Written by: Maya
Empowering a positive body image amongst women is something we are very passionate about at MYA GIA. For those of you who haven’t read the ‘About Us’ page, this platform is an extension to MYAGIA.COM, which will be an online clothing store for women (click here to read more), so it is only fitting for the first article to be written about body image, and by myself, Maya, founder of MYA GIA.
I have always had a curvy, ‘hourglass’ type of body shape, and it is only within the last year that I have actually grown to not only be content with it, but to actually appreciate and love it. Yes, there have been (and will continue to be) countless times where I have those absolutely wonderful ‘UGGHHHH!!!’ moments…Oh, I was being sarcastic with the ‘wonderful’, because they are most certainly not, but you know what? That is a part of life, there will always be down moments, moments of pure struggle, a lot of it actually being with your own mind. The real struggle, however, is in never getting back up, in losing hope, and in giving up on yourself. Whenever I have those moments, I think about the idea of not giving up on myself because it has taken a hell of a long time to get rid of these body ‘ideals’ out of my mind, to stop feeling deeply insecure about my body, and to stop with all the unhealthy, extreme, ‘fad’ diets ruining my health and mental state.
One thing I learnt throughout the years is that confidence is a state of mind, you may think that you will be happy and confident once you reach a certain weight, but, if you do not have the right mindset, no ‘ideal’ weight will ever make you feel happy or confident, instead, it will result in a vicious circle of insecurity and self-hatred. Throwback a few years ago, I was so desperate to become so skinny, that was the ‘it’ body to have, the one portrayed as the ‘normal’ body to have by the media, but If I am being honest, I did not want to be skinny because that was the kind of body I actually wanted for myself, but instead, I felt that if I got it, I would be more ‘respected’ and treated better (stupidity at its finest). I went on an extreme diet, even losing two stone in just a month, which any nutritionist/dietitian/doctor would tell you is a huge amount to lose in that period of time, but I was obsessed, beyond obsessed. I had become so hostile—I had zero tolerance for anything—the slightest thing annoyed me. I now think back to one rather amusing memory (although back then it was definitely not amusing) when I gracefully threw the remote control at my parents, all because they came to sit down in the living room where I was watching TV, and, God forbid…started to talk to me. Yes, the absolute horror of your own parents talking to you, how traumatising. (That was another sarcastic remark, I am British after all, sarcasm comes with the territory.) So, this is what a severe lack of food and unhealthy obsession with wanting to lose weight does to you—it makes you throw remote controls at your parents! But in all seriousness (remote controls aside), extreme dieting can really make you become very anti-social, as it did with me, because all you are caring about is how much weight you are losing, whether you are losing enough, and if you are losing it quickly.
I made the biggest mistake in thinking that when I become skinny I would finally be super confident and happy. I especially wanted to lose as much as I could before my summer holiday to Lebanon, where I would be seeing family, so I could ‘proudly’ show them my new body. I remember the time for my holiday arrived, yet all I was feeling was anger and disappointment at myself because I still felt I had not lost enough weight, not enough for me to be proud of, I thought my family would not even notice that much difference in my body. The irony of all this is that even though I had in fact become skinny, with friends even calling me a ‘Stick with a bust- ready to fall over at any moment’, I never actually saw it, no matter how many times I would stare into the mirror, I never saw my new body for what it actually was, now that is body dysmorphia at its finest. Also, another ironic twist is that my family did notice my new body, not only noticed, but worried it was way too much. After all that, I still was not happy with my body, and I most certainly did not feel confident, I felt even more insecure than before. Yet another ironic twist. This is why I now firmly believe confidence is a state of mind, because I got the type of body that I was dreaming of, the one that would make me so ‘happy and confident’ yet I felt the opposite.
Fast forward a few years, and a few stone extra (back to my former shape), my main focus right now is to live a healthy lifestyle, to keep pushing and maintaining my body to be in the shape I want it to be in—strong and healthy in all its FABULOUS CURVY GLORY!
Now let us get back to the pre-throwback paragraph (the one about me appreciating and loving my body), I genuinely thought people would be somewhat pleased that I was actually and finally happy with my body, because, let us face it, it is so hard to finally be happy with just one single aspect of your physical appearance, let alone all, especially now with the rise of social media. Unfortunately though, that most certainly was not the case. Instead, I had words of negativity spewed at me, and may I just state, none of them being constructive. (There is a huge difference between being constructive and just being negative.)
Some of my personal favourites include:
- ‘Your body isn’t anything special.’
- ‘You aren’t skinny though’
- ‘You’re starting to sound stuck-up.’
These thoughts start raging through their minds, which is a terrible shame. We, as a society* have become so dependent on what the media’s definition of ‘normal’ is—what women ‘should’ look like, especially when it comes to body image, that anyone that does not look the ‘normal’ way will get made to feel as if they are not good enough, as if they cannot be confident with how they look, because to them, only people who look the ‘normal’ way can be confident with their looks. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ beauty—a ‘normal’ body.
Image credit: @omaraskar2
What the media dictates, society* follows. As one example, let us throwback to the 1950s era with one of the most talked about icons Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe had a slim, hourglass type of body shape, and this type of body was the media’s definition of the ‘normal’ body for women, the type of body women ‘should’ have.
Around that decade, adverts for a dietary supplement brand (Wate-On) were circulating heavily around the media, with tag lines such as ‘If you want to be popular…you can’t afford to be SKINNY!’ being used. These supplements were used to GAIN weight…yes, you read that correctly, GAIN, not lose—as you see glorified nowadays. I am mentioning these adverts not to body shame against skinny bodies, because I do not agree with body shaming, skinny bodies are beautiful, but to show you an example of how things were the complete opposite to how they are now.
Wate-On Supplement Advert
Wate-On Supplement Advert
Super Wate-On Supplement Advert
Does this mean that whenever the media dictates what they think is ‘normal’, us women* need to keep changing ourselves just so we feel like we ‘fit in’!? We will continue to keep dieting, gaining weight and getting plastic surgery without any care for our physical and mental health, or what makes each one of us truly happy, just to fit in with that whole ‘illusion’ of perfection, when it does not exist.
‘Normal is an illusion, what’s normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.’ Charles Addams
You see, there is constructive criticism, and then there is an opinion, a perspective. When I have had people complain about my body, it was not because they wanted my health to be better, as that would have been a different story, but instead because they did not like the look of it, they wanted me to be thinner, as that was their preference. (Although, when I actually was skinny, they did not like it, maybe because it looked unhealthy to them, I am not fully sure.) Does that make them right? No. It does not make them right or wrong. However, they are most definitely wrong in thinking that I ‘have’ to be thinner, there is a big difference, especially as it had nothing to do with my health. It is just how me being curvy does not make me right or wrong, but it is my preference for the type of body I want for myself, and as long as I am happy and healthy, that is all that should matter.
‘You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.’ Friedrich Nietzsche
So, when I say that I appreciate and love my body, IT IS NOT because I think my body is the only ‘special’ one, and IT IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT because I am stuck up and think only I am ‘God’s gift to the world’. Oh, and I am not skinny, I did not realise there was a law that states we all ‘need’ to be, just how we should not have to need to be any other type of body shape.
IT IS because I did not want to waste another moment hating my body, a body I gratefully have control over.
IT IS because it was mentally exhausting having such negativity and hatred, which were caused by my own thoughts, making me feel that I was not good enough, and I do not just mean not good enough physically, but also mentally—I would start to feel that I would not be able to accomplish any of my personal and career goals, that I would never succeed in anything, that I was just a waste of space on this earth.
Lastly, IT IS because I did not want to keep sacrificing my health and mental state because of this so-called illusion of ‘normal’ and ‘perfection’ when IT DOES NOT EXIST.
I decided that I am going to reach my own body goals and not let anyone else influence how I truly want my body to be like, and truth be told, it feels absolutely fabulous.
I do not just believe that there is only one beautiful body type, I believe there are many and they should be appreciated and glorified. There is beauty in variety; embrace it, appreciate it and get inspired by it.
I truly hope I can inspire at least one person to start to appreciate and love their body.
Thank you for reading.
Until the next post,
*These words are used in a generalised way, there will always be exceptions.
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