Mind, body, spirit, and a war zone.

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I don’t like complicated. I like clear cut, straight to the point, give me the answers right now. Cancer isn’t simple, the answers never come when you want them and sometimes not at all. I got the news today that I would have to go back and have another Mri, this time under local anesthesia. Here again, I don’t have answers in the time I want them. Along with this I have some decisions to make about bariatric surgery, something that, mind you, has never crossed my radar…

Speaking of that, I have a little story for you and the point to this:
I’ve never been skinny, no one in my family is. Genetically speaking, I was predetermined to be big. I was bullied in school for it. I had horrible body image and no self confidence. I was in my late teens and was trying diet pills, appetite suppressants, fad diets, calorie restriction, and unhealthy amounts of exercise. You say how is exercise unhealthy? Well when you’re restricting calories which your body turns into energy to exercise you get light headed and vomit or pass out. Thankfully I never got to the last one. I was in a destructive cycle. I hated myself and my body. Then one day, I said I’m done. I found the body positive community on Tumblr and my life was changed. I took back the word fat, as it didn’t have power to be used as an insult anymore. It was simply a word to describe my body. It took years and a daily essential, but I found peace, happiness, and a love for my body.

I’m passionate about body positivity, body image, and a firm believer that your weight does not equate your health. I think all bodies are good bodies. However, being told that your weight mixed with genetics is causing cancer… Well, honestly, it’s really messing with this foundation I live on. How do I be all these things when I need to have a surgery that alters my body so I can lose weight? I’ve never wanted to be a “normal” size. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. But I like my body the way it is, it’s lumps and bumps and hills and valleys. It was once a war zone now it’s a happy, peace filled place. I fought to be that woman, now I’m having to change without even knowing it’s going to put the cancer in remission. How do I deal with that? How does that place I’ve built to live in, not crumble? Can I find that place of peace?

As you are.

I fallen off the tracks. I’ve forgotten how to see myself. I’ve let other dictate how I should look or feel. It’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs the past 6 months. I thought I found my new normal, living life without my dad here. Missing him but moving forward. Then as quick as the new normal came, it all shattered with news of a diagnosis. It seemed as if my life fell apart in that instant, all over again. Many things happened all at once and continued to pop up over the course of time. I suddenly didn’t have the job I loved, I couldn’t workout because of the pain, I lost new connections that had been made, I turned to food because it was a comforting old friend, I gained back all the weight I lost. I turned back into the ugly ducking. I am back a square one. I started avoiding mirrors because I didn’t like how I looked. I want the approval of men because they are where I held my value. I stopped going to church because it was too hard to worship a God who let bad things happen and takes away your dad. This has been my normal for the last 6 months. I pride myself on being authentic and open, on being my own person. Yet, I’ve lost sight of what that really is. I’ve looked to men for approval on how I look. I’ve been ashamed of myself when I go out the door. I put my value in how many miles I walked or the amount of calories I consumed. I let my crushing fear of not being good enough ruin precious time. My value isn’t in a person, a number, or any material thing. My value doesn’t decrease because of a person who doesn’t have my body positive views or feels that they or anyone else needs to look a certain way. My value is in the one who died for me on a cross. I am who God says I am and He says I’ve more precious than rubies. He says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, handcrafted and the mold shattered after I was created. It’s so hard to live in a word where if you don’t fit in you’re automatically cast aside or counted out. It’s hard being an advocate for a movement you believe in when you hold value in how you appear to others. I lost sight of what the body positive movement is. It’s not about working out or being conventionally beautiful. It’s about loving yourself exactly how you are, where you are and extending that grace to everyone. God doesn’t care what size your pants are. He care about how big your heart is and how you’re living this precious life He gives you. I’m not saying I’ll never worry about how I look. I’d like to eat better and see if I could do some light cardio but if my body isn’t ready for that, my value doesn’t decrease because of it. I recently read this quote,

“Was who she was, who she really was, really enough?… This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take: to be seen as we truly are.”

But the thing is, that you are enough. I am enough. Exactly as we are right now. It’s a risk worth taking because it is the most freeing thing in the world to know you need only be who you are.

I’ll leave you with this Litany that has become the prayer if my heart:

From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of comfort and ease, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being hurt, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, strengthen me with your Spirit.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me your ways.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
help me put my self-importance aside
to learn the kind of cooperation with others
that makes possible the presence of your Abba’s household. Amen.

Adapted from a prayer by Rafael,
Cardinal Merry Del Val, 1865–1930

 

Body Image

I recently wrote this essay for an English course and was rather quite proud of it. I thought I would share.

Have you ever noticed what a negative body image our society has? In Western society we are bombarded with images of what ideal beauty “should” look like. It seems the main focus these days is that we should fit a specific mold it’s considered the social norm. As a result, we have a horrible problem on our hands that affects young and old alike; we have a very negative body image. We see it everywhere, in line at the supermarket, on our televisions while our children watch their favorite shows and even in those very shows. We are swamped by images that society tells us is true beauty and the “mold’ we should aspire to; and if we want to be accepted, then we must comply with this. How are we not to be persuaded by these images, which tell us that we are not good enough? It’s human nature to want to be a part of the group, but at what cost are we willing to fit in? Body image is something I have dealt with my entire life. I was bullied in school because I was always the “bigger girl.” I was bullied constantly and hated school because of it. I suffered from horrible self-esteem, had no confidence, and hated my body. Now, as an adult, I have a huge passion for the Body Image movement and breaking those stereotypes and negative connotations that are associated with being fat or not measuring up to the social standard of “beauty”. With the adage that the youth are our future, why are we teaching them to see outward beauty or being a certain size as the most important thing? Images of beauty in Western society are harmful because they lower one’s self-esteem, present an ideal image that young and old feel forced to replicate, and lead way to prejudice and stigma towards anyone not fitting the “mold.”

These beauty standards in Western society are harmful in such a way that they create low self-esteem in people of all races, ages, and genders. Self-esteem is crucial to one’s very being; it helps people be the best possible version of themselves they can be. These ideal images we see in our society are at the root of the issue. In an essay by Shari Graydon, author of In Your Face, Graydon writes,  

Yesteryear’s magazine racks sported exponentially fewer publications devoted to fame voyeurism and advising women on the finer points of dressing up, dressing down or sculpting our bodies in pursuit of a profile that we’d be happy to avoid dressing altogether. Cosmopolitan and Vogue are now buried under a deluge of other fashion and ‘fitness’ magazines, while a host of new titles supplement the print lessons available to male readers regarding what’s ‘desirable’ and ‘ideal’ when it comes to the sizes and shapes of women’s body parts. ( Gerdes 41)

This is an example of what causes self-esteem issues for people all over our country. These images displayed make people feel like they are not good enough as they are and since this is the epitome of beauty, they should replicate it by whatever means necessary. In an article, Kristen Anderburg who is a contributor to Off Our Backs, the longest running feminist newspaper in the US states a revelation former supermodel Ann Simonton had when she saw what these ideal images were doing first hand; “And it hit Ann that these models were the pinnacle of beauty that society was holding up as every woman’s ideal, yet it still wasn’t good enough” (Anderburg). In the same article, Anderburg goes on to imply that Simonton took a hit to her self-esteem when she realized that, even though she was in a group of people considered the epitome of beauty, she still wasn’t good enough as she was. Like Ann Simonton, women of all ages and races take a direct hit to their self-esteem when faced with this mass amount of images telling them to look like “this” or “that” and that men won’t find them attractive if they don’t fit the 36-24-36 measurements. As a result, this causes a doubt of one’s self that wouldn’t have been there previously. This doubt cripples women in so many areas of our lives.

Just as self-esteem plays a huge role in the body image issue, so does the way these images of beauty make young and old feel like they must replicate them. This is such a huge loss to our society, as it basically implies that we must all be carbon copies of one another. This diminishes our diversity. Lynda Wiechinik, a contributor to The Oyen Echo reports on a study that states “one-third of college age women would trade an entire year of their life for the perfect body” (Wiechnik). An entire year! A year of one’s precious, amazing, crazy life just to have that ideal body. That very idea has been developed by copious amounts of information that says your body is not right the way it is. Media seems to portray one type of image that is considered ideal, this image happens to change over time and is always represented in various publications. An essay by Deborah Rhode says, “In 1984 the US average female model was five feet four inches and one hundred and forty pounds. Now the average is five feet ten inches and one hundred and ten pounds” (Rhode). Only five percent of women fall into this category. These standards make people feel forced to alter themselves to fit that ideal. These images presented have such a monumental effect on our society, as Rita Freedman, clinical psychologist says, “It can enhance and protect you as well as torment you… it echoes with the sound of your mother’s voice and the faces of a thousand cover girls who left a mark on your memory” (Valentino). This statement is an accurate representation of how these images affect us all.

As we have seen, people tend to be stereotyped if they do not fit in with these ideal images of beauty. We see it all the time; when one doesn’t look like the models, actors and actresses, and other celebrities who our culture dictates as the personification of beauty, there is a certain prejudice and stigma that follows.  In an essay, Natasha Walter states that “the emphasis on presenting oneself as physically perfect has an impact on women throughout society” (Walter) and when women do not meet that standard they are subjected to cruel and senseless remarks that follow them throughout their lives. These people who happen to make up the majority of our society are labeled weird, ugly, and lame; just to name a few, are all based on the outward appearance and never given a chance to show what they’re really like or what they have to offer because they are already labeled and categorized by our society. Often, they are assumed un-valuable and tossed aside. There is a stigma that comes along with the prejudice that say if they have this assigned label then there must be something wrong with them because they don’t fit into the “mold” that has been assigned as ideal and pleasing. These prejudices and stigmas that are cast upon people follow them for the rest of their lives and more often than not affect how they see themselves.

As we’ve seen, these ideal images of beauty that Western society places on people are harmful to us all in many ways; they lower one’s self-esteem, make both young and old feel pressured to replicate these ideals, and lead way to prejudice and stigma that follows many for the rest of their lives. When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, does it really matter so much to fit in with society when it has such a high cost? In the iconic words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”