Monthly Archives: February 2012

It’s Not About The Milk: Misplaced Anger and Why It Sucks

 

I’ve been shitty over the past few days. Tetchy. Grumpy. ‘Emotional’. And I’ve been doing what I often do with any uncomfortable feelings: squashing them right back down and pretending that everything is fine.  Because I don’t really do anger, y’know? That role was never available for occupation in my childhood home- other people had the monopoly on it, and I had to be the good girl, quiet girl, compliant girl. And I’m not a kid anymore but those expectations still weigh heavily on me, and I still think of anger as an emotion I’m not really allowed to have.

Which makes for some pretty crappy experiences, ‘cos you can’t push down emotions for a long period. They are gonna want to get out, somehow. Usually, for me, they manifest in binging and purging and starving. Sometimes it becomes hyper-perfectionism, extremely black and white thinking, depression, suicidal thoughts. All because I try and stop myself feeling what I really need to feel.

This makes me a joy to live with, of course. Ha. Most of the time, I manage to conceal my emotions fairly well from my housies, do the ‘everything’s fine’ act. Well, I think I mange to conceal it. Maybe I should ask them. But on Monday, there was The Incident of the Milk in the Nighttime. Our recycling goes out Monday nights. We all cook separately so there’s a fair bit of stuff each week. As I picked up the box to take it out, some old (off) milk spilt from a discarded carton and onto me. WHO THE FUCK PLACES HALF-EMPTY MILK CARTONS IN THE RECYCLING??? AND THEN LEAVES THEM TO STINK OUT THE HOUSE AND/OR HOUSEMATE? You empty it, wash it out, and THEN put it in. It’s NOT FUCKING HARD.

You can see by my expletative-laden all-caps shouty voice that I was mighty pissed off (in silence). I even went so far as to break the cardinal rule of Twitter, which for me is, One Shall Never Bitch Passive-Aggressivly On Social Networking Sites. I smashed that rule on Monday night, because I am an emotionally stunted idiot who doesn’t know how to deal with anger towards others. And so began the cycle of Negative Thoughts- you suck, you’re mean to people, you’re a bitch, it’s just milk, get over it.

There is actually one legit thought in that spiral: it was just milk. Not worth getting angry about. But when I’d been sitting on real anger for days, it was so much easier to get angry over this petty thing than to actually work out what the real problem was. To which we say, thank goodness for the insight that comes with a few days’ reflection and a regular therapy session.

I’m getting better with emotions. I can allow myself to feel some things, sometimes. But I’d like to get a lot better. I’d like to get a point where, for example, I value being emotionally intelligent and tuned-in to myself more than I care about my clothing size. That day is a long way away, as incidents like the one above clearly demonstrate! But I’m workin’ on it.

One last thing: the link in the post? About not bitching on Twitter? It takes you to a very addictive ‘housemate rage’ feed. Which is fun to read, on the days one is feeling less dedicated to cultivating one’s authentic self. Just so you know.

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TwistED: Your Chance To Contribute

Exciting news to hand! Two of my favourite women on the Interwebz (eating disorder survivors and all-round heros June Alexander and Cate Sangster) are compiling a book. It’s a book about the language of eating disorders, particularly about how well-meaning comments from family/friends/professionals can be twisted by the ED Voice to make them seem harmful. Example:

Doctor: You say you’re purging 3 times a day, but your electrolytes are normal.

ED Voice: Excellent! You’re fooling them, and your body can handle the vomiting. So go harder until you get skinny, you lazy bitch.

And another one:

Daughter (weight restored) in early stages of recovery: I’m going part time at uni so I won’t be so stressed and tired.

Dad: That’s great, you’ll have more time to exercise and look after yourself.

ED Voice: He thinks you’ve gotten too fat. You are too fat. RESTRICT RESTRICT RESTRICT.

If you’re struggling with an ED, this book is a chance to let people around you know what it’s really like. If you’re caring for somebody with an ED, it’s a way to try and crack the code of what might be going on for them.

Submissions are open until March 30th, 2012 and you can get all the details by clicking through to June Alexander’s blog on the link above. So get thinking, and please spread the word!

 

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Beautiful You #9: The Things We Say About Ourselves

Today’s practice is about recognising what words we use to describe ourselves to ourself and to others- why do we use these? How do they make us feel? It seems to be a continuation on from examining the Negative Voice and, because I’ve been diligently  ‘comment moderating’ for a few days now, I’ve noticed a few repeat offenders in how I talk about me.

There’s something wrong with me

I use this one A LOT, and now trying to reprogram myself from thinking/saying this is really hard work. This is my ‘default setting’ if I’m not actively trying to challenge it. A lot of it stems from living with long-term illness (epilepsy) and being told, often, that there is something physically wrong with me, carrying that around for years and it morphing into meaning ‘defective’, ‘unworthy’, ‘useless’. I look at these words and don’t like the fact that they are my common descriptors, but I’ve also been prompted to think- via my current counsellor The Wise Woman*- how do I benefit from labelling myself in these ways? As a kid, for example, family life was chaotic and oftentimes I only ever saw my parents unite if they were dealing with something related to my epilepsy- the rest of the time they were fighting/ absent. So me having something physically ‘wrong’ was a way to ensure I’d at least get some parenting. Note use of parenting, not nurturing. The problem is that, as an adult, I’m now looking for connection/ nurturing and framing myself in these ways- wrong, sick, unworthy- doesn’t bring in great results. Whoop! That’s the kinda thing you learn in therapy, kids.

I hate my body.

Why do I say this? Because it’s true, duh. Moving right along!

Hmmm. Thinking about when this phrase lodged itself into my vocab is like trying to remember learning to talk- it’s just always been there! I say these words out loud with ease- not to shock, not for attention, not to get somebody to try and convince me otherwise. They are a simple way of articulating all the more complex Negative Voice thoughts in one neat, socially acceptable way- because all women hate their bodies, right?  It’s like, if I said what was really going on- ‘I’m suicidal and depressed, it’s really hard to face the world most days, and it’s because my body feels shameful and wrong’- I’d be ostracised. Whereas ‘I’m so fat’ isn’t mental illness, it’s bonding.

Urgh. I don’t want to buy into that shit, but it’s like Facebook- once you’re signed up, it’s pretty hard to get off. I’ve always talked negatively about my body and my weight in a self-depricating, jokey way- in Australia we call this ‘taking the piss’- as if that makes it OK and not as harmful. I remember how shocked I was when somebody picked me up on this- a housemate, who said ‘You’re so sensitive to and protective of everybody else’s feelings, but who protects you from all the horrible things you say about yourself?’.

And the answer, I guess, is nobody except me. ‘Joking’ and attacking myself first (so nobody else gets a chance) is self-harm, not self-protection. If I’m not protecting myself, then I’m really exposed and vulnerable, not only to others but to my own internal shit as well. If I talk about myself in a negative way, I will project negativity and attract it into my life. Simple as that.

Wonderful, so that’s sorted then! It will be interesting to see if I can make the transition from keyboard to reality. I hope I can…

* The Wise Woman is my current ‘therapeutic person’, after a number of false starts with psychiatrists/ psychologists. The Victorian public mental health service system is a complex beast (a whole other post!) but basically it didn’t meet my needs and so I now get my support and help outside of it.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Beautiful You #8: Self Appreciation Jar

So, today’s practice is all about taking notice of the things you say to yourself. It follows on very nicely from yesterday’s discussion on the Negative Voice and my renewed efforts to try and practice ‘comment moderation’ on all the Negative Voice thoughts that swirl around my brain most days. Rosie’s suggestion is to put coins in a jar every time you catch yourself entertaining these self-deprecating thoughts.

My immediate reaction to this was, ‘But I’m really poor right now! I can’t waste money every time I bag myself- I’ll be on the street by the end of the week!’. Which reminded me of the image above (which is reminiscent of famous UK artist Banksy, but is actually credited to the Australian street artist Meek). Which, in turn, reminded me that there is a lot of bigger shit going on in the world- homelessness, poverty, structural inequality- that is more pressing than my own ‘stuff’, but if I don’t deal with my own demons, I’ll never have the headspace to work on the world’s bigger problems either.

Deep thinking, non? It was the kind of day that lent itself to such thoughts. A typical Melbourne summer stinker which I spent mostly waiting- for doctors, for blood tests, for trams. Lotsa thinking time. And then this HUGE fucking storm, complete with lightening and power cuts, swept over the city and drenched everything with some much-appriciated rain. I lay on my bed in the dark and watched and listened and only noticed afterwards that it was the most peaceful I’d felt all day.

So! With that in mind, I will continue using my non-cash-requiring techniques from yesterday’s post to try and deal with the Negative Voice. I’m also going to start noting (or trying to note- might be more scribbling on arms going on) anything nice/ good/ less-awful that I think about myself. Today, for example, it took 35 minutes and several needles for the pathology nurse to get enough blood out of my veins for testing. I hate blood tests, not for a fear of needles but because I hate having to expose my arms, which the Negative Voice informs me are flabby and fat and gross. Today I closed my eyes, chatted with the nurse and silently told Neg to fuck off. It worked. Huzzah.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Beautiful You #7: Moderating The Negative Voices

Whoops. I’ve been avoiding Beautiful You for the past week or so, and have fallen out of the pattern. I’m prone to doing that with ‘hard stuff’ in life but there’s usually a persistent little voice inside me, saying ‘you’ll feel better if you JUST FREAKING DO IT’. So, speaking of voices, this practice is about naming the ones in our heads that are mean/ bitchy/ otherwise unsettling, and attempting to interupt them.

I have quite a few different voices hanging out in my head most of the time. I’m a bit special like that. Some are mainly helpful- like the Just Do It Fairy- and some are very unhelpful. For convenience I cluster all the unhelpful ones into what I call ‘Negative Head’ or ‘Negative Voice’. The Negative Voice is most definitely female, a mix of my mum/ older sister/ schoolyard bullies/ so called diet and fitness ‘experts’ in the popular media/ random sneering woman on the train etc. I’ve never given a second thought to what most guys/ men think about me but I am hyper-super-dooper-aware of how other women might be looking at me and judging me. That’s the amazing thing about the Negative Voice- she can actually read every other woman’s mind, and see what they are thinking about me. She then helpfully broadcasts this into my brain, at varying volumes, 24/7. You gotta admire her commitment and work ethic.

Well, no, actually. She sucks. Makes my life very hard. Hence why I’m doing these practices and trying to get a grip on this shit.

When I am feeling ‘baseline’ about myself (e.g. not suicidal or in crisis), the Negative Voice sort of just whirs away in the background and becomes part of the soundscape. A bit like the centralised communist radio system piped into every North Korean kitchen- it can be turned down, but never off, and you’re absorbing the messages even if you’re not aware of it.

When I first realised this- a few years ago when I first started trying to kick bulimia- I was rather shocked and pissed off. I had a creepy, abusive voice in my head that I couldn’t control? That was SO not part of the plan, dude! When I first started binging and purging, it was was supposed to be an oasis from the actual abuse occurring in my world. Now that shit was multiplying and getting into my head, stopping me from ever feeling any good?

Here’s the thing: I don’t like dictators or oppressive regiemes. I don’t like ’em running countries, I don’t like them in family homes, and I don’t like them in my head. Sure, I engage in bulimic behaviours, but I don’t identify as bulimic. I identify as Catherine, as an activist, as a feminist, as a queer woman and a person who believes in ‘humanity, diversity, compassion and the empowerment of women’ (as I noted in Beautiful You #1, thanks for the reminder, Past Self!). So, I decided it was time to Moderate the Negative Voice.

You know how, if you make a comment on a blog, it usually says, ‘your comment is awaiting moderation’ before it appears in the thread? Well, that’s what I’m trying to do with my head. I’m looking at each statement it throws at me, and trying to assess whether I approve of it, whether it fits my beliefs and values. It’s a bit of a spin on the old ‘would you talk about your best friend the way you talk about yourself?’ counselling chestnut.

I’m pretty good with defending and supporting others- that’s why I work well as an activist and social worker- but I’m still learning how to moderate for myself. Lots of days I forget, leave the gate wide open and the Negative Voice storms right on in before I’ve even realised. It’s really easy to get flooded by that, and harder to wade back up to breathing level again. So in honour of today’s practice and after being reminded just how destructive letting myself be ruled by the Negative Voice can be, I’m going to put up some reinforcements for a few weeks and see if they help.

*Set the alarm on my phone every hour during the day with the reminder: ‘MODERATE YOUR SELF TALK. Things affirming humanity, diversity, compassion and the empowerment of women can stay. Ditch the rest.’

*Remind myself: It’s my mind. I’m in control. Not the Negative Voice. (Possibly written in Sharpie on my palm so I can see it frequently).

*Remind myself that nobody can mind-read. Not even Negative Voice. Other women may be judging me, or they may not. Their call, not mine. (That might need be written on my other palm.)

Right then, I’m off to source some permanent markers. See y’all tomorrow for #8.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  


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Running Away To The Circus, Running Away From The Circus: Some Experiences with the Women’s Circus

About the photo above: This is a very old, tattered and loved shot of me on the trapeze and part of a pyramid when I was a member of the Little Big Tops, a community circus in Melbourne. I was probably about 5 (early 1990’s). I loved it. Credit: Northcote/ Preston Leader. 

Running Away To The Circus 

This post is about my decision, in 2012, to return to regular training with the Women’s Circus (WC), a community arts organisation in my hometown of Melbourne. I have been interested in/ involved with circus training since I was a kid. When I turned 18 in 2007, I became eligible to join WC and I was really excited, because I had grown up seeing their shows that featured women- of all different ages, body shapes and skill levels- using their bodies to tell their stories in an empowering and inspiring way.

WC was founded in 1991 as a space for female victim/ survivors of sexual abuse and/or sexual assault to reclaim their bodies through the safe and supportive medium of circus training. Since then, it has widened its target group and now accepts all women with an interest in community circus (although it still prioritises survivors, women over forty, indigenous women and women from non-English-speaking backgrounds) For a nonprofit community arts organisation to survive over 20 years is a big deal- securing funding, training space, participants and audiences consistently for so long means there’s some very dedicated people involved, and some solid values underpinning the daily grind of keeping everything going.

So, I was really excited when I finally joined in 2007. I was right in the thick of one of my worst bulimic phases to date, eating very little during the day, binge/purging at night, day in day out. So my body was not in good shape, and my head was a mess. But I was drawn to the circus because it was something I loved- participating in circus classes and performances as a kid is one of the few positive memories I have of my body. All the other exercise I was doing at this time was motivated by bulimia and the drive to be ‘thin, thinner, invisible’ and I was determined to have just one time each week where I could switch off from that and use my body in a positive way.

The structure of WC is that when you first start training, you join the ‘New Women’s’ program, doing one class a week that introduces you to basic circus skills while also working on trust, focus, teamwork and connecting in with your own body. It’s not about being ‘perfect’ or ‘the best’, but just giving it a go. When you first join, you sign a contract committing to such things as ‘having fun’ and ‘turning up even when you don’t feel like it, or have a better offer’.

You can appreciate that this is a very different to mainstream concepts of exercise and training. In the Australian sporting culture, just ‘giving it a go’ isn’t really valued very much. The focus is on winning, being the best, ‘proving ourselves’ against others. These cultural norms are introduced at a very young age, with children encouraged to play team sports ‘for fun’ but rewarded very heavily when they win, not so much for just participating. The additional gender inequity about what sports are valued and given media attention- surprise, it’s mostly elite male team sports that are prioritised- means that for a lot of women (myself included), the notion of engaging with a fun, non-competitive activity that connects you to your body and to other women is a fairly foreign one.

I think the WC New Women’s program handles this brilliantly. We played a lot of games where the point was usually a) to have fun, b) warm up the body, c) focus your attention in the present moment or d) all of the above. It was really lovely to be in a group of women and to be allowed to just ‘play’, something at lot of us hadn’t done for years. And this dynamic flowed into the learning of the circus skills as well. It was OK if you didn’t get it first time round, OK to stuff it up, OK to laugh at yourself- and definitely OK to celebrate when you achieved something you were proud of, no matter how small it might seem to others.

It’s a testament to the quality of the program that I was in such a unhealthy headspace the whole time I was doing it- malnourished, super-anxious, constantly fighting off suicidal thoughts- and yet I still benefited so much. It was pretty much the only time I could take up space- in a room, in a group, as part of a pyramid, whatever- and not feel shame for it. The ‘head noise’, while constant, followed a pattern on circus days. For the few hours before, it was LOUD, constant and terrifying. You can’t go, you’re too fat/ ugly/ disgusting/ stupid, nobody likes you, stay home, don’t bother, just kill yourself you hideous freak. But if I could just get there– put my gear on, navigate the public transport to the other side of the city, get in the door- I knew I would feel much better by the end of the class. Warming up- especially stretching, where it really is just about you and your body- was always really hard. But at some point- maybe during a game, or if I pulled off a trick I’d been working on- that voice would get quieter. It was blissful. That was probably the best lesson I learnt- you’ve just got to turn up, and fake it til you make it. If you do that, it will get better. I feel like I say that to myself about every 20 seconds some days, but that’s because it (usually) works.

Running Away From the Circus

After a term or so of New Women’s, participants could choose to try other classes- acrobalance, tumbling, aerials, all sorts of stuff. I signed up for some beginner’s tumbling and acro, mostly because that’s what I’d been ‘best’ at as a kid. I think an alarm bell probably started ringing in my head at this point- ‘this is supposed to be self-nuturing and non-competitive, remember?’- but I dismissed it. Bad move.

The transition from New Women’s to the regular training program was tough, and the fragile sense of self-belief I’d built up in the preceding weeks was shredded really quickly.     All the hard work done to build trust, a safe space, celebrating of different bodies and abilities- it all seemed to get lost in that transition as the focus shifted to learning and perfecting tricks to a ‘performance standard’. I tried really hard to cling to that original ideal of the circus being a safe and non body shaming place, but it didn’t last long. Within a couple of months I was caving into the pre-class head noise and staying home rather than coming to training, which meant I’d miss learning tricks, which meant I felt even worse when I did come- a cycle of doom!

I understand that regular training is a space for developing your skill level rather than trying things out just for fun, but it saddened me to see this come at a cost to other great elements of the circus that I had experienced- things like teamwork, having a laugh, and mucking around occasionally. I was also really shocked at how that range of bodies and abilities that had worked together so beautifully in New Women’s shifted very quickly to a particular physique- almost universally young, lean and very fit women who often had backgrounds in gymnastics/dance. This obviously played heavily on my negative body image stuff but it can also make it hard to find a balance partner- for example, I did almost no ‘flying’ tricks because my body shape/structure was bigger and therefore just assumed to be better for being a ‘base’. I love both parts of acro but just wasn’t comfortable having a go at flying in such an environment. Again, it fed into a negative cycle- I couldn’t practice flying tricks, so I didn’t build up confidence or skills, so I stopped flying and went back to full-time self-loathing instead.

While I fully acknowledge that I was in bad mental and physical shape around this time, and therefore potentially more vulnerable than others during the transition phase from New Women’s to regular classes, I also think that the huge gap between the two streams needs to be looked at and changed so it is not such a harmful element of the organisation. Every year, a large number of women come to Test Drive days, short courses and the New Women’s program, and yet the number of long WC term members is comparatively small. Why is that- why do so many women drop off? What needs to change so that they feel valued enough to stay engaged with the organisation?

Something the bothers me even more- hey, I’m in full rant mode now, don’t try and stop me!- is the even smaller number of women who perform regularly with the WC, both in the larger yearly show and the more recent phenomenon of ‘side shows’ (usually at festivals such as Midsumma or Fringe). The side shows in particular- while billed as WC productions- do not represent the whole circus but rather an ‘elite’ group that is presumably picked on skill level. I think these shows are stunning- the skills are breathtaking- but they are also deceptive and harmful. Why? Because they promote a hierarchy within the circus and emphasise the idea of ‘most skilled = most worthy’. Resources- money, time, use of training space- is diverted to support this small sub-section of women rather than the community as a whole. Both the side shows I have attended have also featured a cast that is- again – almost universally young and thin. As I was watching the most recent show (in January), it occurred to me that this is the most prominent advertising that the circus does all year. And yet the message these shows send is that WC is a place for women who are able-bodied, of ‘normal’ size (eg not overweight) and who have the time, inclination and resources to commit to training for shows such as these.

It’s a message that’s a long way from the values of the New Women’s program, and indeed pretty far removed from the official spiel on the WC website about what the organisation claims to value. And I reckon this disconnection is a big part of why so many women enjoy New Women’s, have negative experiences in regular classes and then drop out. They join up with a respect for a community organisation that has a long and proud history of (theoretically) embracing diversity, only to find it is a different story on the ground.

In 2007, I didn’t have a strong enough voice- or enough of an understanding of the dynamics of the WC- to make my dissatisfaction heard, so I left. In reflection, it’s interesting to note the complete lack of follow up by the organisation- I wonder how many other women are out there and what their stories are? At the time, I wrote my experiences off as being a personal failure- surely only a true fuckwit could join an all-female, grassroots, feminist organisation that promotes body diversity and leave feeling worse about herself, right? Surely I must have been doing it wrong.

I have made other attempts at fun, non-cometitive, non-body-shaming activities. Swimming has been a godsend, almost a meditation-like practice where my body floats weightlessly, supported by water while also displaying its’ own strength. I did a few terms of casual trampolining classes and enjoyed the fun that comes with bouncing off a tramp into a giant foam pit. I have ventured back into netball (another childhood fave) and found the most accommodating, relaxed team of queer gals I could ever have hoped for.

Coming Back Again

But something in me yearned for circus. I’ve kept going along to WC end-of-year shows, the ones that are more representative of the whole circus, and seeing tiny glimpses of what I’d been looking for the first time round- a bunch of different women, working together, having a good time and displaying their varied talents. I’ve kept in the infamous gossip loop and heard occasional rumours that change is happening in the organisation, that it is going back to its’ roots again, making more effort to integrate New Women’s and the regular training. And I’ve done a shitload of work on my personal body/ mind stuff, so that I am now moving slowly (‘one step forward, ten steps back’ style) along the continuum from ‘perpetual state of crisis’ to ‘recovery/ self-acceptance’.

And so, here we are in February 2012, and I have rejoined the Women’s Circus, starting again with New Women’s. Two classes in and I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. This time around I’m very clear about what I will do personally to keep myself as safe as possible, but also feel much more comfortable in being vocal about what the organisation can do, if that seems necessary. I’m going to stay in New Women’s the whole year- not just the optional two terms- and allow myself as much time as possible in its’ nurturing and inclusive space. I’m going to try other classes only if I know that the style of the class and the trainer will be supportive and equitable. And if I find myself in situations that aren’t that way, I will speak up, and encourage others to do the same. I am committed to doing this because opportunities to participate in community arts- as a woman, as a survivor, as a person on a low income- are incredibly fucking rare, and dammed if I’m going to be intimidated out of what few options exist. It’s so important that we hold these organisations accountable, and not be silenced by fear, or shame, or self-loathing.

Above and beyond all that serious stuff though, I’m coming back to the circus to do what I signed up for: have some fun.

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Beautiful You #6: Ditching the Diet & Fat Talk

First things first: see that awesome badge up top there? It is a unique design from radical fancy lady artist extraordinaire Natalie Perkins, aka Definatalie. If you click on it it’ll take you to her site, which hosts her blog and leads you to more of her amazing art. You could even buy a badge or ten.

Ok. Diet and fat talk. Argh. I hate it, it makes me extremely uncomfortable, I wish it wasn’t such a big part of our lives. Here’s some reasons why:

*When women (and men too, I guess) bitch about their bodies, they are seeking validation that their bodies are ‘acceptable’, and they usually get it- i.e, ‘You’re not fat! Look at me!’- which reinforces that the only valuable thing about us is our physical appearance, and perpetuates the whole fucked up cycle of oppressive beauty standards and comparing ourselves to others.

*We (women, humans, whatevs) use putting our bodies down as a way to bond with each other. THIS IS FUCKED UP. Keeping people obsessed about their size/ weight/ shape and that of others? Great way to take their mind off bigger picture issues, keep them competing against each other and being perpetually unhappy/ dissatisfied. As for constant dieting? Malnutrition/ fasting/ nutrient deficiencies make you boring as batshit, as you’re fixated on food (or lack of it) and constantly talking about it. And, oh yeah, all those practices can eventually kill you.

*As well as for ‘bonding’, it’s used to guilt and shame people. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need anymore of that shit in my life thanks, I generate more than enough on my own. My mum is great at this- she hides her diet talk and fat shaming behind a veil of concern and ‘doom warnings’, as in, ‘If you keep going like that you’ll end up with Type 2 Diabetes by 25’. Cheers Mumsie, but I’m personally more concerned that my mental health issues (with terrible body image being a contributing factor) might have me in the ground before that. I still feel awful whenever she talks about my body in this way though.

AND YET (there it is again, the sneaky ‘and yet’, always hijacking my thoughts!)…and yet, while I abhor fat & diet talk and try really hard not to engage with it in public, it runs wild and unchecked in my head. I spend far too much time wondering what people are thinking when they look at me/ my body, and imagining all the horrible things they must be thinking. I use calorie counting and limits as a way to both calm myself – it’s a controllable variable in an uncontrollable life- and to freak myself out, obsessing over numbers that really mean very little in the broad scheme of things. And I can’t look in a mirror without a) wanting to kill myself and b) listing all the things that are wrong with my body. I’m trying to change my thinking about myself, to match it up with my beliefs and the values I hold as rights for every other person in the world- body autonomy, freedom from discrimination and harassment, free choice of foods- but it’s bloody hard.

One thing I am proud of changing is that I no longer voluntarily hang out with people who make me feel shit about my body. I am my harshest critic by far, but why make things any harder than they need to be? So I have ditched ‘friends’ who only want to talk about bodies and weight, avoid family gatherings where food is prominent if I can, and am very careful about who I do physical activity with and for what reasons. The netball team I am in, for example, is a safe space for me because I have never heard anybody criticise themselves or anyone else over their bodies. This is extremely rare in a group dynamic and I absolutely treasure it.

My biggest challenge to overcome is how I think and (inwardly) talk about myself. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to change it, but I know that I want to, and that’s going to have to suffice for now.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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