You Can Leave My Body Alone Now
By Karina Lafayette
We say, “How can she be so confident?” when we lack confidence. We assume, because we’re not happy in some way, that others must feel the same. When we feel good we want to make the people we care about feel good. When others feel good yet we don’t, it feels lonely. No matter what you’re feeling at this moment, I can almost guarantee in some way you want people to feel the way you do. Empathy is what makes us human.
And one thing is for sure, people who feel good will always look for ways to uplift others.
Hence the realization that came to me a few days ago with a former friend of mine. He and I have known each other for several years. I hadn’t heard from him for a month. Then I got married.
Of course I shared photos to celebrate. I felt great that day. You can say I even felt… beautiful, which I’ve struggled with. I chose to wear a red dress that was stored in my wardrobe for a year and still hadn’t gotten the right occasion, till now.
“I’m so happy for you. He’s the one then?”
“He sure is.”
🙂 “So how far are you in your pregnancy?”
“Um, I don’t get what you mean.”
“Oh wow I am SO SORRY. I just thought you… gained weight since I last saw you. So sorry!”
“Wow. That is kind of rude lol. And nope, just happiness.”
It took me a day or so to fully digest what he said. I was kind of shocked but mostly confused. Why would anyone say that? What did I do? It’s just photos.
In Western Culture, women [and men] are so constantly bombarded with [unwanted] advice on what traits society finds attractive in order to gain acceptance, that commenting on someone’s body is not only harmful, it promotes the toxic notion that somehow we aren’t good enough. It promotes the idea that in order to be deemed worthy, I have to fit a certain standard. Even if a person doesn’t mean it that way and they want what’s best, it shouldn’t be said. Ever.
A comment like that can also be harmful to a someone especially who’s had a history of eating disorders. In the United States alone 30 million people have some type of eating disorder. If they struggled with their body image in the past hearing something like this can be damaging. While we’re not responsible for another’s self-esteem, we can at least make the effort to focus on each other’s positive traits instead of highlighting their flaws. Being body positive is crucial for physical AND mental health. See more on this here.
It’s crucial to remember that the ones who care about you will always bring you up. They will never bring you down. You have the right to choose who to surround yourself with, no apologies needed. So those comments were not okay.
Because truth be told, I am enough. My body is perfect the way it is, not because of how it looks, but because it’s MINE. Every inch of it. It’s society that needs to slim down- on its beliefs. If I’m pear-shaped; If my stomach has a mind of its own- great. Many women will likely spend the week before their big day starving themselves, but I like to think that being happy is more important (and by happy I mean no dieting). Awhile ago I was feeling insecure over how muscular my thighs had gotten from squats and exercise, mainly because I wasn’t used to seeing them that way.
It was only till I saw the Allure interview with heavyweight boxer Alicia Napoleon, whom revealed she was made fun of while growing up for having larger thighs, that my perspective shifted.
In the interview, Alicia states, “[People] would tell me all the time, how beautiful I was- I had beautiful black hair. I had a nice figure from the waist up, but forget it your legs down, you're too big- your legs are too big.”
I had been proud to wear that dress because I finally accepted my body as is. The red dress was me saying, “Fuck it, I like this.”
So when the “friend” made that comment where he assumed I looked “pregnant” 😒- which I don’t and am not- it made me think of the unrealitstic beauty standards we’re more accustomed to.
As a member of a fitness group I’ve seen women struggle with their bodies’ transformation, begging for exercises that tone their upper body while keeping their legs slim. They want their thighs small and their booties round and a thigh gap ‘cause they’re afraid they’ll look masculine. They even want to know how to rid of hip dips, which if you look at Jane Fonda circa 1980s, didn’t even exist since yesterday. Heck, even articles on weight loss show already skinny models! As Alicia says, “You shouldn’t be fearful of making your body strong. It’s a beautiful thing and that’s what we’re meant to do.”
People have muscles. People have flab. We have curves, stretch-marks, wrinkles, and maybe a pouchy stomach. Or maybe even a few ribs that show, too. This is your reality. This is my reality. This is what people look like.
So next time we see a photo of someone, unless we all have something nice to say, maybe it’s best to not say anything.
If you want more of that body positivity check out the music video for the song “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara