I came to believe my body was a problem quite early in life. I was always larger-bodied, even as a child. I don’t remember the exact moment the belief that my body was a problem landed, I don’t have a very strong memory of my childhood. Here is what I do remember…
I remember looking around classrooms and soccer fields and noticing my body looked different (bigger). I remember the ‘child’ size jerseys and church gowns not fitting properly and having to move into adult sizes (that didn’t fit right either). I remember my food intake being monitored, especially in public and at family gatherings. I remember feeling shameful after reaching for chips at family gatherings and being scolded to ‘leave them alone’ and ‘save some for everyone else.’ I also remember watching my smaller-bodied cousins enjoying chips or chocolates with ease. It confused me. I lost trust in my body because my role models didn’t trust their bodies; and in turn I didn’t trust mine.
I continued to lose trust in my body through middle school years. I lost trust in my body every time a classmate commented on how my body was different. I lost trust in my body when the boys snickered and asked why I wasn’t going to join my (smaller-bodied) friends in the hot tub.
I lost trust in my body when I matured earlier than others, wanting a bra before most of my friends had any thought about them. I lost trust in my body when my first and second middle school ‘boyfriends’ were tall and thin, and a bully, face hidden behind the safety of a computer screen, commented that I was ‘a log who dated sticks.’ I lost trust in my body when I started going shopping with friends and realized I couldn’t shop at the same stores as them because the brands didn’t make my size.
And as I lost trust, I withdrew. I put myself out there less and less. I didn’t stay in sports or gym classes, even though I enjoyed many of them, because I was nervous and uncomfortable in my skin, and I was sick of comparison. I felt different enough without it being magnified.
As I moved into high school, I was modeled ways to manipulate and control food and my body. This led to cycle after cycle of dieting and binging- my mistrust in my body and in myself deepened. I lost trust in my body every time I tried a new diet, lost weight (short term) and then proceeded to put the weight back on, plus some. The more food became regulated, labelled as ‘bad’ and ‘good’, only available until the ‘new eating plan’ started on Monday, the more I lost trust in my body. I was convinced I was missing these fictional golden keys- better will power and self-control. But the more ‘controlled’ food became, the more out of control I felt with food, with life in general really.
I lost trust in my body as I reached dating age in a larger body and found that men had little interest in talking to me or getting to know me, even as a friend. I lost trust in my body at 20 years old, when I “finally lost all the weight” and men started paying attention to me. I lost trust in my body when I didn’t know what to do with this new attention and found myself altering my values in order for the attention to continue.
There are many different factors that impact our ability (our birthright) to feel safe and at home in our body. Societal ideals and social constructs of weight, gender, race, and health. History of trauma, bullying, stigmas or oppression. Ability, chronic illness, or health concerns. Engagement in or access to physical activities in youth. Puberty. Sexuality. Messaging from parents, teachers, and role models. The list goes on.
Luckily, I now know the only thing between me and being at home in my body, as it is right now, is old stories. An outdated belief that my body is wrong. An old story that my body needs to look a certain way in order for me to fit in, to be successful, or to be loved. It is freeing as hell to not have to hold that belief anymore; to quit telling myself that story! In this freedom, I reclaim trust in my body.
Now I see the only thing between me and being at home in my body, as it is right now, is a cultural lens that says Body A (‘thin’/ smaller bodied person) is better and more desirable than Body B (basically any other body shape or size). But I don’t have to look through that lens anymore. I’ve found a new way of seeing, of being. I get to LET GO of that inherited bias that the message and voice of a person in Body A is more valid and deserving of being heard than the message and voice of a person in Body B.
So I tell my (very vulnerable) body story to you, dear reader, in the hopes that it will shed some light on your own body story, your own cultural lens, and your own inherited beliefs- and question, question, question. Choose which story you want to tell yourself. Reclaim your birthright of embodiment and intuitive self-trust.