For the past two weeks I have been thinking about the topic of bodies – yes, bodies. Bodies are what encapsulates your mind, spirit, soul, talents, thoughts, and beliefs, basically everything that makes you who you are. However, somewhere along our journey in life we have begun to resent our bodies, hate our bodies, be embarrassed or disgusted by our bodies because of what we think are imperfections – wrinkles, fat rolls, dimples, unwanted hair, freckles, moles, the list goes on. We alter our bodies because we are told we do not look “normal” and need too in order to be accepted. Side note, I hate the term “normal” because who determines what is normal – I know I did not, did you? Now, if you are reading what I just wrote and feel you do not align with what I just said, then good for you! You have somehow figured out how to love your body amidst the daily bombardment of what constitutes a “normal” body. However, for those (including me) who have struggled with acceptance of their body, then this post is for you.
“The body is not an apology” is a phrase brought to life by Sonya Renee Taylor. Sonya is the founder of The Body Is Not An Apology company where she dedicates herself to educating people about the power of radical self-love. Y’all I HIGHLY encourage you to check out her company along with her book, which I will provide a link too at the bottom of this page. About two weeks ago I had a major emotional and heart-breaking event that occurred in my life. I was not happy with who I was, in fact, as mentioned in my last blog post, I had started a detox the day before, thinking if I lost weight or looked “normal” I would be happy and it would fix everything, I would be accepted, successful, and even loved – boy, did I have the rose color glasses on. I always thought if I was just a bit thinner I would able to conquer the world and follow my dreams – I would be happy. During that week I kept reflecting on myself, on my relationships, and on my life and I concluded I was always comparing my value, how I looked, how my relationships looked, my success, my accomplishments, you name it I compared all those topics to my surrounding environment – against other people, even people I did not know. Now that is just sad, I was searching for acceptance from people I never met or let alone had a relationship with.
I was fearful that I would not be successful in hitting the mile stones of life that society and culture creates – the foundation of a “normal” life. For example, marriage, as a woman who is in her early 30s, I had beaten myself up for not being married and “settled” down by the age of 22, or 25, let alone by the age of 30. I have this journal that I write in once a year all the “goals” I wish to accomplish, and each year I wrote about marriage. Well honey, I am living proof that I did not hit that mile stone according to some made up societal rule that a woman needs to be married by a certain age. What was worse is it did not matter that I was in graduate school, or have conducted research, have owned a business, traveled the world, or spoken at several conferences – no, that was not good enough in my mind, my worth was based on meeting mile stones created by some random person. To be honest, I did not feel successful even after I have done or let alone have been called a strong bad ass woman. I was ashamed of my body, my age, and who I am.
The body is not just the physical appearance, but is the house that holds your essence. As a lovely friend of mine told me just a few days ago as we discuss why are women’s bodies always a topic of discussion – she told me that her body is the least interesting thing about her (can I get an amen!). Her and I began a conversation about why do people feel the need to make comments about our physical body as well as what our body is doing. Just the other day I posted an image of just my face because I got inspired to do some fun creative make-up; my lower body was not show in the image (as you can see below), but it did not stop people making comments about how I should or should not expose more of my lower body. Why was my body up for discussion about what I should or should not have shown? After those comments I began to feel disgust and even contemplated taking the image down. Now mind you, I did my make up because I wanted to explore my creative side – it was because I wanted to have fun, but like other times when my body was brought up, my thoughts began to spiraled down into shaming my body. Well folks I am here to tell you this, MY body might be seen as beautiful, sexual, or some other physical aesthetics in the eyes of many, but I am more than my physical body, I am my talents, my intellect, my laughter, I am a friend, a sister, a daughter, I am SO MUCH MORE than just my body.
As I sat there thinking about that moment, I began to think of all the times my body became a topic of discussion without my permission. I started to realize how my perception of my body through the influences around me impacted by dreams, my wants, and things I wanted to do in life. I remember speaking at my first conference, I was barefoot mine you – I love that I took my shoes off and was unapologetically me, or at least I thought. I went up on the stage, scared, nervous, thinking to myself what the audience must think of me in a physical way. Since it was my first conference a friend of mine who came to support me took a photo of me standing on stage, the first things I thought when I saw the picture was “wow, I am so fat” – today, I am so ashamed I even said that. Why could I not think “wow, I got to talk about my research” or “wow, what an experience”, no, instead my body became a topic, overshadowed the entire experience. My body and the shame I felt about it robbed me of my joy. Y’all, let me repeat that – MY SHAME ROBBED ME OF MY JOY! Now if you ask me, that is not a life I want to continue living. How many of you looked back on pictures of events in your life and the first thing you did was criticize how you looked? How many of you felt your body prevent you from opportunities because your body did not match societies description of “normal”? Your body became the focal point either by you, or by someone else because bodies seem to be always up for discussion. If you are like me, it is exhausting, and to be frank, I am done making or allowing my body to dominate the discussion – my body is no longer up for discussion! PERIOD!
Bodies have always been a topic of discussion. Many women come to mind about bodies, but one woman, who is an idol of mine, showed much tenacity to change the world while trying to not let her body defined her – let me introduce you to the one and only Julia Child. Julia Child (c. 1912-2004), an iconic American Chef, author, and television personality who change the culinary world for women, was 6 foot 2 inches, she towered over most people – she sure as hell would tower over me being only 5 foot 3 (and half) inches. Julia did not fit the “normal” description of a woman; in fact, before her culinary career she applied to join the WAVES and WACS in Washington D.C. but was turned away from the military because she was too tall as a woman – I bet they regret it! In her diaries she describes the hurt and embarrassment she felt as not being “normal”, she even wondered if she would get married because of her not “normal” body. At one point, her virginity was a topic of discussion because she was a virgin in her 30s and was unmarried – many people, including herself deemed her a spinster. Julia was even concern about her “lack” of experience with falling for a man (Paul her later to be husband) who was 10 years older than her and had been with “experienced” women. Later, Julia’s body was up for discussion again but this time because of her gender as a woman in the culinary wold. It was unacceptable for women to work in restaurant kitchens, let alone become classically trained. Julia all throughout her life continually experienced her body being the topic of discussion as ways to prevent her from accomplishing her dreams in life. Nevertheless, Julia was miraculous, she was inspirational and always continued forward, she was tired of letting the world around her dictate who she was going to be. She worked hard, she persisted, and she thrived, she broke glass ceilings later to change the culinary world for the better by demonstrating women belong in the kitchen too – the industry, not just the house kitchen. Julia’s body did not define her success. Although Julia’s body continued to discussed, especially her height, she overcame what society deemed a “normal” body by realizing her self-worth – a radical self-love.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being ashamed not only for my physical appearance but for my thoughts, my emotions, my beliefs – never feeling like I can be me. This is not an easy journey, and I have had my moments of failures in radical self-love, and most likely will in the future, but I am now aware that my body is not up for discussion, it does not define MY success and MY journey – it is a beautiful vessel that helps me embody life’s journey. You are valuable, you are worth your weight in salt. Women before you, women here now, are all experiencing body shame, and I am here to tell you that you do not have too! Women have been fighting for a long time, lets continue their fight and embrace radical self-love. You are your own self, your own body, and you have something to give to this world – I would rather have a world with all different bodies than one where we are all clones. It is the diversity within us that creates the colorful world around us – as Sonya Renee Taylor says “The Body is Not and Apology”. You were made in the image of LOVE, your body was nothing more than a body until some person told you otherwise and you began to doubt your worth because you did not look like what was “normal”, you my dear will never be “normal” because you are extraordinary! Own it, embrace it, love it!
For now, my warriors – be loved, be kind, and know you are loved!
Until next time….
-Alyssa, the salt woman
Taylor, Sonya R. The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radicle Self-Love. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.2018.