So, I had an interaction a while ago that seriously made me contemplate how far I’d actually come with my body acceptance. I have been working on this for years (I’m sure like most everyone) and had come to a place where I felt content. I think this bothered me because I felt like it questioned the sincerity of my efforts. So, I’ll start with the story.
I was at an event and it was very warm that day. I believe the “Real Feel” was somewhere in the 100s and we had been sitting on metal bleachers for a few hours. It was the kind of hot where if you looked around it seemed as though everyone had taken a collective shower or maybe it had recently rained. There was that smell of hot body everywhere, not exactly bad, but it was definite that every single person was sweating. We decided to duck into a bar to cool off and ran into some friends.
Scott ran to grab drinks and I sat down at the table our friends were at with two other women I didn’t know very well. We started the normal small talk and then it switched to what I was wearing. I had a tank top on with a thin hoodie over it. One of the ladies said, “How are you wearing that hoodie?!” To which I replied, “The tank underneath gaps by my armpits and you can see my bra”. She retorted, “well who cares, that’s in now anyway”. Then I said, “Well and also my arms.” Her response to this is what frustrated me. She said, in a very annoyed tone, “OH my god! Confident is the new cool.”
“I think that being confident means that you were insecure, and you went forward anyway.”
There are a few reasons I took issue with her statement. I didn’t like that she implied that I wasn’t confident. No one I have ever met has been confident 100% of the time. We all have little insecurities that sneak in from time to time. Does that mean we’re not confident? Does that mean that we don’t have self-worth? I think that being confident means that you were insecure, and you went forward anyway. I think confidence is like bravery and anger. There’s always an emotion that precipitates it. For bravery it’s fear, with anger it’s ignorance and with confidence it’s insecurity.
I also didn’t like that comment because it felt like reverse shaming. It was as if she was saying, “You have to love your body!” Me not wanting to show my arms does not mean that I don’t love my body. I love my body. I love how it gets me through my day and keeps up with all the things I want to get into. I feed it organic foods and give it time to rest and take care of it. That doesn’t mean that I’m in love with every part of it. I think that’s okay. If we were all in love with every part of ourselves no matter what we wouldn’t do the things we do for tighter butts or smaller waists. I feel as though self-improvement is also a condition of self-love and you wouldn’t need to improve anything if you felt it was all perfect.
Finally, she didn’t know me. She had no clue that since finding out about my autoimmune disease my weight went all over the place while I was trying to find my normal. She doesn’t know about the scar I have from a badly placed IV the last time I was the emergency room. She doesn’t know that my arms have always been my least favorite body part. She didn’t know that if I sat there with my arm exposed I would have obsessed about it the entire time and never would have had a good time.
I’m not exactly sure why this lit a fire under me the way it did. I think we get a lot of mixed messages about how to feel about our bodies. There’s pressure to constantly improve while completely accepting yourself and that isn’t possible or fair. You are you! How you feel about yourself should be a personal thing determined by yourself. I think we need to watch these statements of “empowerment” because sometimes they are just coded rhetoric. They simply conceal a different way for us to feel bad ourselves.
“So basically, embrace the things that make you feel good.”
I don’t feel like I lack confidence for not being exactly proud of my arms. I felt confident with my hoodie on. I played games and hung out and cracked jokes and didn’t think about my arms at all. I had a great night with it on. If that’s what it takes to makes me feel happy and confident I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with that. So basically, embrace the things that make you feel good. Embrace the situations that make you feel confident. Don’t worry about all the times you could have seized the day or been empowered. Worry about all the time you could have spent being you!