By: TBINAA Team
You know what makes me mad? Hearing about little kids in elementary school feeling pressure to diet even before they can spell the words wrong and unfair. You know what else I can’t stand? Those freaky pop-up ads on the internet for “One Secret to Lose Belly Fat Fast.”
F**k you very much, body-hating scammers.
And the thing I hate most of all?
The giant liposuction billboards you sometimes see when driving down the highway. I swear they must be designed to make even the thinnest person wonder if they should shatter an entire herd of piggy banks to get their thighs vacuumed off. Does my anger make you uncomfortable? For those of us who weren’t allowed to express anger in our families of origin, much of our anger gets channeled into sadness instead.
As a little girl, crying because I wasn’t allowed to go to the same event as my older sister meant I would be comforted and reassured, or at least treated like I was a normal kid who was feeling down and needed time to commune with her support group of stuffed animals. Anger at the same disappointment meant I would be treated as if I were an irrational and somewhat dangerous lunatic who might start throwing knives at the wall at any moment. It was not normal, and I was not okay.
We can end up believing that rage is unspeakable and cringe-worthy, something we turn away from in others and try to repress in ourselves. As a result, we might unconsciously spend lots of time polishing a veneer of understanding and niceness on top of the tightly closed chest of our anger. If body-negative messages make you feel sad instead of mad, know that it’s fine for sadness to be your default response instead of anger.
At the same time, try to recognize, explore, and embrace your anger, which otherwise can build up in the body and heart.
My friend Kathleen shared with me that as a child she once heard her scientist father explaining the biological reasons why women were physically inferior to men. She channeled the fire of her anger into a deep appreciation of what her body was capable of and all the ways it performed better than the male bodies around her.
Can you channel your anger in a positive direction of change in your life? Let your anger guide you to a kinder relationship with yourself, even with the most difficult parts.
What gets your blood roiling about body image in our culture? Tapping into anger can help us say no to those forces that would have us stay stuck in body negativity and yes to those that inspire us to love ourselves fully.
Consider the following:
1. How do you feel about the fact that a traditional and narrow definition of beauty, which less than 5 percent of women naturally fall into, is imposed on 100 percent of American women? (A similarly narrow definition of male beauty is becoming more prevalent every year.)
2. True or false: Our culture brainwashes young people and children into thinking that their natural bodies are not acceptable and that they must control their bodies and discipline themselves to live up to a nearly impossible standard of beauty, all while being told their attractiveness is the most important thing about them.
If true, what are some of the consequences of this message in society?
And how does this statement make you feel on a scale of “It doesn’t bother me” to “It’s outrageous and wrong?”
3. Have you thought much about the message we receive in our culture that some bodies are more lovable than others? Why do so many of us believe that message? Who has the right to tell you how you are allowed to feel about your body?
4. How often during the day are you exposed to media and societal messages that you aren’t good enough the way you are? How does this affect your energy level and how you feel about yourself?
5. Who profits from us hating ourselves?
If after answering these questions you’re feeling kind of mad about how our culture manipulates us around body image, contemplate the following:
1. How can you channel this anger to protect yourself from these messages? What are three things you can do to resist and reject body negativity in your life?
2. These messages are hostile to your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. How is protecting yourself from them a form of self-compassion? How is resisting these messages an act of kindness toward yourself and others?
3. How can you channel your anger into getting support from others who are angry about how bodies are treated? How can you work together to create change?
Let yourself be angry about how bodies are treated in our society. Then set in motion the change you want to see by starting with how you treat your own body.
Designate your body as a hate-free zone, find other who have done the same, and do all you can to make the world a safer place for all bodies, no matter what they look like.
[Feature image: Woman with dark brown hair is wearing a black tank top and staring at her reflection in the mirror.]