not, we use the scale as a measure of self worth, because there is no real way to tell if you are a worthy person. You can’t get that feedback from others — their perspectives are way too jangled up with projections and needs. You can’t let the culture at large tell you, because everyone knows the messages you’ll get there are a freaking disaster of cookie-cutter forms you’re supposed to mold yourself into, no matter how much of you gets pushed out the sides.
So, how do you measure your self worth? You can step up on the scale and let that number be your focus, or strive to wear a particular size or look a certain way in photographs. Or, you could use all that energy and gusto towards working on your soul. I truly believe that self worth will never be measured up on a scale — it has to come from within. But your self can be a scary place to be, if you are not practiced in hanging out there, alone and with a good flashlight.
I have been trying this summer, as gently as possible, to redirect my attention from my weight to my soul, as often as I need to. What this looks like is: a) I have a negative thought about my body b) I feel bad about having that negative thought about my body (come on! this is supposed to be Operation Rad Bod!) c) I try to accept the thought rather than fight it d) I replace it with a question: How are you doing, Rhea? What is causing you to get down on your corporeal being? What’s really bothering you?
Usually I am able to find the source of the insecurity that led me to gnash at my image of myself. I take a deep breath. If I have the time, I look to my inspirational sources to give me a jolt of the “You are ENOUGH” message we all need so dearly. As a mama reminded a mama-to-be at the baby shower I attended this weekend, “You can do anything for 2 minutes”, and two minutes is usually all it takes to get me out of the pattern of self-hatred, and redirected into one of acceptance. It may only last for another two minutes before I have to do it again, but constant practice in self-acceptance is so much better than giving in to the spiral of self-destructive “I should be different” thinking.
Everyone agrees that children should be encouraged, but it is harder to get folks interested in giving positive messages to adults. It seems silly, like we shouldn’t need to be told we are awesome, that it’s self-centered to work towards a positive self-image, or something we should have figured out long ago. It seems like every other book I read to my almost-two-year-old is about how she should feel so very awesome about being herself. Be you! You’re amazing! You’re great just as you are, big nose, stinky feet and all! You just go on being yourself and the world will fall at your feet, doors will open automatically for you, and you will know the secrets of the universe! And literature goes on like this, throughout childhood, with titles such as It’s OK To Be Different, I Like Myself, and What I Like About Me. Modern children are told, over and over, that if they celebrate their own damn selves, they’ll be doing okay.
I love these kinds of books, and I read them aloud to smiling mamas and nannies at the story/song/dance times I run at Dolores Park and at Rare Device, and sometimes I think to myself, “Will it really be okay with you? When your kid turns out to be transgendered, wants to be a dancer instead of a doctor, or unpopular in school? Will it be okay with me, if my child becomes a Bible-thumping Republican, joins the army, or eschews all artistic expression as ‘lame sauce’?” If I want to be accepting of my child, I need to be accepting of myself. Children are notorious for sniffing out inauthenticity, and a parent who says, “You are beautiful just as you are, honey”, but is desperately trying to change their own visage or is really down on themselves in other ways will make their child unsure of their credibility.
The reason I am doubting our collective exhortation to “be as you as you can be!” is that once you’re an adult, if you’re out there being you all over the place, the world is going to serve you up a nice steaming plate of “sit-down-shut-up-there-are-no-unicorns”. In fact, there’s a cynical part of me that thinks the titles of these books should be: “Be different! Be you! Until You Reach Adulthood, and then Be Like Everybody Else for Frick’s Sake, You Stupid Show-off.”
But of course that wouldn’t help. What we need instead are more messages to adults that it’s okay to be who they are, so if they really believe it and live it out, their children will, as well. This summer, the area I’ve focused on has been accepting my body, but there are many other areas of my life that could benefit from this loving attention.
A friend who has been away all summer came home yesterday, and was so glad that she could actually see my body in the outfit I was wearing! So, that was a sweet reminder that even if I don’t feel like I am doing it “perfectly”, I am still making strides in Operation Rad Bod. I think what would be helpful, in making this process less laborious and constant, was to hear more from other people who are trying to love their bodies as they are as well. So, tell me, how are you loving your body lately? What do you love about it? What are you working to accept about yourself? And, most importantly, where do you find your self worth?