Over the last year, I have really started thinking a lot about positive body image, self-acceptance/love, and happiness. Not only are these ideas not tangible, but they can be so hard to talk about because their definitions widely vary depending on who you are talking to. However, I genuinely feel that I need to better understand not only what these ideas mean to me, but also how I am going to actually achieve them.
I wrote a long post earlier last year about why I decided to do a boudoir shoot and how it made me feel, and later followed-up with a post about my pin-up party experience, and recently I participated in an women's empowerment photo-shoot. All of these were very public and somewhat anxiety inducing ways for me to really force myself to see my body for what it really is, not what I perceive it to be. I can't say that I am a completely changed person or that I now look in the mirror and love what I see. However, I think I am making real strides towards that. I am becoming less critical of myself and changing my expectations. It's a slow process and I backslide frequently, but I feel like I accept my body just a little bit more than I used to. Also, I do genuinely think these photo-shoots helped. Not only did they present me to myself in a very beautiful way, but they also started conversations with others that helped me see I was not alone in the way I feel and provided me with new insights into why I feel the way I do and how to change that.
Some of my favorite (and highly recommended) Ted Talks on the subject of negative body imagery in the media and why it's harmful and hindering to positive body images were:
I love that so many people are embracing and starting to truly discuss the way women are portrayed in media and how that translates to society's and individual's expectations of women and their bodies. Being a doctor, lawyer, teacher, senator, CEO, etc. should be more than enough to garner respect; women should not be have to earn respect by being a beautiful/sexy doctor, lawyer, teacher, senator, CEO, and so on.
This all ties in nicely with self-acceptance. I will personally never be a super model; but I will also never cure cancer, or visit the moon. Self-acceptance is about more than just accepting physical traits. I also have to accept that I will never be a 4.0 student, earn a Doctorate, be a stand-up comedian, lead a selfless life of spiritual inspiration, become a senator, or be a sharp shooter. I have to accept that I will most likely always be a little awkward, laugh inappropriately, fixate on minutia, be too passionate, and hate anatomy. These are just as much a part of me as my thunder thighs and crooked teeth.
Yes, to a degree I can work on changing these aspects about myself; but, baring surgery, there is only so much I can do. I need to learn to choose what is actually important to focus on changing in my life. What traits should I work on, because doing so will make me happier and healthier? What traits should I learn to accept, because they are a part of who I am and are only negative if I let them be? This is the tightrope that I am learning to walk and I think that learning to accept some (in my mind) flaws and focusing on what will make me a better person, will lead to happiness quicker than striving for perfection. In some ways, this is even harder than feeling more positive about my self-image. There are so many things that I feel I should change in order to be a more loved and accepted person (by myself and others). However, I try to remind myself that I am worthy of love and acceptance, even if I am flawed.
Finally, this all leads me to happiness. Theoretically, everything is about being a happier person. I want to be thin in order to be happier. I want to be successful in order to feel happier. I want to be loved in order to be happier. I want to love myself more in order to feel happier.
Recently, I have been researching and talking a lot about happiness. Everyone feels differing things will bring them happiness; but the science says that we are all capable of happiness, even in the worst situations. We are all completely able to create happiness, at any time, and without buying or changing anything.
It is so shocking and sad, to me, that I am able to create my own happiness and somehow have not. It seems so easy, but it really is not. Due to so many things in our lives, in our society, in our world, it is nearly impossible for me to believe I almost entirely control my level of happiness. More than anything else, this is what we all need to work on understanding, accepting, and living. I deserve to be happy. PERIOD. Not if I do this, achieve that, change this, or am that. We all deserve to be happy, because we are here and it is an option. Some may say this is selfish, but it seems to me that genuinely happy people create happiness in others, give of themselves more, and positively contribute more frequently to their environments.
My closing thoughts are that these ideas are all really hard to understand, achieve, live, and pass on. I don't believe that anyone can achieve this all right away and I know it will be a long road that I may never reach the end of. However, I think it is one of the most worthy journeys I have ever started and will pay out more than anything else I do in my life.