I was recently scrolling through my Facebook feed when a particular status hit me. It couldn’t have been timelier as it was addressing an issue I had been personally working through that week. Bridget, from Goal Diggers NZ, had shared a glimpse into her opinion on referencing a woman’s physical appearance.
I admired how Bridget had gone beyond simply addressing the issue and provided a valuable and positive solution to it. She had shared a few alternatives for woman to use rather than a direct weight reference, such as ‘You look so strong’ or ‘I can see how happy you are – you’re glowing’.
After reaching out to Bridget to hear more about her story, it became clear that we had both experienced the negative effects of people commenting on our physical appearance. However, these were from completely different perspectives, references on being overweight and underweight. It got me thinking. I often see these issues discussed separately, as if one is more important than the other, however we had both been affected by comments on our physical appearance which held us back from appreciating, respecting and truly loving ourselves. No woman should ever feel like they cannot or should not be proud of who they are. This is an issue that we are equally passionate about changing.
To me, the support of another woman is the most powerful form of energy. In the last few years I have grown tremendously, as I have attracted a gang of the most genuinely supportive woman. Without them, I would have struggled to achieve half of what I have. But on the flip side, there are a few, occasional ones, that for some reason struggle to be supportive of other woman in a constructive way.
This blog post is to share our contrasting stories, our thoughts and our truths in the hope of encouraging even a slight change to behaviour, onions or judgments.
H O L L Y :
Firstly, I am well aware of what I look like. I have a mirror and I use it! I have looked this way my whole life – its genetic and I am a spitting image of my mum. So, when someone stops to tell me that I look “soooo skinny” or tells someone else that my “legs are too thin” it baffles me. What response are they expecting? “Oh yay, I’m so happy that I look so skinny thank you!!’ No. I usually just walk off and shake my head, yet it angers me inside. Why? Because it’s not a compliment. The intention is not to make me feel good, it’s to bring me down which saddens me.
Another one I get often is ‘I’m just concerned about you’. Hmmm why are you concerned about me? You don’t know my story? If you were concerned about me wouldn’t there be a more supportive, constructive way of showing it rather than discussing it behind my back and influencing what others may think of me?
Their concern is not that I am healthy. Their concern is that I am not healthy and this I find tiring. I have a well-balanced diet, I eat carbs, I LOVE carbs and I am one of those annoying people that will make sure I get equal portions when sharing food. That’s my story. Yet I am constantly defending myself against accusations that I am someone that I am not, alluding to an eating disorder or that I am unhappy. I find this disheartening as I am someone that I am actually really proud to be.
My happiness and the pride I have in myself has nothing to do with my physical appearance, rather, what I have accomplished, the life I have built for myself and the supportive, positive people I am surrounded by (like my new blogging buddy JB above). Woman should encourage each other to live and love themselves. Not be made to feel they need to gain weight, lose weight or be anything other than who they are. We feel insecure about ourselves when we worry what others think. I read a quote once about thinking before you speak:
True: Is it true?
Helpful: Is it helpful
Inspiring: Is it inspiring?
Necessary: Is it necessary?
Kind: Is it kind?
Imagine if everyone stopped to ‘THINK’ before they think. What could we accomplish if we put the wasted energy into creating a fulfilling life, supporting and building each other up?
We have much more to share on that in our next blog post! Here’s Bridget’s story…
B R I D G E T:
I’m struggling to start writing this. I was going to start with… “I wouldn’t say I’ve been through body shaming anymore than any other girl…” – which is completely ridiculous because why the fuck is it a normal part of growing up? How can society be so messed up that a normal part of life is us being made to feel and think negatively about our bodies. Why are our bodies even a focus? Why is it the first thing someone will compliment us on? Our physical appearance?
My earliest memory of being made to think about my physical body was when I was 8 and my Nana (bless her cotton socks) went on to declare to the whole room after I had sat down beside her that I ‘fill that chair nicely’. Now clearly my lovely Nana said that with no intention of hurting me or causing unknown early onset self-confidence and body image issues. But like I mentioned above, physical appearance was, and still is very much the focus of any observation on another human being. Comments like that happened regularly, which at the time I was ignorant or perhaps just didn’t know that they were having an impact on me.
Moving on to late teens, early twenties and another vivid memory comes to mind that involves a friend, let’s call him Harvey (Suits, anyone?) who nicknamed my arse ‘Kim K’. Harvey would grab ‘Kim K’ whenever he saw me which was usually on the dance-floor after a few too many Redbull and Jagermeisters and go on about my bootylicious booty that apparently resembled that of Kim Kardashians. I embraced it. I once again didn’t think much of it at the time, but another exceptional example of a human being having an unwanted opinion on my physical body. I am quite aware that my butt has been and still somewhat is big, so round and like out there. I know all the words to Sir Mixalot, Baby Got Back and yes I will throw my booty around the DF and possibly in your face while I’m belting out this booty anthem. It’s my booty, I can do what I want with it, but I don’t need Harvey, or you, or anyone else to comment on it, even if you think you are ‘complimenting’ me.
These ‘compliments’ happen a hell of a lot in the social media realm and I’m not really sure who to blame for this one. For me, personally, the messages that I share on Goal Diggers NZ social media are never about my physical appearance, yet I’ll receive comment after comment about how I’m looking. For example, last month I posted a video workout of me demonstrating a challenge for my followers – and yes I am in my Kim K booty shorts and a sports bra but so what? Did I get changed into something more revealing because I was about to film something to share with the world and I wanted comments on my body? No! Is that what I had been working out in already so didn’t change a dam thing? Yes!!
Anyway, the message that went with that video was about how exercise makes me feel. It’s me time. It’s time to put myself first. It’s something I enjoy doing. Not once did I mention that I do it to look a certain way. Not once did I mention that I do it to look a certain way. Not once did I say please comment on my physical appearance. Yet, there was comment after comment on the video and the photo that went along with the video, about how I was looking. I know these comments are coming from a heart felt place, they’re always positive and I appreciate them and the love my followers give me. But please, engage with me for my messages I am sending out into the universe, not for my physical appearance.
Here I am, now, in the present, at 27 and 100% mindful of what and how I compliment my friends and even more importantly, my three gorgeous nieces who I see all the time. And I’m not saying I’m innocent of never complimenting people on their looks, because I do do it, we’re all human! But I’m really starting to make an effort to compliment people’s internal beauty.
Like Holly said, the support of another woman is the most powerful form of energy and this is something we want to embrace and encourage within our communities. Some find it easier than others, so in our next blog post we are going to share some simple changes we can make to ensure we are exerting a positive uplifting energy to those around us. We will be sharing this one across Goal Diggers so make sure you follow and check back in below!
Holly and Bridget