They often say that managing our bodies is all about control. Well of course it is. I’m not trying to make light of the pressures that exist for both sexes to conform to certain societal expectations of thinness or muscular definition. After all, it’s this ultimate performance that causes the breakdown of will, wears on bodies and can result in death. What I do want to do is to bring out some of the complexities in these stories because after all, the easy way out is to blame it all on society, magazines and love songs. Whenever anything is too easy that’s when I become suspicious and I know that there is more to discuss, unpack and tease out.
As women, our bodies change throughout our life phase. Our present image may not reflect our fourteen, twenty-two or forty year old selves. However, I find that the body is often most scrutinized when you are an expectant mother. This is probably one of the only times when you’re allowed to gain weight and not feel marginalized because of the added mass. In my own experience, I loved it because for the first time since my prepubescent days I didn’t need to be self-conscious of my protruding stomach. Rather, my body was celebrated, problematically of course, as the ultimate as a marker of femininity. But this changes rather quickly when you’ve given birth to your child and those pressures to present a normative aesthetic return. It’s not just your independence and regular sleep patterns that you lose in the first few months, it’s also having to live in a body that you might no longer recognize, with scars and badges of how you and your life has changed. So where do you go from here?
The cruelty of the beauty industry has long been documented but what about the pleasures? I believe that this portrait is too reductionist and doesn’t show the agency of choosing the outcome. Is there not satisfaction in trying, through self-discipline and hard work, to have your body be the vessel of your inner self? With confidence and self-worth you are often able to present a more nuanced version of yourself that can not only impact your professional life but personal as well. Who doesn’t want to be around someone who is completely comfortable in their own skin? Lets keep it real, we all have moments of self-doubt but happiness can help you become more resilient. Probably the two most important lessons I’ve learnt thus far are that not everyone will like you and that it’s much easier to enjoy the peaks when you no longer fear the valleys. What’s to fear anyways? We all have our ticket for when to leave, it’s just a matter of enjoying each day that we’re given. So I say take pleasure in your body, whatever form it takes. And let go of the guilt that you’re just giving into what is expected of you.