A body image mantra: 'I don't like it, but there it is'
How to feel a little better, maybe, about your "flaws."
Thanks for reading! Do me a favor: Click the ❤️ at the bottom so I get more visibility on Substack. And consider going paid for access to all posts (here’s my archive) and to support me:
I’m going to write about one particular part of my body and my feelings on it.
My feelings are very stupid. This is not body positivity, acceptance, or neutrality, this is petty bitching.
I dislike that I happen to have a little bit more body fat distribution above my right hipbone than my left, so I have a little love handle on one side and not so much on the other, which is especially obvious to me in bathing suits.
I sure hope you were sitting down!!!
I took a picture of it I was going to post here, to try to do some kind of ~* real body transparency *~ thing, a la “influencers and their tiny fat rolls,” which I’m not against. But after a while of staring at that part of my body it became like semantic satiation (that thing when the uninterrupted repetition of a word eventually leads to a sense that the word has lost its meaning) — the uninterrupted staring at this “flaw” of mine lead to a sense that there was barely a flaw at all. I became this meme lady:
Maybe we should all take pictures of our “flaws” and stare at them until we don’t care about them anymore. Like a Magic Eye, and the hidden image is just text that says: GET OVER YOURSELF.
But anyway, this is how body hang-ups can work: In our rational minds, we know these aren’t things anyone else cares about or even notices, let alone real problems. They are glaring neon signs to us because we’re intimately familiar with our bodies and when something changes or bugs us, our feelings are so potent because we’re the ones living in these fickle vessels all day. The idea that I’d be scandalized by or even notice a little bit of asymmetrical hip fat on someone else is laughable. It’s not that I think such a thing is appalling conceptually or necessarily, I just don’t like it on me, because I’ve been conditioned to pick myself apart and buy more and more things and do more and more things to “fix” these “flaws” I’ve been trained to see!
So what to do?
I’ve written before (there is a “real body transparency” pic in that post, lol) about why putting a positive, cutesy, or “empowering” spin on alleged “flaws” like stretch marks drives me nuts:
The more energy we put into rebranding these normal, neutral body things, when we exclaim that, No, they’re not that gross thing, they’re something else!, the more it feels like we can’t accept them ourselves — and isn’t that the point of these movements?
While I believe that accepting our bodies’ “flaws” is a great goal theoretically, and being positive and even loving about them is, too, I don’t know that full-throated acceptance/love regarding every single part of my body is actually possible for me or anyone else, right now or ever. The pressure to unreservedly accept/love our bodies leaves us feeling guilty if we can’t always get there. That leads to poorer body image overall. I can be down for some healthy faux positivity or “fake it until you make it” energy in some aspects of my life, but when it comes to my body, I don’t feel good pretending I accept/love everything. That would require me to be inauthentic about my body image, and my whole thing here at Body Type Enterprises is to be authentic about it, warts and all. I think it’s OK to be a little surly about things that are just plain annoying, including your body parts, but it’s what you do next that matters.
So, what I try to think is: “I don’t like it, but there it is.” I don’t like that little bit of hip fat, but there it is. Now, I move on with my life! I don’t have to like it or anything else on my body. I don’t have to accept it. I can straight up dislike it for whatever irrational reasons I have, but then I have to just let it go and let it be.
I wondered if this mantra was akin to body neutrality, but it’s really not about no feelings — it’s about negative feelings. It’s about recognizing that you have them, they might be hard to shake, you don’t have to beat yourself up about them, but you just have to see them for what they are and keep it moving. In therapy, this is what we call honoring negative emotions. Judging yourself for having them accomplishes nothing and makes you feel worse.
Grab the body parts that irritate you and think, “Ah fuck, but oh well!” Poke your love handles and say, “You sons of bitches! Alright, off to the pool.” This just feels more natural to me than trying to be some Zen mama who can embrace and offer love and light to everything all the time. When I can’t be positive I can scowl and grumble, but then keep living my life and wearing the bathing suit anyway.
What do you think? Would this mantra be helpful to you?
I have the exact same disproportionate flesh, and every time I catch myself looking at it too hard, I try to just roll my eyes at myself and move on.
This is honestly the best approach I’ve come upon! Having tried body positivity, neutrality, fuckallity, I feel like this is the one that resonates the most. Such a weight is lifted off, thank you so so much for this.