You Can't Hate Yourself into Something You Love
Last week in my home city of Los Angeles, California in the United States things began to open up again and this included gyms. With this opening (as well as the official start of summer) came the unsurprising but still very disappointing onslaught of body shaming, self-negative talk from a fair few individuals within my various friend groups. Sure, there'd been the off-handed comments about pandemic weight gain, jokingly called the quarantine fifteen (I am not excluded from this) but in some instances it was beginning to become downright brutal.
If there's anyone who understands the pain of not liking the body they are presented with in the mirror, it is yours truly. I have body dysmorphia, a condition where your perception of your own physical body is distorted into something you don't like. This is something I am addressing in therapy and have found to be quite helpful. By the same token, however, it is painful and almost too easy for that warped part of my brain to fall back into the destructive habits and thought patterns that I've fought very hard for years to be better.
So this is a reminder to myself just as much as it is a message for all of you who are struggling with this aspect of living through a pandemic. A message I've often repeated to friends and even strangers who have confided to me.
You cannot hate yourself into something you love.
That's it. Right there. The simplest message but perhaps one of the hardest to digest. Why is it so hard to live with that? Put in blunt terms it is because capitalism has a vested interest in us hating ourselves, especially our bodies. This hatred, very often steeped in white supremacy, is what guarantees that we are easier to manipulate. If we hate what we're seeing in the mirror then we're more likely to buy those diet pills (they don't work by the way), purchase over-priced organic products without too much balking at the price (when in reality those things should be cheaper and more readily accessible to everyone), even going so far as to have major surgeries to fix our perceived physical maladies. Now, I will admit that I don't find plastic surgery inherently wrong but if we're not addressing the root cause, we're never going to be happy.
I know y'all might be thinking, Danie, what does white supremacy have to do with what you're talking about? Well, it has everything to do with it. Keep in mind that this is from the perspective of someone who has only lived within the United States, so things may look different in your country. However, here in the US the measurement standard of beauty and health is very Euro-centric. Meaning we, culturally value things the most that are of the same aesthetic (visual) of white Europeans. The system of weight/height measurement called the Body Mass Index, something that has been proven to be utter bullshit, takes into no account a person's ethnicity, their lifestyle, their build, or anything but how tall they are and how much they weigh. Its context is exclusively that of cis-gender white people and hasn't been updated. A system that takes into zero account anything but the “standard” of white people doesn't leave room for anyone else to exist. We see it ingrained into our culture. Thin, abled white cis people are what we compare ourselves to in order to deem ourselves “hot” enough, trendy enough, and worthy enough of the love, affection, and attention not only of the people around us but even that of ourselves.
t's an insidious thing that starts out even in childhood here. Black is seen as “bad” while white is seen as “good”. Anything that begins to stray from whiteness, thus is perceived as straying from goodness and attractive and desirable. Which is why colorism and anti-Blackness is so prevalent within communities of color and people who are not Caucasian. It starts young and it plagues a lot of us until we die. It even gets us killed. Medical staff don't believe us about when we talk about our suffering. Society doesn't believe us or tells us we are less worthy of being heard.
Fat people are constantly ridiculed, shamed, ignored, and lambasted with cruelty every single day. Anti-fat biases don't just affect people who are not of straight size though. Even if you are thin or fit, it can have a negative impact.
I understand that this feels very heavy. Admittedly, it is but there are ways that we can combat it. We must first realize that the system is stacked against us. It profits off of our self-hate. We are constantly getting messages that tell us that our bodies are too much or not enough. Individuals of all sexes and genders experience this.
We need to question where these messages are coming from. What do they stand to gain by us internalizing said messages? We can work from there. I, personally, do not feel that there is something wrong with wanting to change your physical body. We all have things about ourselves that we do not like. However, I do feel that problems arise when we do not think critically about why we feel the way we do about our physical appearance. If we blindly accept that our bodies are “gross” because they're not able to a certain task or because they look a certain way, then we're doomed.
Working out and eating well shouldn't be forms of torture or punishment or “earning” certain types of food. We should be moving our bodies in ways that feel good and push our physical limits because it comes from a place of loving ourselves, which is admittedly difficult to do in this climate. At the very least we shouldn't be doing it because we hate ourselves. The same thing applies to the food we eat. Eat what makes your body feel good because you know that nourishing your body is an act of self-care. These things look different for everyone and the end goal doesn't have to be losing weight or looking thin. It should be about caring for your body. Caring for your body in this capacity is a big fuck you to capitalism and white supremacy, and that in my book is a damn good thing.