Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wasted Years

So, understand
Don't waste your time always searching for
Those wasted years.
Face up, make your stand,
And realise your living in the golden years.

Iron Maiden - Wasted Years

We could call this a belated resolution for 2015, but it's going to take some explaining. You, my readers, seem to enjoy it when I have a bit of a rant - watch this space. It's going to be a rough crossing!

We as people are no stranger to the fact that, like it or not, we're bombarding by advertising. In the field of health and beauty, that advertising does only one thing: it reinforces the narrow societal standard of what health and beauty look like. There is no variation, it looks one way and one way only. If you don't look that way, well, you don't have a place in this society, peasant scum!

In my early twenties I not only became vastly more aware of the existence of this standard, but also became far more cognizent of the fact it is a huge problem unlikely to be solved any time soon. I then set about putting a lot of effort into rejecting it.

Firstly, I'm 5'3". No amount of exercise or wishful thinking will make me supermodel-tall. I'm also British and typically British-woman-shaped. Even if I carried not even an ounce of spare on my legs and backside, they'd still be the largest part of my body. My frame is built  that way, and years of horse riding, skiing, swimming and plenty of other activities have created a fair amount of thigh muscle that won't shift in a hurry. Since I booked my first lesson in returning to horse riding this weekend, I'm not exactly doing anything to disencourage maintaining that muscle.

Why am I telling you all this? Because recently I've noticed I'm back-sliding on all that work on rejecting the tsandard and being happy with me for me. I don't think I can pinpoint when this started, but it's been creeping up on me for some time now. It's finally reached the point where I can't really pretend it isn't there any more.

When in a reasonable mood, I can easily say this has been compounded by inability to really exercise for a couple of months post-surgery, a tendency not to eat properly for those couple of months because I was eating what was comfortable and easy to chew, and spent a fair amount of time swinging between no appetite at all and wanting to do this:

(Image from Original "X all the Y"meme from hyperboleandahalf)

In some part it stems from a time last year where I put a fair bit of weight on. Being me, it went to one place and one place only. In my no doubt slightly skewed view, my arse was well into the realms where it could consider applying to have its own solar system with a more than reasonable chance of success.

I appreciate to some people that would be no bad thing. I however have always been very bad at accpeting changes in my shape as they don't occur very often. So infrequently in fact that I have no idea what to do save fly into a state of mild panic.

Hey, if you're going to overreact you may as well commit.

Now, I've lost all that weight and I'm about back to normal. You'd assume everything would be fine, but it isn't. I'm definitely still in "not good enough" mode. Now there's nothing wrong with wanting to improve a particular area, but it's more than a little unhealthy when your expectations become inflated and unrealistic, which mine certainly are verging on.

In doing a quick bit of internet research for this post, it astounds me just how many aids there are in feeling unsatisfactory within easy reach of a few taps of a keyboard. Weight calculators which take no account of muscle to fat ratio or general frame before they brand you morbidly obese. "Shape" calculators which are frankly nothing short of insulting unless your measurements result in "hourglass" - which we all know is the only valid shape if you're a woman and want to take up space on the planet. I'm a person and not a piece of fruit, thank you very much (I get "pear" shaped as often as not).

I think the point I'm circling around here is really one of just how insidious this sort of thing is. There is absolutely no such thing as "perfect" but it's surprisingly easy to become overwhelmed with the expectation to achieve it nonetheless. And do you realise what we do each time we buy into the instantaneous flawless skin, effortless weight loss and general impossible "glow" we're sold?

Yes, that's right. We reinforce the standard, each and every time.

I'm not sure if the same can be said of men, but women in particular are expected and encouraged to compete with each other instead of hold one another up. It's often difficult to make an innocent compliment without it being analysed for agenda and hidden intent for this reason. Said expectation not only leads to a lot needless unhappiness, but also to the idea that only one shape or size - the opposite of said standard is "allowed" to feel inadequate. We struggle to accept that everyone has "fat" days, and most people have some part of their body they like less than another and would be willing to change. It's an entirely human thing, and despite what advertising may suggest we are indeed all human.

We would do well to realise that we're all in the same boat. We would do better still to recognise that with a not insignificant personal effort, we can choose to ignore it too.

So, this is my late resolution. I'm going to kick this unhealthy line of thought and work hard at self-acceptance instead. I've managed it before, so I suppose I get the added bonus of having proof it's possible. I'm sure plenty of us have wasted years and years in pointless self-flagellation on this topic.

How about we be a bit kinder to ourselves? You might not always appreciate it, but there's nobody else in the world looks exactly like you - no matter what size, shape or weight you might be right now, because those three things will be fluid throughout your life.

We should maybe remember that this in itself is something worth celebrating.

(One this note, a new motto: "I have a Bridgeburners top, therefore I am by default mind-blowingly fabulous"
That should work.)

Don't mind me, I'm going back to swearing at Ebay in my attempts to find a new dress for Valentine's Day. Why I do this to myself I'll never know - I HATE shopping.

Anybody have any thoughts on this topic? I'd love to hear them. Did you make any similar resolutions?

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

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