I used to hate the New Year. There was always
pressure expectation demand that I make resolutions around changing my body, and “changing” always meant shrinking. From the time I was a kid, I wasn’t only observing and ingesting the attitudes women expressed about their bodies always being too big, too round, and too imperfect, but I was also being explicitly and constantly told these things about myself. And every new year, I was presented with the so-called opportunity to fix myself and stop disappointing my family, friends, and future husband (yep, lots of healthy thinking modeled for me in my early life). The weeks that followed were a long, painfully held breath of waiting for that first cookie, that first second helping at dinner, until even the desire for something “not good” came with the heavy burden of disappointed faces and are you sure you want to do thats. Add to that feeling the stress of heightened scrutiny of my body, when all I wanted was to be unnoticed, and you can understand why I was strongly in favor of just cutting January right out of the calendar.
One of the most healing practices I’ve adopted, overall, has been a practice of gratitude. Even though I no longer journal daily and the reminder I set in my phone gets ignored more often than not, I still take time to be thankful throughout a given month. A few years ago, I started quietly responding to my residual anxiety and the pressure for New Year’s Resolutions with an informal reflection on gratitude. Some years, I have jotted down notes; others, I have made lists in my head. Going through an old journal yesterday, I discovered a series of short thank you notes I wrote during my first year of teaching, 11 years ago. Instead of starting the new year feeling crappy about what I haven’t done and overwhelmed by a need to be better, I have said good-bye to the ending year by acknowledging what I have gained, learned, and enjoyed, and I can begin with a direction in mind instead of an impossible, leaden responsibility.
Looking back on this year, one of the many things I’m grateful for is the caliber of people I surround myself with. Growing up, the women around me tended to reinforce the negative self-talk and self-image that was modeled for me at home. Like many women I know, I learned that my worth was directly tied to the size and shapes of my body, and almost no one around me questioned what was treated as a natural law. Middle school friends traded diet tips at sleepovers; their mothers shared low-fat recipe tricks over the phone as we ate our snacks; the TV commercials in between cartoons advertised pills and gadgets that would erase unsightly belly fat and smooth out cottage cheese thighs. It felt inescapable; everywhere I went and with everyone I met, at some point we all had to talk about our terrible, flawed bodies.
This week, while my social media feeds have included a fair amount of anger towards the year 2016, I’ve been grateful for the words of women like Molly Galbraith and Jessi Kneeland, among others. I haven’t had to squirm through resolutions to stop eating chocolate, to drop 10 pounds in a month, to be “good” whatever the hell that means. Instead, I get to read things like this:
Despite being fit and strong I have cellulite, parts of me jiggle and squish, and my belly is soft and round more often than it’s flat and defined. Why? Not because I’m doing a damn thing wrong, or because I’m a “work in progress.” It’s because I’m human, and I intend to both stay this way AND keep telling you about it in 2017. ❤
I have cellulite on my legs, stretch marks on my hips, butt, and breasts, and some jiggle on my belly — and the world constantly wants me to believe this is not OK.
But I won’t subscribe to someone else’s standards and ideals for MY body.
So, instead of embracing what someone else determined to be a flaw of mine, I choose to embrace my whole, flawless body.
And I feel immeasurable gratitude for these women and their words, because they make it possible for me to surround myself with strength and power instead of doubt and hatred. They are reminders that I am:
A few days ago, I started posting some doodles online at a print-to-order store. I’ve since decided to set up an artist shop via threadless.com, where you can purchase the above on a t-shirt or zip pouch, and see some other designs I’ve made. Visit the shop here!