As a recovering perfectionist, in the past I’ve held myself up to very high standards. In fact, my standards were too high. I discovered this last year, when I injured myself by over-exercising. Since then, I’ve made gradual shifts to be more kind to myself, not holding myself to an impossible idea of perfection.
This includes how I view my body.
Last year I committed to stopping the hate-talk about my appearance, taking care of my body, and learning to see it as beautiful in its own right, without feeling the need to wish it was different. Fully inhabiting my body, with its excessive curves and strong muscles.
When I started Operation Rad Bod, the idea of loving my physique didn’t come overnight. It’s a daily process – sometimes a struggle. I still don’t like being photographed. I still glance longingly at the jeans in my closet that don’t fit me. But truthfully, I hadn’t really been thinking as much about my weight since I made one minor change…
I stopped looking at magazines.
A few months ago, I stopped buying fashion magazines. Yes, I’m interested in fashion, though you wouldn’t know it to look at me on any given day. Fashion and self-expression go hand-in-hand with my aesthetic sensibilities. I’ve always been a creative dresser, with eclectic jewelry, funky shoes and too much tie-dye (just kidding, there’s no such thing as too much tie-dye). Leafing through fashion magazines like Vogue and InStyle sparked my artistic sensibilities and inspired my ensembles.
But I noticed an unhealthy pattern. I kept catching myself wanting to be that skinny. You know what I mean: heroin-chic skinny. Lithe. Petite. And I’m not. I never will be. I’d pinch the fat on my arms, clutch at the belly I’ve grown since starting full-time office work, and wish I could rip it off with those actions. Or I’d get a wild impulse to tighten up the restrictions on my diet, maybe go on an exercising binge.
Even beyond the body-image crisis, I’d catch myself wanting things I’ll never be able to afford; things I don’t really need, like a Kate Spade satchel that costs more than my car. Wanting designer items is not only out of character for me, it goes against my basic belief that “stuff” is not important. By feeding into corporate/advertising/marketing schemes, I might diminish my stance on excessive consumerism in contemporary society.
Plus, I could use the extra $4.95 a month.
Pretty soon, the reasons to stop buying the magazines outweighed any benefit I derived from indulging in that habit. After watching Miss Representation, a documentary about the media’s portrayal of women, I decided they did me more harm than good. I thought about all those years I looked at magazines as a teenager, wishing I was someone else. Someone more confident. Someone with charisma. Someone skinnier, someone prettier – as if that comprises all to which a woman can aspire. As if those were even qualities I admired in a woman.
I thought long and hard about the women I admire. My mother. My grandmothers. My sister. My closest friends. All the female authors whose words and stories I treasure. My blogger friends. None of them look like the average woman on the pages of Vogue, but they are all so beautiful to me.
I want to be more like them. By that, I mean I want to be the best me possible.
The best me possible isn’t concerned about the cellulite on her thighs.
She is passionate. She cares about justice. She cares about the poor. She wants to build people up, not tear herself down.
So I stopped fueling the fire of self-loathing and took Operation Rad Bod to another level by cutting out the fashion magazines. The funny thing is, I don’t think my sense of style has diminished one bit. If anything, I’m more confident than ever – and that makes me look good, no matter what I’m wearing…or how much I weigh.
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