Saturday, 17 August 2013

I Want What She's Got

If you get onto the subject of body-confidence, it's inevitable you're going to end up talking about the media and it's projection of the 'perfect' body somewhere down the line.

As I've said in a previous blog, I instinctually rebel against 'rules' set down by anyone else when it comes to things like this. Not one person on this earth has the right to label anything as right, wrong, perfect, imperfect, beautiful or ugly. We are all capable of having our own perceptions and opinions and we should have the confidence to believe in them, and the dignity to respect everyone else's.

But I cannot, hand on heart, say that I fully love my body. I can't look at myself in the mirror without hearing a little negative voice in my mind pointing out faults. I can't look at a photograph of a so-called 'perfect' body without feeling, somewhere inside, a mixture of jealousy and inadequacy.

Now, I'm not saying I don't have body confidence! I mean, what can I say, I'm a 5ft10 leggy blonde with long hair and blue eyes. I am well aware that there are probably other women who look at me with the same envy I feel.

And I have put work into getting to this place! I would be letting myself down hugely if I allowed the negative voice to take control again. Go back fifteen years and I had a two page spread listing, in detail, every part of my body and what I hated about it. I cut out photographs of women I saw as 'perfect' and stuck them in my diary just so I could hate myself that little bit more. I didn't, in fact, look much different then to how I do now. I've lost a stone or two in weight maybe, but you know what...I lost a stone and a half recently and nobody could tell the difference! I'm a firm believer that a little bit of extra weight means much more to ourselves than it does to anyone else!

I had to learn to listen to and believe in the other voice- the positive one. I had to learn to trust people when they told me I looked nice; to realise that guys were hitting on me because they found me attractive, not simply because I was female and they thought only with their pants- as I truly believed when I was a teenager. They actually just thought I was hot! Now how about that!

Now, to my point.

Everyone has their own opinion of what a perfect body is, but most of us would probably pick the same ones from a line-up: the slim yet curvy women and the toned and athletically muscled men. And this may well have something to do with the media's projection of these images. I could probably write an essay discussing fashions and debating the amount of control the media has over our opinions, but I'm not going to do that because you know
what: I think it's irrelevant. It is what it is. We have the media, we all see the photographs, we all watch the movies. It's there so why bellyache over it. Maybe the media gives us the image and we believe it. Or maybe the media just takes hold of the most popular image in people's minds, and projects it back to us... I couldn't say.

What I am interested in, though, is the psycology behind our reactions to those images.

Ok, so to look at it from a different angle: an interesting thing happened to me recently. I moved away from the city to the quiet seclusion of a tiny village in the countryside. I was convinced I was going to miss my city lifestyle: the nightlife, the drinking, the partying, the shopping... and was quite shocked to find that I didn't miss it at all! Apart from the first month or so while I was adjusting to the change, I didn't even think about it! I was so far away from it that I wasn't reminded of what I was missing.

Similarly, in the city I had lived with a friend who, about a year ago, found a guy who made her happy- really happy. I was so glad for her, but at the same time, so envious. It made me want it even more, seeing her there. Now, living in the countryside, my current housemate and I are both single. And just a few days ago I realised that I haven't been feeling sorry for myself about it any more. And that got me wondering... was it just on my mind so much before because I was seeing it in front of me every day? Being reminded of what I could have but didn't?

Now, I have agreed to take part in a project a friend-of-a-friend is doing. She's a burlesque performer and photographer who is putting together a book provisionally titled 'my friends in their pants'... so you get the idea what my involvement is going to entail.

In the hope of gaining some confidence in myself to take with me to the photoshoot, I made the stupid decision to google 'small boobs' thinking I might find some nice photographs of women posing sexily, who didn't have the usual large but perky breasts shown in nude photographs. What I discovered instead was a hive of before-and-after (and even during) breast augmentation surgery photographs, and a number of websites quoting surgeons and doctors describing 'breast types' and even 'deformities'. One of these is named tubular breasts. As far as I can tell, this 'deformity' has various stages- at it's worst, these poor women have very oddly shaped boobs, usually totally different sizes to each other. But for the most part, THEY ARE JUST SMALL BREASTS. This is the only thing I can see that you might say was 'wrong' with them, and they're being labelled a deformity and being treated by surgery?! And these photographs are put side by side with a collection of silicone-enhanced 'perfect' breasts. Just to show you what you could have!

But the worst thing for me was that- looking through these photographs, despite being horrified that the simple differences in natural body shapes were being attacked in this way, I still looked at the women who did have large, perky boobs with envy! Iwas taken right back to the school PE changing rooms: memories of desperately trying to keep my own small boobs covered, while I sneeked stolen glances at the other girls- the ones with the really pretty boobs- wishing mine were like theirs.

You see, I will never... NEVER have breasts that look better than the breasts I have right now. I am NOT putting myself through surgery (the photographs and videos I found on google made me feel sick!) And yet I still have that same feeling I had as a teenager in the changing rooms: like I've missed out on something other women have. I will never know what it feels like to be proud of a pair of seriously beautiful boobs!

But here's the deal. I am not alone! I wonder what percentage of women do have the body-type we tend to label as 'perfect'? 20%? 30% maybe? Perhaps even less... Women do not come in two shapes- perfect and imperfect. We are small and delicate. We are round and soft. We are long and elegant. We are small on top and curvy down below. We are voluptuous on top and thin down below. We are big all over. And small all over. We are wobbly. We are solid. We are tall. We are short... But where do we see the beautiful photographs of the other 70-80%?

We tend to finger-wag at the media: blaming them for our own lack of self worth. We say that they are giving us an image we can never achieve; that they are instructing us to have the perfect body and this is why so many people hate their own bodies. But the idea that is currently forming in my mind is that what we are all experiencing here is pure and simple jealousy. It's like me in the changing rooms: I wasn't happy with my own- I wanted what she had. It's the same psycology as not missing the city lifestyle because I'm not there, or not wishing I had a boyfriend because I couldn't see how happy my friend was with hers. When we are presented with a comparison, we look at what we have, and what we could have, and we judge ourselves on it.

Now, I'm not making any judgements or conclusions on this subject, it's merely an observation. It clearly isn't healthy to be constantly subjeted to a body image very few of us will ever experience. But with such intrusive media in our culture, it is impossible to escape. And I can't tell anyone not to get jealous! There's nothing wrong with a bit of jealousy- we all get it!

But what I do strongly believe is that, while we may feel jealous of what other people have- we all need to accept what we have. It is ours after all.

Check out my burlesque dancer/model/photographer friend's collection here:
Yes, I'm in there :)

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