Lately I've been contemplating what it feels like to be me. But I'm coming to understand what it takes to feel comfortable in my own skin: I need to know what myself feels like. And this awareness requires actually knowing my body as well as my internal thoughts, feelings, motivations, and desires.
All this provocative thought has actually stemmed in part from TLC's What Not to Wear - which I've come to enjoy not for its moral implications or theories on the totality of life, but because oddly enough it's helped me connect some other recent thoughts about what it means to be "myself." I've come to realize how often I am mean to myself - I punish my body. I tell myself unkind things, and I do so as an unconscious punishment for not measuring up to what I "should" be, based on my perceptions of loveliness or beauty or intelligence.
At 5'10" (since sixth grade) I have a set of standards in my head about what is acceptable for me, like what a shameful weight is for me; when I fail to meet my standard I start seeing the chubby little insecure girl I was growing up rather than the strong and beautiful woman I am today. In this mindset I miss all the lovely parts of myself: my curly hair, my color changing eyes, my strong legs, my hourglass shape. And when I ignore my total picture I pile on the punishment and disdain by only putting my hair in a pony tail, wearing clothes that don't fit (either too big, or too small), and generally feeling miserable.
I see myself in so many of the nominees on the show - not because I wear only rainbow stripes, or tween styles - but in my inability to see my beauty because my imperfections scream at me, so I cower and hide behind them. It seems what the hosts are trying to do is help people come out of hiding and embrace their full self, emphasizing what is great and working with everything else in a total-package approach.
One of the things I hear over and over again on this show is how crucial fit is to a person looking the way they feel (this goes both ways). They say nothing of size or talk about hidding "wrong shapes" under ponchos. They reinforce the idea that clothes are for the body - the body is not for the clothes. I think Jesus would agree (Matt. 6:25-34).
And while writing this post I found a quote from one of the hosts, Stacy London, on her own body journey: "I have been every size in my life. I’ve been smaller than a zero, up through a size 16. I’ve had lots of issues with body image and weight my whole life and it really took a great deal of work to recognize that at all those weights, no matter how I felt, I could still find a dress that made me feel...powerful."
It seems the issue is in the perception of value. As humans we find a lot of ways to undermine our value - a list of addictions come to mind. My weapon of choice is often related to my body. But I'm wondering if valuing myself looks less like shaming myself for not being a size 8 jean, and more like finding a pair of jeans that fit well, regardless of their size. What could be unleashed if I cared for my body through acceptance and wisdom, rather than shame and punishment?