Bear with me, as this will be a long road…
I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite, albeit chilling, movies, Silence of the Lambs. In it, the villain, James Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill, battles with the issue of seeing himself differently than the rest of the world does. He spends the majority of the movie stalking and killing overweight women in the attempts to make his one “woman suit.” He did this to change his outward appearance to align with how he saw himself internally. The point I am making is that most of us feel uncomfortable in our own skins, at some point. We spend our lives trying to change it in varying ways, good and bad. Society perpetuates the myth of what a person should look, feel, or be and then turns around and tells us that we should comfortable with who and what we are.
This is a hard post to write, how can I sit here and tell you to be positive about yourself when I, myself, and not very positive about my body. I do feel that every soul is beautiful in it’s own way and that each body is beautiful. That is great and all, but that doesn’t speak to those that feel as if they were born in the wrong body. It wouldn’t be fair of me to speak about the transgender issues of it, not being transgender. So, primarily I will be focusing about body issues We have seen an increase in body positivity promotion for women, more plus sized models are entering the industry. Clothing lines are realizing that women of all sizes buy their merchandise. These are all good step, even if they are small steps. Body positivity with men has also started being pushed forward. I can say that I feel this is sometimes underserved, but often times media focusing on men first.
Being a larger gay male, I am reminded daily how body image is thrust into our faces. The ideal gay male is perceived as lean to muscular, young, fair-haired, perfect teeth, abs for the gods, and cake for days. Realistically, that is probably closer to 1% of the gay male population. Most days I wake up with an ok feeling about my body even able to lapse into a few moments of not feeling repulsive. I also am somewhat of an opportunistic nudist, what that means is few people know that side of me and I only take advantage of it when I know that no one is around or possibly would drop in on me. Recently, on a hot, humid summer day, I sent the better art of the day sans clothing. I have to admit; it is always a bit freeing when you can remove the restricted confines of clothing. I went about my cleaning chores, listening to music, and even lounging watching TV and just enjoying not wearing clothes.
That was all fine and great until I happen to be in the bathroom sweeping and catch a side glance in the mirror of myself. Then my mind starts working and all I see is the negatives. I want to hide and swaddle myself in some draping fabric that hides everything that I do not like, I romanticize about my younger days and that I was smaller than I am now, which isn’t entirely truth. I also look at myself and think how much weight I have gained in the last two years, until I look back on pictures from then and realize that it hasn’t been that much. This only makes me feel worse. Why isn’t it that I can’t look at myself with love and acceptance?
We hold ourselves up to ridiculous standards that change every decade. From the late 1890s to the modern era, body image of men and women have went up and down. From curvy being desirable, thin and trim, taking its place, back to curvy, and only to be replaced with waif like images for women and absurd body proportions for men. This leads to fad dieting and surgery to try to correct these changing patterns, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the mental health issues this can cause. I could sit here saying that we all should get over it and just accept ourselves as we are and love our bodies, but that wouldn’t be truthful. Logically, I agree with it, though.
Each of bodies is beautiful and unique in their own way. They are amazing creations that should be celebrated and worshipped. But we don’t get that luxury because daily we are beat down with what others perceive we should look like. It isn’t us that need to change; it is the minds of others that need to change. They need to understand that we are beautiful. They should be working with us in that acceptance and celebration. It is they that should learn the love of who we are and instead of telling us we aren’t good enough.
Since it is others that have forced this ill-conceived mindset of beauty, it is also up to them to change how they view the world. Granted, that is as much a hard sell as it is to say that we should ignore what other people think of us and love ourselves. We also have to realize that this ideal of perfection isn’t something that is completely attainable. I say we, when in fact I am also trying to make myself realize that very thing. I am 45, my body doesn’t bounce back that way it did when I was 15 or even 25. I can go through the regiments that many Hollywood stars do to make themselves appear more youthful and slim, but those also can be just as dangerous for the body. I know there are more important changes I need to make than whether I wear a size 30 in jeans or a medium shirt.
Things that have helped me in my acceptance are being nude more often. Sitting or standing in front of a mirror and just trying to look at myself without the lens of judgment, without saying or thinking anything It’s hard, some of the hardest thing you may ever do. The first few minutes are always us given ourselves scathing looks of judgment and scrutinizing what we see for the flaws we think we have. Focusing on something that stands out to us because we notice it every day. It is hard to shut your mind off and just take in what you see without judgment. I know that trying to quiet my mind and just be is VERY difficult. There are many things, physically, that I am self conscious over.
American isn’t exactly the land of body acceptance either. The majority still passes judgment on those who frequent naturist resorts. They are perceived as perverts and as a den of sexual deviance. We are taught not to see the pulchritude of the naked body and to judge anyone who prefers to not be clothed. I’m not suggesting that you run out and join a nudist colony to help, because they can be just as bad. You can see ads of them promoting body positivity, but the people in the ads don’t reflect everyone, while often times their memberships are closer to the reality of life. They show beautiful late 20s to early 40s nude people with lean physiques, but you often hear members complain that the average nudist is 50+ and not the perfect body. We as the, general public, wouldn’t ever get to see that as we would probably not sign up because we don’t match the advertisements of the resorts.
How do we learn to be less harmful to ourselves? It is hard with how society reflects on beauty and attraction. There are not shortcuts to get there and I can’t tell you how to be more accepting of yourself, hell I cannot be more accepting of myself. But each day I try to love myself a little more I try to look beyond the things I cannot change and hold myself to my standards and not those imposed upon me. I fail, A LOT, but I pick myself up and try to carry on another day, another battle won no matter how small. My only hope is that you do the same.
“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
–Excerpt for “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou