Conflicted by “I Heart My Body Day 2011”

WE Heart LIFE presents I HEART MY BODY 2011

I found out late on Friday evening that Saturday the 29th of October 2011 had been designated this year’s I Heart My Body Day 2011.

The first post I came across was from Random Ramblings of a Stay At Home Mum. I then came across Veggie Mama’s, the Good Googs, Edenland’s (which made me laugh out loud – she’s so equally hilarious and wise) and the post from Glowless.

I spotted a few more posts, but by then I already found myself nodding along with this campaign and telling hubby about it.  The words out of my mouth were how much I supported promoting the wonder and beauty of a mother’s body. As expected, it made me think about my body and how I feel about it.

I’m generally happy with my body, actually, more so after having two babies than before. I do occasionally lament the signs of aging, such as my greying hair and less supple skin and a few wobbly bits here and there, but overall, I’m okay about it now. And hubby was right to encourage me to see my jelly belly, saggier bust and stretch marks not as “battle scars” but as my “badges of honour” for becoming a mother.

I continued with the posts, but the more pics I skimmed, the more I realised how conflicted I was starting to feel. Here I was espousing the message that every body is beautiful and amazing and powerful and yet I found myself feeling more positive towards those images that fit western society’s “standard”. In some cases, I even found myself questioning……..basically, judging, some slimmer ones and wondering what there was to complain about if they already mirrored western society’s “standard” of beauty?

Even though I try not to be physically self-conscious or affected by society’s “standard”, especially for the sake of my two little girls, I can see I still am. My words said one thing but my deeper emotions belied the truth.

I had to remind myself that one’s body image is a very personal topic influenced by many factors. Some people are skinny and want to be curvier. Some are larger and want to be thinner. Some are busty and want to be smaller. Some want bigger booty. Some want smaller thighs. Some want to be taller or shorter. Some want curly hair, straight hair, blonde hair, brown hair. Others want smaller feet, softer skin, less wrinkles. The list goes on and on.

Realistically, we can’t be all of these things. Genetics dictate a lot about how we are and we can’t change that, short of cosmetic procedures. Culture also dictates the definition of “beauty”, something I am conscious of from personal experience, having both Chinese and Caucasian heritage, and having lived in both cultures.

The priority should be about our health; being the best and healthiest we can be. The additional priority should be to model true inner beauty for our children, the girls in particular, but also for our boys so they grow up with a respectful view of girls and women. 

Campaigns like “I Heart My Body Day” and others such as The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty and The Body Shop’s activism show “real” women and help to counter the endless touched up and unrealistic images of outer beauty we are bombarded with. A step further would be campaigns or movements, such as The Dove® Movement for Self-Esteem7 Wonderlicious and Pigtail Pals, that also work on promoting healthy self-esteem and inner beauty for our girls.

I know this might sound too simplistic. It’s hard to change thinking so ingrained in society but it can be done. It’s about the value placed on what we define as “beautiful“. After all, weren’t curvy models the “in thing” a few generations ago?

"Tres Gracias" by Peter Paul Rubens, 1639

"Tres Gracias" by Peter Paul Rubens, 1639

{image credit}

How did you feel about “I Heart My Body” day? What do you think about the message we need to model for our children?

Note: This is not a sponsored post by Dove, the Body Shop. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I’m linking with Jess from Diary of a SAHM for IBOT.

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26 thoughts on “Conflicted by “I Heart My Body Day 2011”

  1. I love your thoughts on this, I actually decided to join this linkup because of my own body issues and it allowed me to see that much of my concerns were in my head. I am one of those girls that has always been slim but easily got caught up in comparing myself to others and expecting perfection. There is something in being complimented on your shape and feeling as though you have to maintain that at all times.

    Since having my daughter I have much more appreciation for my body and look after myself for my health rather than appearance, I love that we are able to see real women without the heavy use of lighting and photoshop and there is so much more beauty in that.

    • Thanks, Erin. I did get to read your post a little after the others. I think everyone who posted was brave to do so. I guess it was an exercise, though, that revealed my own prejudices. We are so bombarded by society ordained standards of beauty but it really must be about health to change the path our children are being led down. I want my girls to have confidence and be happy even if they are not stick thin.

  2. I love your take on this. I’m slim but have always struggled with body issues, particularly after Ava’s birth where ten weeks on bed rest meant I put on a lot more weight than I would have liked.

    I’m conscious of it because of my girls. I have always had a thing about my belly button, but the girls have the same one, so I choose not to say anything because I don’t want them to have the same problems. I never thought there was an issue with my nose until my sister told me it was big, and now I hate it! So mushy of my issues are things my sister or others pointed out, and I don’t want my girls to experience that. I want them to see their good points, and love themselves for who they are.

    • Thanks, Jess, for being honest about your issues too. I want my girls to love themselves regardless of how they look too. I know how cruel kids can be let alone having peer pressure heaped on them from a young age by Dolly mags, Barbie and other dolls modelling what’s cool and “in”. I look at my 2 year old now and she is just happy being a little child and whilst she’s fussy about what she wears, it doesn’t matter if what she wears doesn’t match, if her hair’s a bit messy. I want her to stay confident and happy in who she is for as long as possible without unnecessary peer pressure. That’s why I like 7 Wonderlicious posts and related sites that promote “girl power” and inner beauty rather than externals.

  3. I guess what I question in body campaigns like these are, “So, what’s supposed to happen in the hereafter ???”
    There are a whole series of photos and posts of people talking about how proud they are of their bodies despite what it’s gone through (both self-inflicted and caused by motherhood), but where to from here ? What are the learnings ? What are we supposed to take away with us and use for our children or for ourselves ?

    If there was a specific theme like “self-esteem”, “health” or even “mental health” then to me, that makes sense.

    I’ve taken nude photos of myself during my massive pregnant with twins stage, doing the whole “Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair” pose. They pop up on our computer screen occasionally. I just don’t feel the need to post them up on the internet. Where it’s public. And permanent.
    Maybe I’m just a prude…lol ! 🙂

    • Thanks for your input, Grace. I agree that a lot of campaigns about all sorts of things, need to go beyond hype to make a lasting change. I am so much more conscious of this now for my children’s sake. I took “artistic” photos whilst pregnant too but they are, for now, just for family. So if you’re a prude, then so am I!

  4. I totally get what you are saying. Damn society. I joined up because I am trying to learn to love my body shape. I’m trying to be nicer to my body like it deserves and in the future I think it’ll be interesting to see how I viewed myself when I was pregnant. I think it’s one big learning curve and we would all be happier if we accepted our bodies rather than fought against the shape or just tolerated our body.

    I also think it’s important as parents to not project bad body image onto our kids and doing this will hopefully help that.

    • Thanks, Ames. I did see your post too. I think everyone who posted was brave to do so. I do hope no one thought I was criticising their involvement. I guess the idea of this exercise, however, revealed my own prejudices. I think it was being pregnant that helped me appreciate my body more. I’ve always been a little meaty and curvy but often tried to hide it. Being pregnant “gave me permission” to let it all hang out, so to speak. I know, one day, I looked at a lot of men and realised just as there are so many shapes and sizes of women, there are also of men (yeah, I know, did I need that as a revelation??) but I never really pay as much attention to how men look. I think women are just so much more judgemental on themselves and on other women. Most of us need a permanent mental adjustment!

  5. I appreciated the ladies talking about their bodies and also forcing them to take some positive steps to acknowledged how their bodies have changed. For that reason I think it is helpful. Guess there is power in a group of women that are respected by others saying something from their heart. It was just nice to see normal women just being normal.

    I don’t know what is wrong with me but I have never really hated my body. I’m pretty hairy and I have a muffin top, but I have never really got to the stage of not even looking at myself. I just sort of think well this is my body, it’s what I’ve got and yeah….. I mean I can do something about my muffin top, but I really can’t be stuffed at the moment I can’t be stuffed going to the gym and getting into that culture, just not me.

    • I agree with you, Gemma. The exercise was still positive and important and that type of promotion of normal women, needs to be said *and* shown.

      It’s great you are so comfortable in your skin. You may well be in the minority! I have my little issues but time, age, and pregnancy have mellowed me a little so I’m not as self-conscious. It probably helped that post pregnancy I ended up 10kg lighter than pre-pregnancy, and with little effort – no idea how that happened. But I am very jiggly where I’d rather not be and that’s going to take work that I need to commit to, like no more chocolate! If I choose not to commit, I remind myself I can’t complain.

  6. I was incredibly grateful to be able to read how some of these women felt about their bodies! To be honest I didn’t read a lot of them, only those bloggers who I truly love to read. Because it just seemed to be everywhere and too much of a good thing, you know?
    I totally agree with you – self esteem, body image needs to be tied to health, not to a cultural ideal. The women in my family are all very differently shaped, and at the moment I am doing my best to get to a healthy weight so my daughter sees her mother being a healthy, confident role model.

    I’ve never hated my body, either, like Gemma. It’s gotten big, it’s gotten small. I’ve thought I was fat when I was skinny and skinny when I was getting plump and I’ve seen it expand and contract and expand with three pregnancies in three years.

    Right now, for me, it is about loving my body in more realistic terms than the very thought provoking yet somewhat intangible concept of body image. It’s about putting the right things into it, giving it the right kind of exercise and treating myself well. I think the confidence, strength and health I am gaining from that has made me way more confident than anything else I have ever done!

    • Daisy, I admire how you are working really hard to banish fluffiness and get fit. I love your take on this. I really do. That confidence you are gaining is powerful and contagious and very obvious. Self-esteem and inner beauty are a little intangible but I know I want to find a way to instill these concepts into my girls in some way. I shudder to hear stories of girls as young as 8 getting anorexic. This recent concept of “tweens” primarily used for marketing purposes, has a lot to answer for, in my opinion, exposing them to ideas and concepts we would have seen in the past when they hit their teens.

  7. What a wonderfully honest post. I could say more but my words would be clumsy and potentially misinterpreted. I’ll leave it at: I felt the same & agree 100% 🙂

    • Thanks, Nee. I hope everyone understood I wasn’t negatively criticising the campaign or their posts but that the exercise of the campaign revealed my prejudices that I thought I’d mostly overcome.

  8. I love this post. And I also agree with Grace’s comments. I think the bottom line should be about positive self-esteem. But unfortunately we live in a society that judges people by their appearance and sometimes society pushes it so hard that people believe that’s all that matters. It’s so shallow (but I also know that I’m guilty of it at times). I didn’t want to bear all for the internet. Personally, not something that interests me. But I did write about the importance of looking after ourselves to be healthy (after my own health scare) – and I think that’s more important than appearance. A positive self-esteem and a healthy lifestyle will be such a better example to my girls than pointing out my flaws. I want them to know that true beauty is from within, not from what society expects of them.

    • Thanks, Debbie. It is a pity that society influences so much. It’s a vicious circle since marketers then build on that and round and round it goes. It’s hard to balance that influence over trying to fight back with a healthier message. The difficulty sometimes with healthy and fit, is that it is promoted by superfit, toned women which further focuses on looks. I guess it’s an easier concept to visualise than flexible muscles, healthy heart, low blood sugar, although kids campaigns have caricatured teeth to introduce dental hygiene for kiddies! Imagine a happy heart dancing about! Maybe the “Life Be in it” campaign (http://www.lifebeinit.org/) and song needs to come back in full swing. Then maybe characters to promote inner beauty too. Do they exist already, I wonder.

  9. Such a thoughtful post Veronica. I know exactly what you mean. I really want to do it and I am so supportive of the message but I am also fighting my own internal battles about it. I will have to think about it a bit more I think. xx

  10. You’re right, our priority should be health, be it physical or related to self-esteem. My children will never see me dieting. What we do, as a family, is try to discuss how we could improve our eating habits in order to promote health, regardless of size. I think it’s especially important since both of my girls are completely different in build.

    I’m vegan, not for dietary reasons, but ethical and we talk about that too so the girls don’t see my veganism as something negative or a way of controlling what I eat.

    I enjoyed the ‘heart’ posts. I just hope the those women continue to love their bodies every day.

    • I hope to get to a point of being able to discuss healthy eating with my girls too. I know that starts with hubby (the savoury tooth) and I (the sweet tooth), reigning in our bad habits. I know I had some bad habits as a child (eg: eating jelly crystals from the pack whilst hiding in the pantry!), and got quite chubby at one point, and want to avoid my girls going through that phase too. It’s an interesting thing you mention about your veganism and how you explain that to them. These choices can be confusing for children. We are their role models in so many ways. I too hope everyone who participated in the campaign or even watched from the sides continues on a positive approach to how they look.

  11. When I read all the posts I felt conflicted too. Couldn’t put my finger on it. I applauded the women who were making a brave statement about body acceptance, but I didn’t feel like it was a campaign that I needed to join. I have my own battles about my body – which is not necessarily to do with cultural standards, it’s more complex than that (my emotions, health, illness etc). So I think, for me, it’s not so simple as acceptance. I appreciate your views on this and love your honesty. xxx

    • Thanks for your contribution, Deb. The entire relationship most of us have with our bodies is a complicated one. It’s hard to unravel it all but, for me, important to be aware of so I can send the right type of messages to my girls.

  12. Not sure if you saw my entry to this one but that was pretty much how I felt about it, honest and raw 🙂 One day I hope to teach my child at how to take care of herself better….unlike me.

    • I did and I applaud your courage for the post because I could see it was tough for you to do. It’s never too late to make the changes needed to make things better for ourselves or our kids.

  13. Great to meet you today and I just had to come and look up this post! I am usually not that concerned with the way I look, but I am concerned about having a healthy way of life (which results in a healthy body) and modelling that to my children. To me ‘healthy body image’ should start with a ‘healthy body’.

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