I want to talk to you about how you talk to me about how I talk about my body, and how I talk about how I feel about my body, and what’s wrong with everything you have to say about what I have to say.

In short, fuck you.

I don’t love my body. My body is awful. I will never love my body. I never have. And I’m 35 and maybe you think that’s too old to have real hang ups about my body. But I do. And I always will. And maybe you think that because I’ve lost a bunch of weight I should feel great about my body. But I don’t. And I won’t.

And maybe you think that because it’s my body I should love it and that I should think I’m beautiful. That I should somehow ignore all the standards the world imposes on me every single day, standards that make up “beautiful.” That I should make my own standards, and tell myself that I can just create my own reality. That I should pretend that I can never be judged by the standards of others. Maybe if I just love myself enough, other people will be able to climb into my head and begin adopting my standard of beauty and the world will follow and my formula will be the new standard and I will become The Most Beautiful.

Or maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe the fact that I don’t love my body isn’t really an issue. Maybe the problem is that everyone thinks I should love my body. That loving my body is some kind of standard of womanly goodness in and of itself.

But we’re told we will love our bodies once they’re good enough to be loved. Once we free them of imperfections… all of them. Once I erase my freckles and age lines and sagging skin and thigh flab and become faster and stronger and a better mom and a better wife and a better career woman and keep it all together and prove that I’m doing it all by looking amazing, then I will truly love my body.

Or maybe loving our bodies means casting aside the imperfections that make us who we are, while embracing only the things we want people to see about us, and the things other people would like to see. Loving my body means not exposing you to my armpit stubble but showcasing my bad-ass legs. That’s not really love… that’s what everyone always does, as much as they can, all the time.

Or maybe loving our bodies means loving all the things that bother us about it. Which is kind of fucked up because I don’t love everything about all the other people I love, and I certainly don’t embrace the really annoying things.

Or maybe me loving my body is about you. And how you feel about how I feel about my body. If I tell you that “I love my body. I love my freckles. I even love my sagging ass because it’s on my body.” You’ll pat me on the back and tell me that I’m getting it. And I’m not making anyone uncomfortable by complaining about how much I dislike being held up to fucked up beauty standards and how it fucks with my head.

But, let’s be honest, if I love my body, I’m not declaring it with apologetic disclaimers. Loving your body doesn’t include demanding other people understand that your appendectomy scar is gorgeous.

The problem isn’t about women not loving our bodies. It’s not about how I feel about myself. It’s not about how my body looks.

The problem is someone else telling me how to feel. The problem is being told that there is a standard of beauty, and I should ignore it. I should ignore it despite the fact that everyone is still holding me to it. I should ignore it and create my own. As long as it makes me feel pseudo-good, and makes other people feel okay with how I pretend to feel about me. But while we’re pretending the real-world standards don’t exist, the real world continues judging us—It’s okay to be more critical of a woman who’s accepted herself. She’s strong and can take it… In fact, wow, what a conceited bitch she must be to think she’s so great when she’s clearly not. Maybe someone needs to take her down. She really has no business acting like she’s as good as other people.

But here’s the thing… It’s okay to not love my body. It’s okay to not even like my body. They’re my feelings and it’s my body and I will use those feelings to feel however I want to about my body. I don’t need you to tell me how to feel.

We don’t have to find ourselves beautiful. Beauty is not the one thing that makes us and our bodies worth loving. We don’t have to distort an already fucked-up definition of beauty, and pretend we fit into it, just to feel like we are people worthy of being loved.

Stop telling women that we should find ourselves beautiful and that we should love ourselves when you are standing right there, judging us on how our knees look in short skirts and how prominent our boobs are in a sweater and how much makeup we are or are not wearing.

Instead of us working harder on “love your body” and “find your inner beauty”, the rest of the world should be working harder on “stop telling women their bodies are a shameful place to live but that if they’re strong enough, they will learn to embrace that shame.”

This is my body. It’s not “beautiful”. I don’t “love it”. I don’t have to. I don’t have to have any strong feelings about my body. And whatever feelings I do have are not somehow invalid if they’re not glowing reviews.

 

elyse thighs elyse elbow elyse belly elyse belly elyse arm elyse butt

What’s weird is that you think I should care about how I look as much as you do.

I should probably note that most of the things I hate about my body are the result of me losing 100+ lbs in 8 months. The parts of my body I hated when I was fat are still the same parts of my body I hate… but now I just hate them for different reasons. Even if today those flaws represent an incredible accomplishment and are the marks of an amazing journey, I don’t have to love them.

My face though?

naked face

I don’t hate that. But I’ve spent years getting comfortable enough with it to show it to you without make up.

Elyse

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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80 Comments

  1. Avatar of chrisfixedkitty
    March 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm —

    Thank you for writing this. I feel the same way about the whole express-confident-body-pride-or-you’re-not-a-modern-minded-sex-positive-acceptable-feminist BS. Reality is; some people’s bodies are more attractive than others. Even before chronic illness, I wasn’t ecstatically happy with every bit of me.

    It’s that recurring issue with all the forms of “you have to pretend the world is different/simpler/better than it is, so you’ll be more convenient or more comfortable for everyone else.”
    Well done for calling out the BS!

  2. Avatar of Laika
    March 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm —

    Thank you Elyse.

  3. Avatar of Barton Grennan
    March 11, 2013 at 8:36 pm —

    I’m never quite comfortable getting into gender/weigh issues. Mostly because I’m on the side of the wall that isn’t percieved to be affected by these things. I’m a man. I’ve lost in the region of 140 lbs over a couple of years. I no doubt put a little back on over the winter but have resolved this year not to weigh myself. I used to twice a day, it was a big part of how I lost the weight. but lately it’s just lead to anxiety. The anxiety was lessened somewhat by the removal of my “apron”, the excess belly skin remaining after weight loss that made me think I was still pretty fat.

    Anyway, enough unloading, my point is this and you might not like it: I believe that as a man in my situation, I can relate more closely to your situation than most. This is the case because “men don’t have to care about what their bodies look like”

    It’s constantly implied and often outright said: “men don’t care about their weight”, but at the same time, you’re fat and ugly and no one could love you. So for a long time I was miserable, but dieting was for women…so…no go (Although, that gender related nonsense aside, I’m against “dieting”, it’s no solution, change in diet yes, “dieting” no)

    I feel like this was worse maybe ten years ago, it’s becoming ok for a man to care about his appearance, you aren’t openly mocked for trying to lose weight as much any more. People still give me shit for drinking diet coke, but it’s not the sort of incredulity you would be met with even five years ago.

    I’ve sort of accepted that I’m never going to look like the guy from the Davidoff comercials. That’s not going to stop me going to the gym. Maybe because I’m terrified of putting the weight back on, maybe because I want to look as good as I can, I don’t know.

    I know people will think I’m the exception, not the rule.That I’m not your average man. But that’s no use to me, if anything that’s more marginalizing. While obviously there’s a horrible culture of telling women how to feel about their bodies, I think it’s so widely recognised as an issue that a growing ammount of women are rightly saying “hey, fuck that”. But as a man with essentially the same issue, I still feel less entitled to talk about it, simply because I’m not supposed to be affected by it.

    Anyway, fuck loving your body, try accepting it and moving on. That’s what I’m trying to do. Some days I barely even think about the stretchmarks, the apronectomy dog-ears, the loose skin. Those are good days, I get other stuff done.

  4. Avatar of MyMelody
    March 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm —

    “It’s okay to not love my body. It’s okay to not even like my body. They’re my feelings and it’s my body and I will use those feelings to feel however I want to about my body. I don’t need you to tell me how to feel.”
    ^completely agree

    Personally, I kind of take these images as I am allowed to love my body. To be fair, they should probably say, you are allowed to love your body. The way they are written here is kind of like a command and can be problematic.
    It’s a little embarrassing to say, but images like these honestly make me feel good. I have some chronic conditions that I have to deal with, and learning to love my body even with the effects the conditions have had on me, has made a huge positive impact on my life. It’s not for everyone, but it’s very therapeutic for me at least. For instance, I’m personally attracted to bigger women and I liked the way I looked when I was considered overweight, but I constantly dieted to be thinner because I thought I was unacceptable that way. It took a long time, and a little self-love to understand that this was wrong, and reflect that in my life.
    Yes I’m aware that there are stringent beauty standards in the United States: (tall, thin, white etc). I am none of these. I am aware they are problematic and extremely narrow. And I contest those standards whenever given the chance. Seeing other women love their bodies, bodies that don’t meet this standard, give me confidence to do the same with mine, to not accept size/color/etc discrimination, and to wear what I like and fully explore my interests. I avoided a lot of interests because of the way I looked. I use images like these on my pinterest for me. I understand that lots of people see things like this, and I apologize if I’ve hurt anyone. It gets painful for me to constantly see images that induce body shaming; I know how images can cause a bit of turmoil.

  5. Avatar of arcticembers
    March 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm —

    love this. really have never loved my body, but haven’t always hated it. I’m usually pretty indifferent and actually I’m probably happiest when indifferent. It’s just not something I generally care about, and I wonder how I’d feel if I totally embraced indifference rather than occasionally going back and forth about whether I should care.

  6. Avatar of Benny
    March 11, 2013 at 9:02 pm —

    Thank you.

  7. Avatar of MyMelody
    March 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm —

    Just a side note, I’m a woman of color, and I can see how things like the “Black is Beautiful” movement was essentially helpful to many black women. I’m not black myself, but I did grow up in a colorist culture and I directly benefit from the contesting of white beauty standards. Learning to love my brown skin, and my Native facial features took a long time. They don’t meet the cultural beauty standard of tall, white and thin. But I now find my brown skin and native features personally beautiful. Understanding that beauty standards are culturally constrained and change with time is helpful. Changing the definitions between me and those I interact with, I feel is helpful. Doing the same with weight, wrinkles and body shape etc, has been helpful to me.

    • Avatar of Elyse
      March 11, 2013 at 9:13 pm —

      I’m really happy this strategy worked for you. It’s fantastic when it does.

      But plenty of us waste far too much energy trying to fit into “beautiful” and making “beautiful” fit us. And feeling angry, bitter, sad, numb, indifferent about it is all valid as well. I would hope that if you or another woman of color weren’t able to embrace “Black is Beautiful”, instead you could embrace “but fuck it, who says I have to be beautiful?”

      • Avatar of MyMelody
        March 11, 2013 at 10:17 pm —

        I agree, and as I mentioned earlier the images “should probably say, you are allowed to love your body. The way they are written here is kind of like a command and can be problematic.”

      • Avatar of MyMelody
        March 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm —

        “I would hope that if you or another woman of color weren’t able to embrace “Black is Beautiful”, instead you could embrace “but fuck it, who says I have to be beautiful?”

        You know, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and it just rubbed me the wrong way. I think Lindsay Love brought up some things that ring true to me. I thought about it, and I realized when I couldn’t find my brown skin and native features beautiful, it was because I grew up in a culture that values whiteness as beautiful. To me saying “who says I have to be beautiful” would be internalized racism. To me body acceptance is understanding that beauty ideals are culturally constrained, it’s understanding that beauty is not something scarce that you have to try to fit into, it’s understanding that beauty is something abundant and diverse.

        “Maybe if I just love myself enough, other people will be able to climb into my head and begin adopting my standard of beauty and the world will follow and my formula will be the new standard and I will become The Most Beautiful.”
        To me, being okay in my skin, looking the way I do and enjoying it without shame, feeling beautiful is a political act. Fat brown short people aren’t supposed to be doing that. Me seeing another fat brown short person enjoying life and saying “I’m beautiful, fuck societies standards” has actually changed me for the better. It didn’t change the beauty standards of the day, but it gave me courage to exist in my body without shame.
        I’m just going to have to disagree with you, this topic is more nuanced then I think many folks on here realize, I think race is an issue that plays a big role in body acceptance for me at least, and we just have different experiences with it.

  8. Avatar of WhatPaleBlueDot
    March 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm —

    I love parts of my body. I used to love what it could do, but now it doesn’t do very much, even if that’s my own fault. It does feed and house my mind, though, and that’s mostly a great place. But then there are parts of me that I hate. These are the parts that are failing or sick or broken or hurting. And those parts suck a lot. And I’m okay with that. I don’t have to “have a happy period.” I don’t have to love my body. I am valuable and lovable even when I’m decidedly ugly, and not just because I’m swift or have a clever personality.

  9. Avatar of audpicc
    March 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm —

    Disregarding the notion of beauty, what do you think about the idea that “all bodies are good bodies”?

  10. Avatar of kagehi
    March 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm —

    Frankly, I think “love”, like most stuff that trend/movements come up with, is a bit overboard. I think “comfortable” would be a better term. Its possible to have something with flaws, even serious ones, and be “comfortable” with what you have. The problem is you have one group, on one side, telling you to basically screw it, you look horrible, so you might as well try to love the result, even if it, in some cases, maybe kills you, and the other side telling you, “You need to be Photoshopped, but since you can’t be, here is the latest detox, something carb, antioxidant, miracle cream and diet supplement, straight from Spishak Industries.”

    But, the, “love it” side does have one thing right. You don’t change how things *are*, by conforming to the bullshit from the, “You need to be what even the fashion models don’t actually match, to be even acceptable.”, side of things. But, they go way to far imho, to the point of not just denying the existing bias, but basic biology and reality.

    • Avatar of audpicc
      March 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm —

      I think you might have some fat-bias going on here. Fat does not equal unhealthy.

  11. Avatar of Brenda Johnson
    March 11, 2013 at 9:45 pm —

    Aaaaagghhhhh!! All this “love your body” stuff, even when it is well-intentioned, is mostly “objectify yourself with the rest of us.” So tired of it. I don’t know exactly how to say anything that’s helpful, but as someone who’s been through her own body image wringer and hasn’t worn makeup in this millenium, I just want to say that you should probably forget about your body and just be in the world. Still working on it myself, but in the world (as opposed to figuring out how much I should love my body) is a much nicer place to be.

  12. Avatar of daedalus2u
    March 11, 2013 at 11:20 pm —

    The reason all this body image stuff is problematic is because we are all evolved social beings that evolved to compete with our peers for stuff. Perhaps the most important thing to compete over was opposite gender mates with same gendered conspecifics. With every single ancestor going back for forever having been “successful” at that competition, there are some pretty strong competition systems that compel such things and which are hard-wired in at the level of autonomic responses.

    These competition systems predate consciousness by hundreds of millions of years. Puny conscious effort has little effect, but it is the CNS that has to integrate all of the environmental and social signals and convert them (with the endocrine system) into changes in physiology.

    The people this stuff affects the most are children. To deal with adult sexuality (such as children are exposed to by main stream media advertising), a CNS needs all of the adult-type “bells-and-whistles” of hormones. Those hormones are how physiology is regulated to optimize the things that evolution has optimized physiology to do. I am pretty sure that this is the reason for the acceleration of puberty (which started in 1850, when the age of menarche was almost 17) and not “chemicals” because the chemical industry didn’t get started until 1940’s.

    All this stuff feels important, but it is “monkey-brain” important. It was important to our ancestors 100 million years ago, who had to deal with everything while being not self-aware. Now we have other ways of optimizing our lives, not necessarily only through our endocrine system, but the endocrine system doesn’t understand that (how could it, it is just a mindless endocrine system). The endocrine system can’t really tell you what to do, it can just make certain things feel better or worse.

    I think that trying to focus on any type of body-image stuff using a competition-type metaphor (like beauty) will be problematic. I think focusing on the life-goals that can be the consequence of successful peer-competition will be more satisfactory; I have loving friends, I have children I love, I like doing xyz, I don’t need to compete with xx person because I have abc.

    Most of the media images are there to sell stuff. Media advertising uses body image stuff because it works. It works because we are social beings and are hard-wired to compete with each other over certain things whether it is good for us or not. If your endocrine system wants you to compete, and your brain perceives that product xyz will accomplish something your endocrine system is trying to do, your endocrine system will make you feel better if you go down that path.

    If you were living in “the wild”, 50,000 years ago, at age 35 you would have likely gone through at least a dozen, maybe 20 pregnancies and would have an even chance of having died in childbirth. If you are average, you would have 2 children survive to become parents themselves.

    • Avatar of daedalus2u
      March 11, 2013 at 11:23 pm —

      I posted before I saw Brenda’s response. She is right, that is what I was trying to say. Live with what you have, don’t pine about competing with others about what you don’t have (and probably don’t really want anyway).

    • Avatar of Will
      March 12, 2013 at 12:27 am —

      This is completely off topic, and I apologize to Elyse, but I cannot let this comment sit there unaddressed. There are so many assumptions underlying your comment that it makes me dizzy. Let me just pick apart a couple of them.

      “We evolved to compete with our peers for stuff” is an extremely broad statement, and, typical of reductionist thought, it privileges competition over cooperation. It’s a point of view that is biased towards a Western individualistic worldview. It also ignores that humans are not merely biological creatures but are biocultural beings such that biology and culture are inseparable in the study of human evolution (for example, see Jonathan Marks “The biological myth of human evolution”).

      “Body image stuff” as you put it is not a cultural universal. Beauty standards vary greatly across cultures, and many of them aren’t based on “body image” (as in, how one feels about the aesthetics of their own body). The problem is that the ways that people conceive of bodies is not the same cross-culturally. Societies that view bodies as inherently social (instead of individual) will likely not place much or any value in their own feelings of how their bodies look to others (if they even consider such thoughts). They will see their bodies as connected to the other members of their groups such that there is no clear dividing line between their bodies and the bodies of their peers. (For an interesting example of this way of thinking about bodies, see Beth Conklin’s Consuming Grief.)

      So, beauty is not always about competition–it’s also about adhering to and upholding social norms of a group. The Kayapo, for example, highly value beauty, but for them beauty is based on how well people perform social roles. In this case, beauty is not about competing with peers “for stuff,” but about maintaining social relations and social order (Terence Turner has published on this extensively if you’re interested in reading more).

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s no need to reduce everything to evolution and hormones. And I’m a little perplexed by your need to tell Elyse what her life would have been like 50kya. Not sure what that’s supposed to add to this topic.

      • Avatar of marilove
        March 12, 2013 at 1:08 am —

        EVERYTHING to this guy is reduced to evolution and hormones. EVERY COMMENT he ever makes is based on evolution and hormones. He can’t see past that. I gave up a long time ago. Tried to respond last night to his weird crap, but honestly, it’s just too fucking weird.

        He’s very one note.

      • Avatar of Anthropologist Underground
        March 12, 2013 at 10:59 am —

        Following Will OT, a friend sent me this the other day. I need to give it a closer reading and follow the links to primary sources, but here’s the money shot, IMO, “This new approach suggests the possibility of reverse-engineering psychological research: look at cultural content first; cognition and behavior second.” Steve Novella’s comment further down makes me curious about how eating disorders and body image play out across cultures.

      • Avatar of jtradke
        March 12, 2013 at 10:34 pm —

        FYI, here’s the full text via Jonathon Marks’ homepage of “The biological myth of human evolution”:

        [PDF] http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/2012biocultural.pdf

  13. Avatar of Artemisia
    March 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm —

    I don’t think ‘love your body’ has to be synonymous with ‘think your body is attractive’. I think one of the biggest problems we have, especially as women, is the prevalence of the notion that we can only love our body if we think our body is attractive. You can love your body and not think it is particularly attractive. You can love your body because it is strong, because it tells a story about your life, because it is fertile, because it can give you sexual pleasure, because it can dance, because it can sooth and comfort, because it can feed a child, because it can save a life, because it shows your connection to your culture, because it shows your age, is tired and most of all because it is you. You should love yourself, and you should love your body because one is not separate from the other.

    I think we tend still to operate on a mind/body separation and think of our bodies as things that we inhabit rather than things that we ARE. You are your body and, even when that body doesn’t seem to fit an ideal (be it an idea of form or function) it is who you are.

    I always share this video with my students – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEUsbLNAfW0. I think it is flawed in that she still uses the language of beauty as the rationale for ‘loving’ your body, but it gives a good indication of why you might find a reason to love your body – that it doesn’t have to be because it is beautiful. I see nothing unlovable in the photos that you have posted. I see things that don’t fit into the narrow concept of beauty that we are given to work with as women, but I see plenty that tells me about who you are. I think it is a very narrow definition of beauty that makes you exclude your body from the umbrella of beauty. Visit Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com) and tell me that you truly can’t see beauty outside the thin, young and white framework.

    • Avatar of Nicole Introvert
      March 12, 2013 at 4:37 am —

      Whereas I understand your sentiment in “loving your body for what it can do.” It’s still holding women (or people) to a certain standard. What if you are not fertile? What if you don’t have a child? The latter is something that is new to me struggling with. I have this body that is “supposed” to have children but yet I don’t. Also, what about bodies which can’t move? On days where my Fibromyalgia flares up and I can’t move my neck and shoulders, I’m none too pleased with my body. And having a relative who went from extremely active cyclist is paralyzed from the C2 vertebrae down, I’m sure he doesn’t love his body most days.

      I want to be allowed to dislike my umbelical hernia scar and weird belly button and hair that grows on my stomach. I don’t want to be pressured into showing it to the world. I want to be allowed to be angry at my IT Band because it gets inflamed at the drop of a hat and impedes me from doing one of my favorite activities which is running.

      • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
        March 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm —

        There is one part of Elyse’s body she really should love, and it’s the only part that we can actually know via the Internet… her brain, not because of what it looks like, but because of what it does. (I’m imagining here an image, stolen from Young Frankenstein, of Abby Normal’s brain in a glass jar, labelled “Ugly”, and the identical picture, except with the placard changed to say “Elyse Anders”, labelled “Beautiful”.)

        But what about people who’s brains are trying to harm or kill them, because they have a tumor or are suicidal or believe in homeopathy? Should they love their brains too?

        • Avatar of marilove
          March 12, 2013 at 5:47 pm —

          And what about those with mental illness? Schizophrenia, for example??

          I dislike my brain a lot of the time. It’s stupid. But I’m prone to anxiety and manic episodes. Stupid brain.

          • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
            March 12, 2013 at 6:03 pm

            Yeah, I could have made my list a lot longer… and people who’s brains aren’t their friends in so many ways. or who have horrible frequent migraines or have blood vessels in their brains that are constantly threatening to shut down or explode, or whose brains have suffered traumatic injuries and are likely subjects for chapters in Oliver Sachs books. Stupid brains

          • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
            March 12, 2013 at 10:21 pm

            And Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, BSE and the zombie apocalypse. Can’t believe I forgot the zombie apocalypse! Stoopid Brain!

            I’ve kind of drifted from my original point which was to riff on Nicole’s point that even telling someone to love their body for what it can do, rather than for what it looks like, assumes people’s bodies are capable of functioning “normally”. I just want to “+1″, if that wasn’t obvious.

          • Avatar of Artemisia
            March 13, 2013 at 3:21 am

            I don’t think you should love your body just because of what it can do. Or just because of what it looks like.

            I think you should love your body because it is you. I think it is fine to be angry, frustrated and sad with a body that doesn’t function in the ‘ideal’ way – I suffer generalised anxiety and so could arguably hate or dislike my brain but I don’t and I don’t think that sort of global thinking is helpful. There are ways in which my body and mind don’t work in the way I would like them to and I do what I can to make change and accept those things that I cannot accept. I just got back from my obgyn from a follow up after laser treatment for my pre-cancerous cervix. My cervix was sneakily trying to kill me. I cannot touch my toes with straight legs and have never been able to.

            But I love my body because my body is me. We are not unloveable just because we don’t operate perfectly – body or mind.

            I’m not holding anyone to a certain standard other than to say that I believe that the path to happiness is to be able to love yourself. And I think part of that is accepting your flaws and celebrating your virtues. I think part of that is accepting that your body is separate from you like some sort of clothing that you can assess at a distance. It is you.

  14. Avatar of oragette
    March 11, 2013 at 11:42 pm —

    YOU are amazing, and thank you for this article! Ginormous hug of support!

  15. Avatar of Displaced Northerner
    March 12, 2013 at 12:14 am —

    I love everything you wrote here. Most of my life I haven’t thought much about my body or appearance. I think the fact that it was possible reflects the privilege of being born white, thin and conventionally attractive. In high school, I would marvel at my friends who were concerned with their weight/appearance and tell them not to worry and just enjoy the bodies they had. It wasn’t until I aged and grew out of my privilege that I realized how condescending and obnoxious those statements were.

  16. Avatar of silencingthebell
    March 12, 2013 at 6:42 am —

    Excellent rant, thanks for sharing.

  17. Avatar of jesse
    March 12, 2013 at 8:20 am —

    Hmmm. Something I was thinking of. Maybe one way to approach it is to think in terms of what you demand your body to do rather than how it looks. I mean, when I think about the body issues I had as a kid (as a male) and being embarrassed to be seen undressing and such… it wasn’t until I was older and started doing more physical stuff (which I had studiously avoided for years) that I was able to say “my body will do whatever I demand of it.” (And those demands will differ a lot from person to person, but I’ll start with living as long as possible).

    But when I think about it that was a big help. Because it got me out of thinking about what other people were interested in and got me more focused on what I needed. Granted, some of that was also suffering an injury in a motorcycle accident (no I wasn’t riding) that left me with scars and some lingering physical problems (I’ll be paying orthopedists periodic visits for the rest of my life, I expect, so at least a few more X-ray techs will stay gainfully employed). Anyhow, being in a wheelchair for a while, and doing six months of very painful PT, kind of changes your view of yourself I guess. (Don’t let anyone ever tell you that walking isn’t one hell of a complicated activity to re-learn. And I didn’t even have any neurological damage to contend with).

    On the other hand, my sister once pointed out to me that for years I would resolutely refuse to wear shorts, ever, unless I was in the water. I was deeply embarrassed at some level about the scarring, even though objectively speaking it isn’t bad. I hadn’t noticed it, but the post got me thinking about that kind of unconscious stuff. I hated the scars. I hated what they reminded me of, even though I would never have admitted it.

    But all that said, when I think of the kinds of issues I have now, and how they might be different if I were not in reasonably good shape for a 40+ year old, the post got me thinking about the things I hated, the things I liked, and why I liked and hated them. Or maybe my experience with non-able-bodied-ness took the body-hatred I had as a child and just re-directed it.

    Elyse’s post got me thinking about how I view my own body, how I connect it to my sense of self, and what standards of (male) physicality meant for me.

    But it also got me thinking, what should people do, then? Is there any solution except just throwing up your hands and saying “screw it?”

    • Avatar of punchdrunk
      March 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm —

      I think throwing up your hands and saying ‘screw it’ is a great option.

  18. Avatar of Steven Novella
    March 12, 2013 at 8:38 am —

    Elyse – your points are valid, but I think there is often a different context to the concept of loving one’s body. Such campaigns are often targeted toward those who suffer from anorexia or a similar clinical disorder. It is meant as an attempted remedy for those who have a distorted body image that is resulting in real medical harm. They cannot get to a comfort level with their body, may be obsessed with imagined imperfections, and this results in unhealthy behavior, including at times starving oneself to death. It is a special case worth noting, and often the context relevant to “love your body” campaigns.

    • Avatar of Nicole Introvert
      March 12, 2013 at 9:19 am —

      Just one example but until Unilever (Dove soap) is making huge donations to NAMI or NEDA I’ll buy the fact that their “love your body” campaigns are designed to help women who have eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorder. Right now I think it’s about making women think about their bodies enough to still want to live up to a common beauty standard and think they need Dove to do so.

    • Avatar of MyMelody
      March 12, 2013 at 10:41 am —

      Yes, I have to admit, they helped me a lot with my bulimia, and my distorted body image. I’m still recovering, but getting better. Looking at women with bodies that don’t look like that ideal has helped me understand that mine is not horrific. There are lots of people who look like me, and enjoy lives and love their bodies. That is very helpful to me.

    • Avatar of Elyse
      March 12, 2013 at 11:18 am —

      As someone who has battled eating disorders since I was 10, I’ve (obviously) found “love your body” unhelpful. I am literally incapable of looking at my body and appreciating it. For me, my inability to achieve “love your body” has often been another failure to fuel ED.

  19. Avatar of Mark Sletten
    March 12, 2013 at 10:42 am —

    Self worth should be gauged on the qualities of those who love and/or respect you, and perhaps on those who loathe you as well. The way I figure it, none of the people that matter to me in my life care about the way my body looks as much as me. A brief bit of research demonstrates than none of the great positive events that’ve shaped human history hinged on how the bodies of the major players looked.

    Live long and love those who love you. Be healthy–in mind and body, and in that order.

  20. Avatar of Renée Clancy
    March 12, 2013 at 11:53 am —

    Thank you.

  21. Avatar of The Sugar Monster!!
    March 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm —

    This is absolutely incredible. The past six months or so I’ve been focusing on: Well, if I AM ugly…so fucking what? That doesn’t determine my worth or morality. I think about the fact that “ugly” is one of the worst things to be in our culture so embracing THAT reality feels more natural and empowering. I AM UGLY AND FUCK YOU FOR THINKING THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS. Thank you for this piece.

  22. Avatar of Hanna
    March 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm —

    I am very glad that you wrote this, Elyse, although I have a hard time putting myself in your shoes. For me, my body is a strong part of my self-image. Not just how it looks, but how it works and all that stuff. So ‘love your body’ is much like ‘love yourself’ as I interpret it. But this is worth questioning. Why? Why ‘love’? What does that even mean when people are telling it to you from outside?

    I mean, it’s probably not good to both hate your body and prioritize it. But yeah, disliking it but not really giving a shit, what’s wrong with that? I like my body OK. It’s pretty reliable, physically, and attractive enough for my purposes; but those are things that can and will change over time. Fuck it, it’s just a body; they do that. OK, see? I just converted myself — the point isn’t ‘is it good/bad to love your body?’, it’s ‘why the fuck are you, an outsider to this body, so concerned about my opinion of it?’

    • Avatar of Elyse
      March 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm —

      Yes!

      • Avatar of daedalus2u
        March 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm —

        Essentially everything done in a social context has a component of competition whether you like it or not or whether you are aware of it or not. Your physiology is “aware” and is modifying how you feel accordingly.

        Telling people what they should do and how they should feel about themselves is always problematic. It is your own body, they are your own feelings, no one else has the standing to tell you what they should or should not be. Nothing in what I say should be interpreted as telling someone how or what to feel.

        However, humans are social beings and social beings care about what their peer social beings think and feel about them. Some people exploit those feelings through advertising to get people to buy crap they don’t need. Some people exploit those feelings through bullying to hurt people.

        Make people desperate and they will do desperate things, things like spending tens of thousands on cosmetic plastic surgery to adapt certain parts of their anatomy to a certain “look”. Why? Because they somehow “feel” like it is a good idea. The same reason that some men spend $$$ on “enhancements”.

  23. Avatar of missy
    March 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm —

    I hate my hair. Always have. It’s baby fine and I don’t have a lot of it. I grow it long so I can pull it back and forget about it most of the time.
    55 years, 2 kids and menopause has done a number on my body. I doubt I’d be voted the skinniest like I was in high school. Some things don’t work so well anymore, like my knees. I did have Lasik, however, so my years of glasses and contacts are over.
    But I really always have had a “so what” attitude concerning my body. Of course, I have the same attitude about my personality, my hobbies, my likes and dislikes, whatever. I am what I am, and people can like it or not, I don’t care.
    I don’t know if that’s a healthy or a sick mental state. It is just me.

  24. Avatar of kwestion22
    March 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm —

    This is a sensitive topic in my opinion, especially once we bring eating disorders and/or body dysmorphia into the picture.
    In no way do I subscribe to the belief that a person is a Bad Woman or Bad Feminist or in any way a lesser person if they do not “love their body” or do not “achieve” this in their recovery or otherwise. I believe everyone is entitled to live their life and have the sort of relationship they decide to and are capable of at any given point with themselves and their bodies.
    That said, I also don’t think there’s anything *wrong* with body-love movements or the encouragement to pursue this kind of a relationship with any given person’s self/body. Each person can choose to take it or leave it. I don’t feel anyone should be made to feel ashamed or less accomplished in their recovery if they continue to have trouble with their body as a whole or with certain parts or whatever. But is there anything wrong with people sharing that they HAVE come to love their bodies? The way it works for them, or even the way it looks? Is there anything wrong with people trying to provide hope to some people who may not love their bodies, but desire that kind of a relationship with them?
    I don’t really think there is. I personally am in early recovery from a 15 year ordeal with anorexia and bulimia, and my body is not functioning optimally – in terms of metabolism, thyroid stuff, bone density, dental health and so on. I feel horrible about my body on most days. But if I personally desire a more comfortable, loving relationship with my body does that mean I’m subscribing to some additional media or socially driven trend? It doesn’t make me any better or worse than someone who doesn’t believe that to be possible for themselves. I may not believe it to be possible, but continue to want it and therefore do what I want and can to try to “get there” in the future. I don’t see anything wrong with either side.
    I think you hit the nail on your head when you said no one should tell anyone how they SHOULD feel about their body. No one should be forced to feel that they are inadequate for how their body is OR how they feel about it; but just as it’s important (I don’t know if you agree) to raise awareness that there is that very possibly unattainable ideal (for 99% of the population or whatever), that it’s okay and important to spread awareness that even people who don’t meet that ideal can like, even love, their bodies? Is that a fantasy really or does the love come from somewhere else?
    My two cents.

  25. Avatar of Bridget Gaudette
    March 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm —

    Best. Ever.

  26. Avatar of freethinkingahead
    March 12, 2013 at 7:31 pm —

    Thank you for writing this.

  27. Avatar of Niki M
    March 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm —

    I’ve spent most of my life with a like/hate relationship with my body, and it all came to a head during these past two years where I’ve had to accept the fact that my denture days were going to start early. Like age 32 early. And the process wasn’t going to be smooth and quick one, so I spent most of those two years with a near to completely toothless maw. Being fat, having strechmarksm an “always look pregnant” belly, crappy knees, hair that curls weird, a face that weeps oil at the mere hint of makeup, and ankles that try to maim me if I think of wearing heels, all of that I could, and can, accept. But running around in the world with my sunken, weirdly shaped face, worried that all anyone would see were flapping gums? I turned looking into the mirror while no looking at my face into an art. I went from being generally okay with my body to outright despising myself. I wasn’t just fat anymore, I was disgusting. I wasn’t just average looking, I was a troll. When I did force myself out for social gatherings (i.e. CONvergence, which I honestly enjoy) , I’d return so anxious that I would shake all over.

    Now I’ve got my “plastic” smile, and while I’m all kinds of happy (because damn I missed crunchy food), I didn’t suddenly became ‘beautiful’ and fell in love with myself over again. I became okay, regression to the mean and all that. All of that shit is still there, and I’m okay with that.

  28. Avatar of Lindsay Love
    March 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm —

    Maybe I’m way off base here but I really don’t understand what’s wrong with the loving your body, flaws and all? I don’t think the movement is commanding you to do anything that you don’t want to do. People can tell you that you’re beautiful until you’re blue in the face but at the end of the day the only thing that matters or that stands is what you think. I think the movement is just trying to stop the shame that people feel when they don’t fit or are unwilling to conform into this very narrow standard of beauty. You reference this prevailing beauty standard that you don’t fit into but it’s a problem that people are promoting body acceptance as a way of combating these unattainable images you are trying so hard to fit into? What’s wrong with putting more positive and diverse images out there to break up this standard of “normal beauty?”

    I think you bring up some interesting concepts but I cannot say that I fully agree. You think in absolutes. If you can’t love your body then you must hate it. But it is possible to not be in love with your body but to come to a place where you accept and respect it. I’ve worked with women in substance abuse who have many complex body image issues and negative self-concept. When they hated their bodies that was when they started using and engaging in other very toxic behaviors like self-mutilation. It was also very much linked to a loss of control in their lives. Respecting your body and accepting it is important. So is creating your own standards because people are always going to judge you and tell you who they think you are (you’re too fat so you must be this, too skinny so you must be that, too black so you must be this, too white, too poor, etc). If you are constantly letting that affect you to the point where you lose a sense of control and cannot appropriately manage your feelings then you’re going to be stuck in that feeling. You really have to know who you are so when people come at you with the judgement and negativity it may sting for a bit but it doesn’t completely shatter you because you choose not to let it define you. Believe me I step in the door and I am immediately judge based on my race, body, age etc. And it does suck that people can’t get past that and start seeing me for the person I am. But should I hate myself for being young, black and thick and don’t fit into a boxed concept of who society thinks I am? Absolutely not because that would be absolutely ridiculous. Those people who judge want me to feel like nothing and they want me to give up and I refuse to give in because I am a fighter and I deserve a chance at a happy life. I get the frustration because I have had people come to me with the positive affirmation bull and body acceptance while simultaneously making assumptions about me because of my weight. But newsflash: YOU CANNOT CONTROL THE ACTIONS OF OTHERS!!! And I wish I would’ve known this sooner because I could’ve saved the energy. At the end of the day I don’t want to be anybody but myself and I’m glad all my parts don’t fit into the box because the box is boring and I’m way too complex.

    I think you kind of contradicts yourself in the end because you talk about how you are okay not loving your body and probably never will but then state that you’ve learned to love your face. This could’ve been sarcasm and I just missed the boat because I’m in a midterms state of mind. But there is a bit of distortion in your thinking. I also don’t like the underlying message you present that bigger women don’t deserve to be beautiful and should focus on other things and stay in their lane. I know that you are playing off what societal beauty standards project onto bigger women but it sounds like you have internalized that message and have just given up. It’s great if you can define yourself by your other strengths (intellect, passionate, etc). But you focused so much on what you hated about yourself (which was all tied to your body) that you never addressed what you did like about yourself. It would’ve been great if you had said “instead of defining me solely based on beauty maybe you can take a look at my other attributes like the fact that i’m smart, i’m a great mother, i’m a great friend, etc.” I was reading this and thinking that it’s quite possible you don’t like yourself at all because of your feelings about your body. Beauty doesn’t have to be tied to the physical. It sounds like you’re externally focused. Sorry for the long post but I had some strong feelings about this issue.

    • Avatar of Elyse
      March 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm —

      I don’t think you read the same article I wrote if you think it says women don’t have the right to feel however they want to feel about their bodies, and that they’re only allowed to hate them.

      Also weird that you think I have to hate my face if I hate my thighs.

      I think it’s sad that you think I must hate myself if I don’t love my exterior.

      • Avatar of Artemisia
        March 13, 2013 at 3:26 am —

        Her point is that, if you say you learned to love your face, why do you imagine it would be impossible to do the same with your body?

  29. Avatar of cajela
    March 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm —

    Huh, I think it’s weird that you think your body is your exterior. Currently I particularly love my bicep muscle, which is underneath a layer of skin & fat. I’m quite fond of my lungs, too. They have been through some hard times, but they have kept on going.

    This is quite thought-provoking. My first thought is that the commercial approach is dodgy, because it’s all about “loving” by spending money on it, not by actual love. In a similar way to how spas and salons are considered “pampering”, not maintenance of a body to a certain beauty standard. (Having my body hair ripped out with hot wax is NOT pampering, thank you very much. I don’t swing that way. Well, maybe a little bit, but there had better be some hot snogging first.)

    If I think about loving my body, I think of improving its/my health and capabilities, and appreciating sensual pleasures. Not very much about what it looks like.

  30. Avatar of Lindsay Love
    March 13, 2013 at 12:12 am —

    I read the article quite clearly actually and that is the way you came off and the message you were projecting. You kept talking about your hate for your body and how you were more than just the body but you never detailed who you actually were outside of the body. “Beauty is not the one thing that makes us and our bodies worth loving. We don’t have to distort an already fucked-up definition of beauty, and pretend we fit into it, just to feel like we are people worthy of being loved.” This quote pretty much sums it up. You are focused on what makes you worthy of love from others but you never talked about what makes you worthy of love from yourself. Or are you waiting for somebody to come along and narrowly construct that for you as well? Because you’ve already let others define beauty for you and box you out of accepting and loving your body. So if you don’t fit into what others define as lovable will you start hating your personality traits as well?

    And beauty is what you make of it and I find it sad that you cannot identify a broader sense of beauty outside of existing definitions and physical characteristics. Plenty of things beside a perfect body make a person feel beautiful. YOU chose to interpret the concept of beauty so narrowly and you choose to give it power over your life. Beauty is not a four-letter word.

    And I never said you have to hate your face if you hate your thighs. Your statement was that you spent years getting comfortable enough with it to show it to us without make-up. Which implies you were at one point uncomfortable with your face and you changed your perception of it. So you cannot overcome your total hatred of your body in the same way?

    When you write on a forum you have power to influence and change minds. And when you start saying things like “I hate my body because my stomach is flabby and my ass is sagging and it’s okay. YAY!” you are modeling poor body image that might affect the way others (especially those who are vulnerable) see themselves. As a mother please recognize that when you model those concepts of hating your body to your children you are shaping the way they think about their own bodies which they carry with them into adulthood. Are you comfortable with sending the message to your children that it’s okay to hate your body?

    • Avatar of Elyse
      March 13, 2013 at 12:44 am —

      I feel like I should write an article about how fucked up it is to tell women what are acceptable feelings to have about our own bodies and that whatever feelings we do have are valid and don’t make us bad women or moms.

      • Avatar of Artemisia
        March 13, 2013 at 3:28 am —

        I absolutely disagree with you that all feelings are valid. Many feelings are unhealthy and it is good to suggest to people that they work to change them.

        I do not think that women who find their bodies unattractive are bad women. I think it is largely impossible for a women to be raised in our current society and find her own body attractive.

        • Avatar of Kate Donovan
          March 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm —

          Sure, feelings can be unhealthy. Telling other people what to do, particularly people you don’t know, when not in their employ to tell them what to do, is really invasive and unhelpful. Often it just sounds patronizing, nosy, or like unsolicited advice–and stuff that sounds like that isn’t exactly motivating.

  31. Avatar of Lindsay Love
    March 13, 2013 at 1:40 am —

    And yet again another example of your preference for black and white thinking. Because I ask you a question about the messages you may be sending to your children about their concept of their bodies I’m call you a bad mom? And because I remind you that you do have influence over others as a writer and ask you to be accountable to that I’m calling you a bad woman? Victim much? You have no concept of who you are outside of your body and the fact that you want to attack me for pointing that out to you must make me the anti-feminist villain of the year I guess? Write whatever bullshit you want and try to pass it off as an empowerment tale. I’ll start it out for you:

    Dear Diary,
    Today this woman dared not to kiss my ass in response to my article. She must be completely fucked up. I’m not the one with the problem. I’m just a poor defenseless victim of societies beauty standards. Everyone else has the problem. Who does she think she is? She’s just a bitch! How dare she blah blah. [Insert poorly interpreted feminist theory here}. Blah blah blah blah blah [tears].

    Does that sound about right?

    • Avatar of punchdrunk
      March 13, 2013 at 1:49 am —

      I had a different reaction to Elyse’s article, I didn’t see what you apparently saw, which is fine, our relationships with bodies are individual and complicated.

      But your nasty little ‘dear diary’ addendum there is unbelievable. What the fuck is wrong with you?

      ‘Everybody else’ doesn’t have a problem. Just you.

      • Avatar of Lindsay Love
        March 13, 2013 at 2:10 am —

        And what problem might I have exactly? The fact that I’m not buying what Elyse is selling? The fact that if you read through the comments Elyse dares to tell somebody, ” I would hope that if you or another woman of color weren’t able to embrace “Black is Beautiful”, instead you could embrace ‘but fuck it, who says I have to be beautiful?'” Which is a bit fucked up to tell someone that if they struggle to fit into narrowly constructed concepts of beauty just give up because you don’t have to love you body or your race or ethnicity anyway. You can carry on hating yourself for physical things you can’t change. Unbelievable is the fact that Elyse threw down the threat of I’m going to use my powers to write an article about you and my distorted perception of what you are saying. She’s playing the role of the victim while simultaneously trying to be insulting and threatening. That is a complete manipulation and I’m not buying it. But you can if you want punchdrunk. Don’t let me stop you.

        • Avatar of Ms. Daisy Cutter
          March 14, 2013 at 11:19 am —

          What Elyse is “selling”? Because a woman making a public statement about herself and setting her boundaries is trying to peddle you something noxious?
          Fuck’s sake. We can’t win no matter what we do, and you’re living proof that plenty of other women will police us just as much as men will.
          Also, if I never hear the phrase “As a mother” again, it’ll be too soon.

  32. Avatar of Elyse
    March 13, 2013 at 2:00 am —

    I’m sorry my feelings about myself are so hard on you.

    • Avatar of Lindsay Love
      March 13, 2013 at 2:16 am —

      It’s not the feelings you have for yourself. It’s the fact that you are trying to pass this message of “I hate my body so deal with it” off as healthy. It’s okay not to love your body every day but the word hate implies something deeper than just a problem with sagging thighs

      • Avatar of Kate Donovan
        March 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm —

        I think you’re misinterpreting. The point is, it’s really weird and creepy to tell people what to feel, period. That includes things like “you must be happy about your body” and “you must really enjoy mint chocolate chip ice-cream and Dalmatians.”

  33. Avatar of mprager
    March 13, 2013 at 6:10 am —

    Absolutely, without a doubt, you can feel any way you want about your body. (Yes, I can tell you’ve been waiting for my permission.)
    However. Please allow me to share my perspective.
    I love the attitude, and I get the aversion to being told what to do.
    I don’t love my body, either. It has the scars of being formerly much larger, including two actual scars across my breasts from reduction surgery — how many men you know who can say that? It will never be anything like anything anyone would call pretty.
    But I don’t hate it, either. It looks like it looks. It’s much better than it was when I was 365, it does most of what I want it to do, functionally, and that’s good (even surprising) news, given all that I put it through in younger days. I have taken to jogging, in my mid-50s, at a time when many normal-bodied active people have had to move to something less impactful, because they’ve been impacting their joints for decades already. I was too, with 150-plus extra pounds on my frame, but so far, I jog without pain (or much speed, I could add).
    For me, removing (most of) the negative side has removed the need to merrily add a positive side that doesn’t seem reasonable. Would I like it if my body were the envy of all men, and the object of interest for all women, well maybe, kinda, a little. Never had it, maybe I’d like it. But I tend to think it’s like if I won the lottery: Everyone thinks that would be just the answer to all problems, but I think it would create a different set of problems — problems that my experience wouldn’t have prepared me for. I have observed how people react to really beautiful people, and it’s not always great — it imposes lots of baggage, and even really nice baggage is still heavy to carry.
    I will love what I love, so don’t try to school me on it. But I find it to be a fairly agreeable place to be, accepting that my body is my body, and I’ll work on what I *can* change.

  34. Avatar of ragdish
    March 13, 2013 at 8:52 am —

    On a somewhat related note, I have been confronted by theists that we cannot comprehend or appreciate inner beauty. To them, inner beauty is the immaterial soul. I submit that atheists are in a better position to appreciate inner beauty because we acknowledge and admire the majesty of the inner workings of the brain that give rise to the precious mind. I know a number of you here don’t like such reductionist statements. But as atheists who deny the existence of a supernatural soul, I see no other alternative than accepting this materialism.

    So, Elyse, if you dislike your body (and I’m not a big fan of my body either), all of us here love your brain and mind. Your intellect will always shine and inspire atheists like me.

  35. Avatar of Handbasketexpress
    March 13, 2013 at 11:52 am —

    Thank you, Elyse.

  36. Avatar of Mary Shaw
    March 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm —

    I’m almost twice your age, Elyse. When I was your age, I weighed about 160 lbs, and my body was shaped like one of the Three Graces. I have weighed as little as 102 lbs and until about 10 years ago, I focused on the parts of my body that I didn’t like, that I couldn’t change, that made me feel less than beautiful, by the current standards of the day. You know what I have discovered in my old age? I don’t give a rat’s ass about what people think of my body. Do I love my middle age, sagging, drooping, dimpled cellulite body? Loving it is besides the point. The point is actually two-fold: 1) the people who matter the most don’t care about the shape or texture of my body either. They love ME. 2) loving your body is really code for treating yourself as well and as gently as you would treat a beloved friend. Loving my body means that I care enough about myself to feed myself nourishing health food, exercise as much as I can, in ways that give me enjoyment, and clothe myself in ways that make me feel good, with colours and fabrics that please me. I have learned that being myself, without having a hangup in the back of my mind about my physique or its failings, means that I can still be attractive. I still enjoy and appreciate flirting, and am pleased to tell you that someone flirts with me at least once every day. The last man to ask me out was 30 years old. He didn’t see me as a cougar..he saw me as an intelligent, fun, and he admired my confidence. But more important to me, I have the love of my life living with me. It is not about what I look like or who big or small or saggy I am. It is all about WHO I am…For anyone who struggles with body image, the most important thing you can do is love yourself, all of yourself.

    • Avatar of Kate Donovan
      March 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm —

      For anyone who struggles with body image, a really awesome way to support them isn’t by telling them that they have to do it your way, but instead by encouraging them to work and cope within their own framework.

      • Avatar of zwilling
        March 16, 2013 at 6:24 pm —

        THIS, so much this. It’s really difficult to discover our own truths when (often very well-intentioned) folks try to get us to follow exactly the same path they did.

  37. Avatar of Danarra
    March 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm —

    I struggle with this one. Constantly. I don’t fit the beauty standard. Never have. Never will. I look at my own face and body and hate on them hard. I try to remember a couple of things when I’m nearly non-functional.
    1- Beauty standards change. Even just in my own particular lifetime they’ve shifted significantly.
    2 – Bodies change. A lot. Mine and everybody else’s. We have this cultural weirdness where we expect things to be the same forever. But that’s a whole other tangent.
    3 – I do not have a body. I am a body.
    4 – Lastly, to quote Oscar Wilde: “We probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do.”
    5 – When I get all judgemental and hating on my looks, it helps me to remember that I really don’t react to other people’s looks that strongly. It’s not that they don’t matter, looks totally matter in social interactions, but they’re just one part of the whole impression. And the foundational part of that impression – the face and body – can be mitigated by how you dress, how you speak, what intelligence, kindness or humor you display.

    Anyway, it sucks not fitting the beauty standard, but it ain’t the meaning of life. I think…

  38. Avatar of trilobyte
    March 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm —

    This post rocks so hard. I registered just to say that, and I have been reading this blog for years.

  39. Avatar of zwilling
    March 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm —

    Like trilobyte, I registered just to tell you how awesome this post is. You said so eloquently what I have been feeling inside for years but couldn’t verbalise. Thank you so, so much.

  40. Avatar of gizmotech
    March 17, 2013 at 11:53 am —

    Elyse: Thank you for writing this. I have felt this way my ENTIRE LIFE. I have battled my weight since I was a child, was picked on incessantly in school and told I needed to lose weight by my own family. Nobody EVER told me I was beautiful just the way I was. Quite the opposite. NOTHING GOOD seemed to matter about me because I was overweight. I try not to look at myself in the mirror anymore than I have to. I am 47 years old and single. I am going through menopause and gaining weight. I stress/obsess about it every single day. I am so tired of trying to “embrace all my imperfections” or “sexy comes from the inside.” It’s bullshit. It’s not reality. I don’t consider myself hideous but I am average. I am so tired of fighting my body. The other part of this is being a single lady. Try finding a desirable mate when you are a 47 year old woman with wrinkles and the Michelin Man tire around your middle, cellulite and “bat wings” for underarms. . Men all want 20 somethings or, at the very least, someone with good enough genes to not LOOK 47. Most couldn’t give a shit what is on the inside. This is just my experience. I guess I should have been shot when I turned 40 since I am no longer the “picture of perfect beauty” (but never really was anyway). I don’t feel desirable anymore even though I know I have accomplished much against the odds and have a TON to offer the right man. I am a giving, caring person but have become somewhat hardened in spirit. I have accepted the fact that I will probably be alone the rest of my life. I know that sounds negative but it is how I feel. But this goes beyond that. This has been a lifelong body image battle. Then when I can’t seem to do what society tells me I should do (embrace my body flaws and all, love my body, tell myself I am beautiful and sexy blah blah blahity blah blah blah ad nauseum) I feel like there is something ever more wrong with me because I can’t seem to get with the program. Society tells you that it all comes from the inside meanwhile doing EVERYTHING in its power to PROVE that is NOT TRUE. Thank you so much for uttering this OUT LOUD. It’s refreshing and liberating to actually read HONESTY!!!

  41. Avatar of Shapa Bhakhaniya
    March 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm —

    Are we not overanalyzing what is essentially a straightforward issue of the attractiveness of the female during a certain young age, and its rapidly diminishing aesthetic appeal to the male sense after a certain age, notably 35? It seems to me that a spinster would roundly reject any notion that her body does not possess the same vitality (namely child bearing fertility, which is a basic requirement for most males in mating), and thereby question her fundamental relationship with a vehicle that is so crucial to the survival of the species. Some things only make sense when we accept them for what they are: women will always attract men for specific reasons and vice versa. The last 50 years cannot undo thousands of years of evolution which somehow ensured our ability to have this conversation.

  42. Avatar of Ellen Eades
    April 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm —

    Really, any time I hear “you SHOULD …” in regards to anything — body image, career expectations, choices around motherhood, politics, family, vacations — I mean ANYTHING — I visualize (audialize?) the sound of a shotgun cocking. Then it goes BOOM. For non-violence points, I make it explode in big colorful fireworks. Nobody gets to tell anybody else what they should or shouldn’t do about their personal choices, so long as it doesn’t affect anyone else. Your body? Hate it, love it, or ignore it. You’ve got my support. It’s YOUR body. Personally, I’m grateful to my body for carrying me on my journey, but I don’t feel the need to spend large amounts of emotional commitment on it either.

  43. Avatar of roxy l
    April 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm —

    rejecting ‘beauty’ and societal pressure about womens’ bodies is not pretending those things don’t exist, though. you can acknowledge they exist while not considering your body the enemy and while refusing to hold yourself to those standards, even if everyone else does. i am ‘morbidly obese’ (among other things that aren’t considered ‘beautiful’- ‘too’ hairy, small boobs, etc.) and i refuse to think that the way my body looks is the wrong way for a body to look, that it’s ugly, or that it’s unacceptable. that doesn’t mean i’m not keenly aware of the common culture, it just means that i refuse to internalize it and carry around the figurative weight of everyone else’s toxicity and hangups.

    i think the main reason people don’t want you to talk about how you hate your body around them is that you aren’t criticizing your body in a vacuum- when you criticize your freckles/fat/saggy skin/wrinkles, you aren’t just criticizing yourself- you are perpetuating the same toxic environment you are griping about, and making other women feel like shit about their bodies. there’s no ‘oh, i just think wrinkles are ugly on ME’ or ‘oh, it’s okay for YOU to be fat, i just would NEVER want to be fat and HATE fat on my body’- these things hurt other women and reinforce the status quo.

    also, it’s sad when our friends hate themselves. you are not your body, but you obviously care a great deal about it and this causes you a lot of pain and anguish, and people who care about you probably don’t want you to feel miserable. of course you have the RIGHT to feel miserable and hate yourself, but if you have connections with other people and let other people care about you, they might challenge that right.

  44. Avatar of charthedoctor
    April 15, 2013 at 8:13 pm —

    I’m a little confused about some statements, namely:
    “embrace shame” and the sentiment, ‘i don’t need to find myself beautiful/I don’t need to love my body’
    I think, correct me as I may be misunderstanding, this is a reversal of the ‘love your body’ fad right? I don’t NEED to love my body when its not beautiful to me. You also go on to say something to the effect, there are other things that I can value and love myself for. (I think) which this I agree with.
    It just kind of scares me to think, or imagine, If I could never ‘love my body’ in the sense of NEVER finding anything beautiful about myself. Is this specifically what you were discussing? I’m just asking for clarification. I find it a little unsettling. Is it that, you don’t necessarily need to view yourself as beautiful with regards to socialized standards? or you simply are ok with never finding beauty in anything of your appearance(I wouldn’t stretch this to say of who/what you are)?
    I dunno, that just seems very painful and saddening. I agree there are other aspects of a human being to value. But really? You don’t find ANYTHING beautiful? Now I’m stepping on boundaries but I was wondering, is it that you also participate in the paradigms of socialized beauty and with that cannot see beauty in yourself? Or refuse to buy into the fad?(this I can understand). But buying into the love yourself fad is different from finding some aesthetic in your appearance isn’t it?
    Of course, I haven’t lived as you so I am attempting to bridge an understanding so I can better understand your sentiment. Please do not reject me and say you could never understand. I want to know/understand the message here but I’m getting confused between the argument: to reject the standards that dictate women SHOULD love their bodies and advocating or accepting that perhaps a woman will never be beautiful in her own eyes and she should just accept that and give up. or is that embracing shame?(which is probably different from giving up)
    Embracing shame is a concept I have just encountered and would like some more discussion on because I would like to know what its about.
    I agree there are many more things to a person than just ‘beauty’ but I still see beauty aesthetically and I’m not bullshitting. maybe its the artist in me, maybe I’m participating into the socialized ideals of beauty and forcing an image. I could explore this further. I somehow am very afraid to accept that one is simply ugly and never can be beautiful. (I’m not sure if this is what you meant, so please correct me)

  45. Avatar of Melissa Fong
    October 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm —

    Thank you for writing this- I quote you along with another article about body image here: http://melissafong.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/let-me-hate-my-body-if-i-want-to/

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