Friday, May 04, 2012

body image highs and lows

I had a whole big long post written, and then deleted the whole thing. It had nothing to do with what I want to say.

I've been thinking lately about body image. About the things I like and dislike about my physical appearance. I've been thinking about how I feel about disliking different parts of my body.

Even though I've been fat for most of my life, my size has never been my biggest dislike. I have quirky dislikes that don't entirely make sense and are completely unchangeable, as far as I know.

I dislike my hands, particularly my fingers. I don't like how square my palms are, because I feel like they are masculine. I have short fingers. I had a vague recollection of being told "no" on piano lessons as a child based on my fingers, but I may have made that up in my subconscious. I always wanted long, elegant fingers and narrower hands.

I hate my toes, particularly my (practically non-existent) toenails. They're so small that I can't really get a pedicure, because I have almost non-existent (toe)nailbeds. I don't look very pretty in peep-toes.

I very intensely dislike my nipples. Even though everytime I've expressed this sentiment to the men in my life I've been told that they are cute and unique. I worry about breastfeeding.

I dislike the shape of my belly. Not so much the size, as the shape. I look at my stomach and how it dips and bulges along my natural waistline. Even at my smallest I feel like I have rolls of fat there and the lowest part is saggy. I am the only person who has ever noticed this. It doesn't bother anyone else.

I hated the limits of my body. That my ankles tended to twist far more easily than others. I hated my migraines and digestion issues. That I couldn't swim as fast as the other girls in my class. That no matter how hard I practiced my body resisted all the gymnastics and ballet I threw at it. I didn't understand why my body wouldn't, or couldn't, do the things I wanted it to. I hated knowing that my mother is the most flexible person on earth (at least according to her chiropractors) and that I don't bend easily.

These aren't things that are never going to truly go away. They bother me more than being fat ever bothered me. Which, I think, is a good thing. I can't diet away annoying toenails and I can't exercise my way into longer fingers. I can lose or gain weight, but the shape in my belly that I dislike won't change. I might get more fit in the process of getting thin, but I could get fit without it. In a way, these dislikes made it easier to accept and be comfortable with my size. I might not like how big I was, but it wasn't my biggest physical concern.

The things that bothered me about my body had more to do with how I can use it and the identity I see for myself. I am more bothered by things I can't change than the things that I can. I don't like to feel as if I am masculine, and I felt like my hands were at odds with my desire to be a musician, and it bothered me when my body stopped me from doing the things I wanted to do.

I could do with more body confidence than I have. It would be good to not have the immediate reaction I have to seeing my belly when I'm naked. It would be nice not to sit around hating my toenails. I'm starting to let go, though. I'm starting to be ok with the fact that my nipples aren't the ones I would have chosen, and that my hands don't comfortably reach a full octave stretch.

I'm ok with the things I don't like about my body, though. I feel like they speak to my own standards of beauty, and I like that they made yo yo dieting seem pointless when I was younger. I feel like my reactions to these aspects of my body are more reflective of how I think than what society tells me I should think.

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