Shame Game

At the end of January one of my best friends got married. This was easily the classiest wedding I’ve ever been to. She got married at the Henry Ford Museum, which I do mean to visit because it’s just that cool. I took BF with me and while we had a harrowing adventure just to get there (a tale for another day), we had an absolute blast at the wedding! Highlights include the bride saying “Hell Yeah!” when asked if she took the groom, the high-five that sealed the deal (before the kiss), and lots of amazing conversations BF and I had about life and love and our future. He looked absolutely dashing for the event and I thought I looked nice too – crushed velvet plum-coloured dress (with lace, and pearls, because trifecta). I had my make-up professionally done because I knew I was posing for at least one picture with the bride (sadly we didn’t get a chance to get more, but it’s how it goes), and I left the event feeling happy for my friend and delighted with my date night with BF.

I’ll start this tale by saying I don’t wear make-up in my day-to-day life. And I want to explore this topic more in depth in another entry. After my make-up was done I was struggling a bit … it felt like a lot, but it looked good. I was stuck in my head feeling weird because it’s obviously not a look people are used to seeing on me, so I was feeling nervous that it looked out of place for me. Once we were at the venue I was able to relax more and get out of my head about it … having a few drinks didn’t hurt either. Bride and I were able to snap a selfie during the night and I liked how we looked in it. I mean, she’s gorgeous every time I see her, but I’m usually hyper-critical of my face – more than any other part of my body – and even I had to concede that I looked cute. So I have been eagerly awaiting the rest of the wedding photos because YES but also it’s been awhile since I had a professional photo of me taken all dolled up and I thought it would be a nice boost (especially with how I’ve been feeling lately). She sent a message to our friend group that the pictures we’re ready, and gave us the info to be able to see them. So I happily went looking through them and looking for the one of us.

Now knowing what I’ve been thinking/feeling lately … I’m not sure why it felt like a gut-punch when I saw the picture. Bride and I looked great together! It is a really good picture of the both of us. But I honed in so quickly on my size. And that word just popped into my head right away: BIG. And I’m really not. I mean, I don’t have to justify that to you, or me, or anyone reading this blog or not. My size is my size and my size is okay. But in the instant of seeing that photo I felt huge and the words were running through my head and I felt panic. I felt sadness. I felt shame.

As I was experiencing these emotions Bride commented in our group thread about being excited to find the picture of us, and in that moment I choose to trust my friends and told them the truth; that I was having a lot of [body] feels about the picture. I also jumped over to my thread with BF and told him what I was going through. And I’m going to take a moment to pat myself on the back for my evolution … because even a year ago I would have kept this to myself. I wouldn’t have said anything to my friends, I might have lied and said I was happy full-stop with the picture. I would have swallowed the feelings, allowing them to stew and boil inside me … which is probably how I got to this point in the first place. But I’m getting better at saying this out loud because I want to have these hard conversations. I want to make it okay to talk about. I want this to be a narrative we have because I am not okay with thinking this way. It’s not okay that I’m being sold this idea. It’s not okay that my worth is being judged by arbitrary and made-up ideals.

It’s the idea of shame that I focused most on as I started to calm down and really assess my thoughts. Because my thought process went: seeing picture –> notice how big I think I look –> gut-reaction that I should feel shame at this. And, if we’re being honest here (because we’re trying to be) there was an added layer of “shame-you-should-feel” because you’re standing next to someone who is much smaller than you. How messed up is that? Just for fun, another level of messed up is my friend is being sold the same message as me – that’s she’s still not small enough and can stand to be a bit smaller and it’s absolutely bull! The more I thought about it: the fact that I was looking at two amazing women (if I say so myself), both smiling and radiant and happy, who shouldn’t have a care in the world … except there is multiple multi-billion dollar industries who make their fortunes telling both of them that their value is based entirely on their size and they’re not valuable enough because of it … I got angry.

I am furious. Since finishing Body Positive Power I’ve tried to be aware of the conversations around me that revolve around the ideas we’re sold. To my co-worker who spend all of our lunch break talking about “not being on a diet, but just counting calories. And the daily limit the app gives me is ridiculous, but I’m just using it to make sure I don’t eat a high amount of calories”. To the conversation I had just yesterday with BF about doctors who don’t take the concerns of patients seriously and preface all of their diagnosis with “but if you just lose a little weight”. To the times I’ve been told that I “look cute for a girl my size”. To the fact that I read a chapter in a book about someone’s eating disorder and I felt shame that I couldn’t have the discipline to succeed at the same disorder as her. Why are we accepting these things? Why do we just shrug off it all as the status quo and go about our days? Why do we tote body positivity if we’re still absorbing the messages and reflecting them back in our own lives and thoughts?

I’m upset that I got upset. The more I type out this entry the more foolish I feel. When I started this entry I thought I would get to a point where I tried to justify my size. That some people just can’t help it. That if I have actually changed my day-to-day diet, that if I am moving my body as much as I reasonably can, if I am working through the damage and self-harm of an eating disorder, then it should be “okay” for my body to be what it is. Guess what? MY BODY IS OKAY JUST AS IT IS BEFORE ANY OF THAT. My body was okay as a teenager when people were bullying me for it (wrong, but them not me). My body was okay at the worst parts of my eating disorder because my body was still my body (regardless of the fact that I was fighting a mental disorder). My body was okay when I was a super-poor student who didn’t eat much. It was okay while I was trying to recover. It was okay when I was going through my divorce. It was okay when I was celebrating my friend’s wedding and it is okay each and every day of my life regardless of what anyone else has to say about it.

This was not the blog entry I thought was going to spill out of me when I started this post, but I am so glad this is where I got. I am changing. My mindset it changing. I can easily imagine a time where I would have “woe is me”d a lot in this entry, where I might have explored my feelings and talk a lot about the before time. I’m glad I’m moving in this direction. I am getting more positive about myself – positive that there is nothing wrong with me. I’m getting angrier at the messages I’m seeing. And I want to do something about it. I’m not sure what yet, but I want to affect change. Even if it’s only locally, even if it’s only for the people that read this … if I can help change things so people know it’s okay to be any size, any shape, to take up any and all space they want … then I’ve done something good. Change starts from within and I can absolutely feel it. When I started this entry I was worried that seeing this picture had ruined the plans I had for tonight, Valentine’s Day. Now I can say I’m going to have probably the best Valentine’s Day of my life.

The biggest take away from this entry is I’m tired of playing the Shame Game. I’m tired of buying into messages that I need to look, feel, be a certain way to be heard, acknowledged, and respected. From here on out if I make any changes to myself or my day-to-day look it’s because it’s something I’ve deemed worthy to be in my life, not because I’ve been sold the idea that I need it. I’m officially declaring war on any and everyone that tells me I’m not enough because of how I look.

W. A. R.

~ J

P.S.: For posterity here is the photo in question. These are two amazing ladies, if I do say so myself! Photograph by: Nicole Haley Photography

Super Best Friends!

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