Illustrated by Ally Matas.
By Katie Parker.
Hating my body used to take up a lot of my time and mental space. I would spend hours agonizing over my tummy that was a little too big, my thighs that were a little too close, or my breasts that just weren’t… right. All of this negativity was draining. I could not go a day without criticizing my body and assuming that everyone around me was, too. So much of my mental space was dedicated to housing negative thoughts and honestly I got fed up.
I think that everybody who hates their body knows, on some level, how toxic their negative thoughts are. Recently, there have been countless social movements to help young girls accept themselves regardless of their shape or size. And this is great. I support all girls in their individual quests to feel good about their bodies but for me, most of these popular feel-good efforts felt exhaustive and inauthentic. I didn’t find the relief that other girls seemed to get from hyper-vanity, or “love your body” campaigns. I felt like a fraud when I tried on extensive positivity; it never fit me quite right. I can tell when I’m lying and in the end, I’m only really lying to myself.
I found the most relief in considering my body in neutral terms. My body is neither good nor bad, too big or too small; it is simply a body. It performs all of the necessary functions to keep me alive and upright. Most of the time, I could not tell you what my body looks like. I know it’s all there, two legs, two arms, and a torso. But I don’t know what it really looks like. I have no practical conception of how much space my body takes up or what certain parts look like under some fabrics. This kind of disassociation has been so helpful. I can’t be mad at my body if I don’t know what it looks like.
There are days when I find myself feeling noticeably disconnected from my actual, physical self, but for me, this is better than a nagging voice telling me to shrink. It’s a difficult feeling to articulate, because how do you explain something that feels like nothing? I have days where I feel like Goliath, powerful and huge (these days are weird; I am only 159 centimetres tall), and other days where I feel a teeny bug. Most of the time, though, I feel like I’m kind of just floating through space, formless and fluid, like a ghost. Ghosts don’t need to worry about the size of their thighs so why should I?
Using body neutrality as a means of coping with a distorted body image does not mean that I don’t ever think of myself positively! Taking the emphasis off of my physical bodily appearance has made it easier for me to appreciate the rest of me, both physical and immaterial. I love my face. I love my colouring, and I love that I can use makeup to manipulate my features. I’m kind and patient, and I have so much love that I can give to everyone in my life. That’s what I’m trying to focus on, because ultimately, I know that’s more important than the size of my waist anyway.