Proud2Bme | 6 Quarter-Life Realizations About Body Image (as Illustrated by “Friends”)

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6 Quarter-Life Realizations About Body Image (as Illustrated by “Friends”)

By Laura Porter--I turned 24 on December 15th, and over the past five years of working toward recovery from my eating disorder, I’ve come to look at my body—and myself—in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Some of the most meaningful realizations I’ve gained have come from being curious: curious about my relationship with my body, curious about how I see women’s bodies represented in the public sphere. So I’m viewing my quarter-life marker as a chance to reflect—rather than jump into an age-fueled crisis. Here are six things I’ve realized through my very brief 24 years, as told by some good Friends.

1. My self-worth isn’t based on my size.

I know this is a typical phrase we hear a lot, but it took me a long time to actually believe—and feel—the truth of this. So I’ve got inside information that societal norms won’t tell you. My worth doesn’t originate from the amount of force I exert on the earth (that’s the technical term for weight). It doesn’t come from the number sewn onto my dress. It does not—and will not—directly correlate with the increase or decrease of the size of my body. My worth, in fact, doesn’t change. I am worthy of taking up space, just because I am. I’m valuable because I am. And no one—and no measurement—can take that away.

2. “Perfection” is quite dull.

I let the “should” monsters define this word for me. Those little monsters in my head that told me I wasn’t loveable, smart, fun, etc. unless I was “perfect”—which at various times meant I should be skinny, pretty, put-together and a whole host of other conditions. To counter these monsters, one day about a year into my time in treatment I looked up perfect in a dictionary (yes, I had a lot of time on my hands). So here it is: perfect (adj.) “free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless.” Okay, so a “perfect” person or body, by this definition, sounds incredibly and unbelievably “meh.” I’m not a faultless individual, but it’s because of my faults, flaws and defects—not in spite of them—that I am me. I’ve realized that I am marvelously better than “perfection.”

3. My body should not be a marketing strategy.

As a woman, I grew up seeing ads that used my gender to sell products. I imagine a bunch of old white men sitting in an office (think Mad Men, but older) sipping whiskey in crystal glasses and figuring out how to boost Carl Jr.’s sales. “Hey, you know what will really sell those? Let’s put a bikini-clad pretty young thing in an ad, we’ll have her eat our new burger in slow motion. I bet it will be our greatest ad yet.” Nailed it. Granted, I’ve never been in an ad agency building, let alone an agency meeting, but this is a real commercial. Apparently the actual burger can’t sell the burger, but a woman’s body can. There’s also (what I think is) a more insidious marketing tactic that uses women’s bodies that’s grown in the past few years. In October, I wrote about how a new Special K Canada campaign joined the growing mass of corporate body-positivity marketing. In Special K’s case, the company is “selling” consumers self-worth through cereal by co-opting the body-positive movement to grow profits. In either case, I frustratingly look at the advertisements and want to scream, “Stop using my body to sell your soap!” because I know that my body is not a marketing tool—it’s my home and it’s not on the market.

4. It should not be a political battleground, either.

Listen up legislators: my body (namely, my uterus), my choice. Apparently, this is frighteningly confusing for anti-choice advocates. It’s not just that legislators think it’s okay to bring something as private as my body into public debate—it’s also that, in doing so, they effectively dehumanize me and other women, stripping away what should be an inalienable right to govern our own bodies. Roxane Gay, a personal hero of mine and a champion Scrabble player, describes this issue in Bad Feminist (if you haven’t read it, do it now): “Too many politicians and cultural moralists are trying to define the shape and boundaries of the female body, when women should be defining these things for ourselves.” I am so tired of listening to politicians debate and campaign on controlling my body. Despite what anti-choice groups and politicians may posture, my life and my body should never be up for legislation.

5. My body is mine and mine alone.

I saw a shirt a while ago that said, “This Body’s for You.” Well, mine is not (unless I’m saying that while looking in the mirror, pumping myself up). I wish this wasn’t on my list of realizations—it should be something I grew up knowing and truly feeling. But in a society that teaches women that our worth lies in others’ evaluations of our bodies, this is a realization I had to form. My body is mine, and just like the above assertions, it is not for others’ consumption nor is it a campaign platform. I am in control of me, so despite others’ best efforts, this body is for me.

6. All of me deserves love and respect.

My body and my soul are one—I don’t have a body, I am not a body—I’m just me. That means that when I love and respect myself, I’m including my body. It took me a really long time to be able to see myself as whole rather than as the sum of a bunch of parts. I sometimes feel as if my head is disconnected from my body—similar to a bobble head, I feel like my head is just attached to this “thing.” But over time, I’m learning to integrate my body with my brain (and my soul), rather than seeing them as different. I’m not a bunch of pieces of skin, bones, muscle and fat. I’m also not neurons firing, my facial expressions or the words that come from my mouth. I am me, and when I love and respect myself, I have to really love and respect the whole me—that’s what I deserve.

About the blogger: Laura Porter is a senior at The George Washington University majoring in political communication. After taking three semesters off of school for her own mental health struggles, Laura became passionate about advocating for increased awareness of mental illness among college students, specifically eating disorder awareness. Laura served as the president and founder of the organization Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at GW (SPEAK GW) for two years and is a proud former communications intern at Active Minds Inc.  

Also by Laura:

5 Things I've Learned in Recovery (As Told Through Broad City GIFs)

5 Ways to Advocate and Promote Awareness on your Campus

Taking Up Space: An Interview with Beck Cooper

Never Stop Fighting for Recovery

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