Fuck society's standards, my friend. Image: Jes Baker.
Real Talk: My body is going to keep changing for the rest of my life.
So, I've gained weight.
I know it. My partner knows it. My family knows it. My friends know it. The jerks who spend too much time on Reddit know it.
And if you've followed me along my journey for the last couple years, I'm sure you know it too.
This experience isn't unique. In fact, it is entirely possible you have gained weight at some point in your life — maybe even recently!
After coming to terms with my “new” bodily features, I started sorting through my thoughts (while mixing them with a fair amount of good ol' logic) to figure out what this does and does not mean for me. So far, I've come to these undeniable conclusions:
What it DOESN'T mean:
My value as a person has decreased.
I am now broken and must be fixed.
I have failed myself and everyone around me.
I must return to “old me” in order to be happy and successful.
I am going to lose all my friends.
Supergirl is a riveting show that everyone should watch (sorry, Supergirl fans).
The world is going to end.
What it DOES mean:
I've gained weight
Seriously. That's all it means. We want to make it so complicated, but in reality... It's just that simple.
Have you gained weight? The above applies to you too. Catastrophe averted!
There are many reasons why my weight gain has happened; some completely "out of my control" and some totally "within" it. But regardless of why, none of these reasons need to be explained or apologized for because the only person I am accountable to when it comes to my body is me.
I'll say that again: The only person I am accountable to when it comes to my body is me.
(This also applies to you.)
Not surprisingly though, this physical change has come with a large amount mindfuckery. After all, I had just become comfortable with my body (thanks to an arduous amount of body love work over the years) — now, that body shape I learned to love was no more. Now I needed to re-learn how to love my body with all its new features.
IT WAS HARD ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME. I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.
But I have to do it again. Because even if my body doesn't look like this forever, it looks like this right now, and right now is real and valid.
And if I'm going to be totally honest, this change is a good thing for me mentally.
Real Talk: My body is going to keep changing for the rest of my life. If it's not weight gain, it will be aging. If not aging, it could be an illness. If not an illness, it could be any number of things that will cause inevitable change, which will require me to to learn to love the change.
Change is nothing if not constant, and this is where body acceptance comes in. It's taken me a while to learn that body acceptance isn't necessarily just about learning to love your body right now....
I watch this change happen everywhere. My mom has only recently learned to embrace her body shape (C-section stomach and all!) but is now trying to come to terms that her metabolism is slowing. A reader shared that she learned to love her plus body and then developed a disease that caused the loss of her hair; she is now on the journey to learn to love this part of her too. Another person is trying to cope with losing skin elasticity. Someone out there is learning to love their new skin condition.
You get the picture.
All of these things are very real, possible, and have nothing to do with a person's beauty or worth. But we tend to forget this.
Many ask me if I am going to try to become the two-years-ago version of myself again.
My immediate reaction, when I first considered the option, was yes. After all, I'm only human. I've been raised in this bullshit-spewing society too.
But after real thought, it's a resounding NO. This sends my brain the wrong message, that size is the end-all, be-all — and it most certainly isn't.
Trying to return to my body from two years ago is ultimately the most harmful thing I could do to myself.
Rather, I am going to check in with myself about my life habits — focusing on my behaviors instead of my body.
Am I doing anything I feel is damaging? Would I like to change anything to improve quality of life? Ultimately, what is best for me in the grand scheme of things?
These are the things we can look at if we really want to take the focus off of body standards and onto a healthy life: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Our value does not lie in our weight, hair, bellies, skin, or even physical health. These are all just components of our outsides, and our outside is only one part of “us.”
Now, what you do and feel about your body is your business. I'm not here to tell you what to do or how to think. But I am here to suggest — take it or leave it! — that there is likely going to be another change (or 10) that will happen in your lifetime.
Change is nothing if not constant, and this is where body acceptance comes in. It's taken me a while to learn that body acceptance isn't necessarily just about learning to love your body right now — though this is a great first step! It extends far beyond that, and also includes deconstructing the actual reasons behind body hatred: learning why we've decided that we're not OK in general.
It's about dismantling the thought that there is a “perfect” body to achieve. It's sometimes about letting go of the belief that you are nothing more than your body.
Tall order and slightly confusing, I know. But this is what I'm working on.
Changing bodies are a great reminder that body love and acceptance (deep, deep down) isn't about bodies at all, but rather a profound and untouchable acceptance of the fact that you are wonderful — no matter what.
Try practicing this belief. Try cultivating total self-love. Try letting go of unattainable goals and focusing on the amazing things you are and your body is.
Well then, read this instead: Fuck society's standards, my friend. You are awesome, no matter what the scale or mirror says. You are a valuable human and deserve happiness above all else. And you get to decide what that happiness looks like for yourself.
¿Comprende? Now go get 'em, Tiger.