Inviting you to join a REAL conversation...
I've learned a lot about the power of the mind and the ability of my thoughts to determine and shape my experiences and relationships in Life. It is relentless daily work, the most beautiful and mystical work that can be done - the real Alchemy. And, not to deter anyone from continuing this read, but, yeah, this is actually a conversation about quantum physics, --And its much more accessible and much less esoteric than you might think.
And so if you are anything like me in the way that you think about transformation and self love, you understand that creating positive change is visionary work, it asks of you to become your own Hero. And for this work to be done effectively you must be relentless about clearing the mind of negative self sabotaging talk, judgments and fears. Shame, guilt, and fear never create positive change. Those emotions DO create negative experiences we would rather avoid, ones that can continue to repeat themselves.. until we stop them.
The way to create an ever more beautiful reality is to IMAGINE IT > CREATE IT WITH CONSCIOUS THOUGHT > AND ACT ON IT.
I touch upon this quantum understanding in my first article published in The Elephant Journal entitled "We Cannot Shame Ourselves Into Being Lovable" Going through the editing process with the "Eleditors" as they call themselves at The Elephant Journal was a great learning process and I cant wait to publish more on this site. I definitely recommend reading through the site - there are many gems there on wellness, spirituality and grounded political issues with a bit of liberal flair :)
Also recommended, if these concepts are newer to you OR if you want a great refresher on the basics of inner alchemy and the kind of personal, spiritual, life-long change that we are each called to create in life now, I recommend the two following classics: A New Earth - a great read, but here I've linked to the 'daily download version': the Inspiration Deck,; and second, a must read (that dan be done in a few days) The Alchemist, - and for something snazzy, I linked here to the graphic novel with awesome images to boot!:
I hope you enjoy the read and I would love your feedback and insights after reading it!
Also, be sure to check out the website that my team and I have created for the launch of The BodyLove Project! We had our first event on May first, a local screening of the documentary film, Miss Representation. Read more details about that amazing evening on the BodyLove Project blog.
And if you'd like to join the community and be privy to our upcoming events, subscribe to our community mailing list by going to the BodyLoveProject.org homepage
The power of media is in the ability to be seen and heard, to be influential, memorable, and effective. As a culture, American identity is strongly shaped by the media. Most of us grew up bombarded by persuasive media advertisements that, while making loyal consumers of us, also by de facto shaped our sense of self starting from a very young age.
Body image has become a dominant factor in our socialization and how we come to understand and respect ourselves. And when we complacently consume messages sent out by corporate America about how our bodies should be , we unwittingly yield the power of our self-worth the behemoth that is mainstream media. And the power of self-worth is one of our most powerful assets and allies in life.
I believe we are now poised for a shift. Never before have we, as individuals, had the opportunity to harness the power of the media as we do today. And one of the most exciting aspects of this power shift lies in the revolution in how we relate to, care for and value our bodies.
So rather than try to overpower big corporate media by traditional means of outspending, we now have the collective ability to take a more artful path of less resistance and choose to redefine the media ourselves.
One of the ways to engage in this disruptive movement is to utilize new media to start conversations. Film is arguably one of the most potent forms of information dissemination we use today. For this reason, my mentor and fellow co-creator, Mer James, and I have joined forces to bring a screening of a powerful film called Miss Representation to our own city. Below is the flyer for this event, held here in Santa Barbara, on May 1st at 7pm at an awesome event space called The Narrative Loft.
Judy Foreman, with the Santa Barbara NoozHawk was kind enough to write up an amazing article about the upcoming film event, which also highlights about why Mer and I are so passionate about the subject and how we plan to take action and catalyze positive change.
This film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. It takes a close look at the innumerable ways that young girls and women are affected by the glorified versions of beauty disseminated by mainstream media. Often these images are eroticized, photoshopped and fetishized versions of female sexuality. Such images send the message that a woman's value is in her youth, beauty and sexuality, rather than (among many more) her professional accomplishments, intellectual abilities and capacity for leadership.
The film is written, directed and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, CEO of The Representation Project which she founded in response to overwhelming public demand for ongoing education and social action in support of the film’s message.
After debuting Miss Representation at The Sundance Film Festival in 2011, Newsom and her team recognized the need to address the set of issues that boys and men similarly face. So she and her team made a second film called The Mask You Live In that follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.
These issues are not particular to any specific gender, age or race. These are cultural conversations that are crucial and relevant NOW. Opening up this discussion allows us all to proactively and creatively affect change and bring about what we want to see in our society and in OUR media.
You can read Judy Foreman's full article in NoozHawk by clicking on this link: http://bit.ly/1EkgYAb
“Finding the sweet spot between polished and authentic is an art that has become a critical skill for success and personal satisfaction in this age of infinite opportunity. ”
Two weeks ago I went to a casting call in L.A. to try out for Full Figured Fashion Week 2015. (Yep, its a thing - check it out:www.fffweek.com) Full Figured Fashion Week was born circa 2012 as a response to the lack of body diversity in mainstream fashion but also as a celebration of curvy women and the ever-growing market catering to the American majority demographic: Women size 12 and up. The casting call was held at the Hollywood Dance Center in one of the unassuming and charming small upstairs studios. There are a number of casting calls being held in various places around the country over the next few months; the event itself takes place in New York City in June.
I went into this audition with a lot of confidence and excitement - which is generally my M.O. for things I've never done before and am blissfully undereducated about. I had watched all the videos on youtube and had an idea of the look the casting directors were interested in. Based on past years, it seems that majority of the women cast for the show are women of color and generally a size 16 and above. Although I didn't quite fit the look, I knew that of course they would accept diverse looks if the talent made the cut. Regardless, the fact that the event exists and is gaining traction was enough to get me amped up - so there was no question in my mind about whether or not to try out. At the core, I went to the casting call in the name of size diversity in the fashion world and our media at-large.
To prepare, I lined up a private runway walk & etiquette lesson from a woman in Santa Barbara who founded our local fashion school. For the record, walking a runway effectively, in a way that makes the clothes and you look good is actually WAY harder than it looks. It reminded me of ballet class in the sense that there are about ten different variables to be aware in each moment, like: Engaging your core big time, throwing your shoulders back while leaning back and jutting your hips forward, oh yeah, and lifting your head as if it were being suspended by a string, holding your gaze steady while remembering your step count and precisely how you plan to pose, turn and keep the whole thing going in a seemingly-effortless flow. I was sweating by the end of the lesson. It was a lot like learning choreography for dance or taking a yoga class.
I was one of the first women in line, which grew steadily for the next hour and half. The other women there were all beautiful, big, well-proportioned and looking pretty FLY. I was loving it. The whole thing moved quite swiftly and the casting crew itself was encouraging and kept the mood light. I had the sense that we were all part of a shift - a big shift for women, men, and the creative freedom of expression and being allowed to celebrate who and how you are.. Naturally...Now. This is truly a birthright and one that many have lost and many are now rediscovering. YES!
When my moment came to go before the judges, I did suddenly get somewhat nervous and felt as if the room sort of closed in around me. When I turned to face the the judges (the two founders of the event), after a moment of pause, one of the women asked me if I was excited, because apparently my poker face was ON and I did not LOOK as thrilled as I was to be there. That was the first curve ball. The second came when they asked me to smile and bring out the sass, because I had essentially practiced a much more reserved and poised demeanor - a carefully planned performance that certainly did not include a smile. The irony, of course, is that vibrant and sassy are natural for me and the smile I had worked so hard to tame was exactly what they wanted me to dish out! So, within the first 30 seconds I was asked to throw my game plan out the door. A bit flustered, knowing I had about 30 seconds to prove myself, I gave it my best and strutted towards the judges trying to remember AND forget everything I'd learned simultaneously. Retrospectively, my inner chatter could have been the stuff for a hilarious out-take blooper video. Hmmm - next blog post?
I got the email a week later saying I'd missed the cut. I'll admit that I left feeling like I didn't quite give them what they were looking for and struck out on those curve balls for sure. Despite that I had totally planned on making it, going to New York and having a blast...the reality was that I wasn't yet quite prepared to meet the moment. I defaulted to what I had practiced despite seeing and hearing that what they wanted was quite the opposite.
What's the take home message, I asked myself. Well, There are a few gems here: The first is that is it really important to GO FOR IT in life and try new things, especially when you are very passionate about the larger impact that it may have in the world. The second is that MEETING THE MOMENT is a critical skill in our Wild Wild West world of novelty, entrepreneurism and the Millennials' love for change. The need for flexibility and dynamism in the every day is definitely a necessary tool for success. And the third piece of this is that we are in a time where people are drawn to AUTHENTICITY and have a strong bullshit radar for filtering anything that is disingenuous. People want real, unique expression and experience. Finding the sweet spot between polished and authentic is an art that has become a critical skill for success and personal satisfaction in this age of infinite opportunity. It is the art of awareness.
So in my mind, this casting call was a major success. Lessons learned and first time fears faced. Personal bullshit radar engaged :)
Last week I presented a talk on the power of BodyLove to an amazing group of women here in Santa Barbara. It was part of a monthly meeting hosted by a group called Gather and Glow which focuses on women (although not exclusively) in entrepreneurship and wellness. The topic this month was "Love Your Body, Love Your Life!" There were two other speakers with me on the speaker panel, Natalie Diane, a nutritionist and personal chef, and Melanie Elkin, a yoga teacher and motivational speaker. Each of us had a chance to tell our story of how we came to love our bodies, and the struggles and triumphs we underwent to get there.
This was a perfect opportunity for me to distill my message and my journey into a short 7-10 minute talk so I immediately reached out to the organizers to ask about participation. I was super excited to get a chance to talk to an audience who are already forward thinking about health and wellness, This opportunity helped me decide what they most important and instructive parts of my journey have been in order to tell a compelling story with a meaningful message.
The talk went very well and I received great feedback, but the most powerful thing that I walked away with from that opportunity was a new understanding of the power of vulnerability getting one's point across. The message always matters when its coming from the heart and is infused with one's own authentic spirit. I realized while giving the talk that the moments when I was most connected to the audience were when I was sharing the most vulnerable parts of my story - parts of my life that up until pretty recently I would have not been willing to share because I would have been embarrassed or afraid of judgment. Instead, I allowed myself to be empowered by the vulnerability, and the energy coursing through me when I opened my heart up fearlessly. Letting go of shame and letting the past be the past is MAGIC!
What I learned that evening by being truly HONEST in front of an audience is that people are much more receptive to the truth of my message when I open up to them and allow myself to be vulnerable and truly SEEN as I am. I became more trustworthy and credible to them because they saw that I was willing to be honest and raw with them. This made my "take home message" much more impactful. I could see that the eyes, ears and hearts of my audience were blown open as soon as they realized that I was going to be REAL with them.
I think that we are very much in a time when people want to learn from other people who have personal experience with the subject and who are willing to put themselves on the line in order to get their message heard. People want to know that you have been there too - that you have been where they are and come out on the other side. Experience IS legit credibility.
Body Shame. It is the opposite of BodyLove.
BodyLove is an extraordinary practice of radical self-love that has the power to transform one's entire life. Body-Shame, on the other hand, separates us from our bodies by creating a pathology in which we see our bodies as separate from ourselves. When we relate to our bodies through shame, we often feel trapped within the body, as if we are perpetually trying to escape it. Over time, this learned behavior has a very detrimental effect on our spiritual, emotional and psychological well-being because from within the trenches of behavioral Body-Shaming, the body becomes one's measurement of self-worth, an object to be controlled, tamed, decorated and manipulated for a desired outcome.
Paradoxically, generally that desired outcome is for our bodies and ourselves to be Loved.
Before you continue to read this post, I encourage you to watch the thought provoking video below on how the "Ideal Body Type" shifts and changes over time, like any trend does and will continue to do.
Many of us know that cultural body ideals shift dramatically throughout time, as the video above reminds us. Despite this awareness, we still attempt to fit into a mold, follow the trend and fight our biology in order to meet a cultural standard. Have you ever noticed that women of all sizes, shapes, ages, colors, and fitness levels criticize their bodies? The negative things we women say about our bodies can be harsh -and from anyone else's perspective but our own, often untrue or exaggerated. This is the behavior that perpetuates the inheritance of Body-Shame. When we criticize our own bodies, we are adding to the culture of Body-Shaming. How? Because the people who are in your presence with either automatically compare themselves to you or they will feel sorry for you and apologetically try to make you feel better. Both situations...awkward and detrimental.
Here is a #TruthBomb that I dig = When you commit to loving your body, you make it easier for everyone else to love their own.
Body shaming is not constructive for any of us, and rather than encouraging or motivating people to heal and foster healthier body image it has the reverse effect of reinforcing a belief that the body is innately imperfect and must be modified.
WHY do we openly criticize ourselves and berate our bodies in front of others? Where did we pick up this damaging habit and how does it persist throughout our culture so strongly?
One of the ways we learn body shaming early on in life is from our parents and/or other adults around us who criticized their own bodies. And of course the most damaging reinforcement of Body-Shame has come via the media. At this point, our minds have been inundated with so many distorted media messages that self-deprecation can be second nature at the subconscious level. All we need is the little voice constantly chattering in our head about our insufficiency to keep us in the pits of self-sabotaging thoughts and habits. Quite often it is not WHAT we are criticizing in ourselves, but rather the habit of criticizing itself which makes us feel unhappy, ashamed or hopeless.
So the point is that we learn to shame the body; this is a behavior that we pick up from others, from influences outside of ourselves. For, if left uninfluenced, a child would never invent the idea that its body was not good enough or somehow greatly flawed. The idea of comparison, imperfection and competition about the aesthetics of the body is very much an invention of the human mind, and unfortunately one that our society has long espoused as truth.
SO WHAT TO DO? How do we change?
instead of devoting time to self-loathing and self-criticism, we CHOOSE BODYLOVE.
When we choose to shame ourselves, we choose to reinforce many of the habits that keep us feeling bad about ourselves. So when we choose to Love ourselves, we choose to create a reality that says we are worthy and perfect and grateful for our bodies.
Eventually, each of us must realize that, no matter how engrained the behavior, and regardless of all of the evidence you have gathered in your mind to convince yourself of your unworthiness - despite ALL of this, it becomes clear that IT IS ALL UP TO YOU to change the way you feel about and relate to your body. YOU can become the source of encouragement for yourself and anyone else by choosing BodyLove instead of Body-Shame.
And YES, BodyLove entails compassion and radical self-acceptance. Yes, it entails commitment, a sort of discipline that must come from inside. For many of us, it entails mental re-wiring; replacing the negative thoughts (the ones that we are really TRULY sick of) with positive and encouraging ones. There are many ways to start the process of transformation. I found myself doing what I thought to be cheesy and silly daily rituals such as looking at myself naked in the mirror and repeating "I love you, I love you, I love you.." over and over again until I could see in my eyes that something in my mind shifted. I would stand there with myself and I would wait until I could actually hear the words and accept and believe the meaning of "I love you."
TAKE ACTION: Do what needs to be done to recreate a reality you wish to live in with regard to your own body image. Understand how you got to where you are and now choose to change it.
In my next blog post, I will lay out a few ideas and simple exercises that have worked for me in my journey to BodyLove. If you are looking for a some strategy and support in this great CHOICE, perhaps you will find this next blog post useful.
ModelManagement: What encouraged you to start your own blog?
Chantal Peterson: There is a specific quality of beauty that radiates from a person who loves and respects herself. This radiance emanates through the eyes, the skin, the voice – its more that physical beauty. An interest in modeling began for me once I started to see this radiance in myself, to love myself and accept my body in its unique and curvaceous shape. Confidence is an incredibly beautiful quality in a person. I have had an interest in modeling since I was a teenager, but the desire to pursue it professionally reemerged with the immense growth in demand for “plus-size” models (a term which actually refers to average size women) in the industry. The big shifts taking place in the fashion industry in this regard are what have inspired me to start my blog, The Grand Orange. I am very excited about the way perceptions of female beauty are changing and what it means for women in regards to their self-confidence and capacity for self-love.
ModelManagement: Tell us more about your blog… What do you want your readers to take away from it?
Chantal Peterson: I struggled for years with my own body image, despite having always been told I was beautiful, and the insecurities I developed as a result held me back from exploring many relationships and experiences that I’d wished I had. After a long journey of self-inquiry and healing work, I have emerged from this process (always on-going!) as a woman empowered by true self love for my mind, body and spirit. The force of what I call BodyLove inspired me to start the blog, The Grand Orange. My blog is a venue for all things BodyLove: I talk about the new perceptions, trends and transformations taking place in society with regard to the way women, beauty and female power are portrayed in the media, and in fashion. I love to see the growing numbers of fashion models who represent the diversity in body size and shape. I am interested in debunking the idea that thin=beautiful. I question if a standard blueprint for “beauty” exists at all! I hope that my blog inspired readers themselves to become interested in what the extraordinary power of a culture of women who love themselves and respect their bodies can do for our global society.
ModelManagement: Are you seeing an increase in work opportunities for curvy models?
Chantal Peterson: There are many plus size modeling agencies out there now as well as many new designers cropping up who cater specifically to curvy women, generally sizes 10 and up. We are also seeing many large name brands such as H&M and Ralph Lauren expanding their size range to include sizes 12 and up as well as using larger models in their advertising campaigns. (For example: Jennie Runk for H&M and Robin Lawley for Ralph Lauren). So, yes, work for curvy models is definitely on the rise! I have also seen plus modeling jobs on ModelManagement.com and always look into them and apply if it’s a fit.
ModelManagement: Do you think curvy and healthy looking models will replace the size zero models in the future?
Chantal Peterson: I think its important to point out that all of the plus models I have heard from and read about say that that they simply refer to themselves as “models” and that the term “plus” is simply a label the industry still uses but which means little to them as women and as professionals. But by and large I see a positive trend in the industry as it opens its doors more and more to representing the full spectrum of female beauty out there. So I don’t think there is any reason to ask the industry to replace size zero models with size 12 models. After all, the whole point is to include models of ALL sizes, and certainly thin women should continue to be represented in fashion as well. That said, there is without a doubt and huge trend toward using more healthy-looking and full-figured models in fashion and media.
ModelManagement: What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Chantal Peterson: Five years from now, I would like to be doing public speaking events all over the world, spreading the message of the power of loving and respecting ones body. I'd like to grow my website into an online publication and retail venue which serves the dual purpose of providing great relevant content for women to help empower them to love and accept their bodies as well as showcase fashion-forward products that work well for curvy women. I want to continue to grow the conversation about Body Love, healthy body image, and fashion equality. Eventually I’d like to design my own clothing line that caters to women of all sizes. As I mentioned, I’m particularly passionate about sports wear (sports bras), lingerie and swimwear since it is so hard to find great fitting pieces that look great. Women with curves have had to struggle and be extra creative to find great clothing that works. This is not because its hard to make bigger women look amazing, but because there have traditionally been so few brands which provide great options. I want to change that. There is so much power inside of us that is waiting to emerge in this world, and unlocking the key to self love is the cornerstone.
For the full interview about BodyLove in the modeling industry, go to: http://bit.ly/ChantalPeterson
"..A woman in love with herself, is a woman in love with all of Life."
I recently modeled for the extraordinarily talented painter, John Nava, in his home studio in Ojai, CA. Six years ago he began a series of paintings for which I was the model.
He has now returned to an unfinished piece, a larger than life painting of me (not shown in this blog post). Nava's technique is exquisite: realism constructed through layers of oil paint, creating an uncanny architecture that somehow produces a replica of the subject.
As I sat, he explains to me a bit about how he selects his models, never looking for particular aesthetic qualities, but only for an indescribable something that he is drawn to, enigmatic and personal. During this conversation, John told me the story of how the first large painting I'd modeled for was sold. Also a large nude piece, it was purchased this year for the permanent collection of the MEAM in Barcelona, a museum devoted to great contemporary figurative works. In it, I look quite young, very plump and naive, and am gazing at the viewer with sloe-eyed confidence. The woman in the painting is raw, natural, unencumbered.
And yet, despite the glory of his exquisite work, the first time I saw the painting I was deeply embarrassed. Not by the nudity, but by the voluptuousness of the figure. Those breasts, that belly. so full, so round, I felt repelled by the image and self-critical thoughts washed over me. My mind told me that Nava had chosen me to paint because painting a big woman would give the piece a sense of controversy, of the grotesque even. For, in this old nervous pattern of thought in my mind, I defaulted to the painful and faulty belief that my body was not beautiful or lovable because it did not match the mythical airbrushed women who dominate media campaigns.
However, I knew this wasn't all all true and the reality was that John Nava's motivations were quite the opposite. When I explain a bit about these struggles with body image, Nava is visibly affected. "The fact that you ever thought of yourself as anything other than perfectly beautiful, causes me pain," he tells me. I learn that he hadn't even thought about my weight or size when he'd asked to paint me. He had been drawn to something innate in me, my essence, a quality any artist looks for in his muse. "Beautiful is beautiful," he explained.
I sat and watched as John mixed his paint, each color uniquely crafted. "These days everyone is doing anger," Nava muses, "I don't have to worry about anger, because they all have it covered," he chuckles "So I do Beauty, I focus on what feels good. Im most concerned with making something beautiful, something honest."
A beautiful irony lies herein: It turns out that the night Nava submitted the painting for review at the MEAM, he had done so having been fueled by residual anger spawned earlier that day when an art dealer had walked into his studio and without so much as a double glance, dismissed the painting of me all together with a wave of his hand. The man said that he'd never be able to sell the piece. For, not only was it a nude (for the most part Americans are indeed still grappling with the naked human form in contemporary Art) -but the figure was also an image of a voluptuous woman staring straight at the viewer, unapologetically. Who would want such an image in his/her home?
As John told me this story, various emotions and thoughts arose, but the dominant ones were essentially self-confirming thoughts about this work I have been doing with this blog to help women learn to love their bodies regardless of shape or size. It is the engrained automatic reactions such as those of the art dealer that need to be questioned and debunked.
If we could, as a society and as individuals, strip away all those layers of conditioning about what a body IS, and what is deemed worthy and attractive and desirable, we could save ourselves so much pain, redirect so much creative energy. If we, (each one of us!) could learn to look at an image of a full-figured women and think not first about what she isn't, but what she IS...we can help give rise to a culture in which all women are admired and respected just as they are, for ALL they are. - And this is a culture of LOVE, full of happier mothers, daughters, husbands, lovers, and sons, of friends and families.
For, a woman in love with herself, is a women in love with all of Life.
In a recent radio interview with Melissa Cohen on her show, "My Friends Are Freaking Awesome," I had the opportunity to have an amazing candid chat with her about all things Body Love and talk a bit about our histories struggling with body image, dabbling with eating disorders and how we have emerged from those challenges healthier, wiser and more positive than ever.
Both Melissa and I are particularly interested in working with high school and college-age women to help empower them by sharing our stories and the perspective we have gained throughout our twenties. The topics highlighted on this show were also woven into a timely conversation about the "sexy plumber" phenomenon we see emerge in Isla Vista at UC Santa Barbara each year on Halloween weekend. Listen below to find out what that means and why it is relevant to #BodyLove and to YOU. Here is the first of two short clips from the interview which aired on UCSB's own radio station, KJUC and then again on KCSB on Halloween morning:
Both Melissa and I share a passion for food, a love for celebration and a desire to see women and men alike continue to grow into their most powerful, healthy and conscious selves. Melissa was also interested in how my journey with learning to love my body and nutritious food lead me to start modeling and becoming passionate about growing the visibility of curvy women in the fashion industry.
Check out the following clip from the interview for the take home message of the show. I invite you to comment on and share this post to anyone who may find the content relevant and inspiring in their own lives.
A big thank you to the UCSB radio station, KJUC, which is curated and funded entirely by students and community. And of course, so much gratitude and love to Melissa Cohen for inviting me to be a guest on her show. Our interview was also aired on KCSB on the show "Kale and Fried Chicken" which Melissa co-hosts with Tuyen Nguyen, a fellow foodie activist.
If you enjoy reading my content, you can sign up to receive the newest blog posts in your inbox the day they go live! I also welcome you to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Your grace and sense of self are exactly and all you have."
No matter who you are, you are going to be able to relate to this post.
I have received a lot of amazing responses since the launch of this site. It's taken time to distill them into a few solid themes. I'll begin with a response from a reader which was echoed by a number of other women:
"I loved your blog. -Actually, it made me cry. I've been on a "diet" since I was 10 years old. I was raised to hate my body. Your website...is so beautiful and so needed. Thank you for having the courage to do this. Thank you for this gift. You are a gift."
This was one of the potent responses I received after this website went live. It is honest and raw and it ended up being the feeling shared by many women who either wrote to me or spoke with me in person after having seen this site. First off, thank you for the enthusiasm and kind words. I am even more inspired to continue to grow this site and the conversation
Have you or anyone you know ever been in a relationship of any sort which was affected by someone's negative or unhealthy body image? If you have, then you know how much of a downer it is and how it can affect every aspect of that person's daily life.
A lot of the women who have contacted me recently in response to this blog have shared about their struggles throughout their entire lives with their body image as it relates to their sense of self worth. Many of these women are unsuspecting: seemingly healthy, fit and confident people. But the truth is that no matter her shape, size or weight, many women are trained from a very young age to learn to hide these "imperfections".
And so the point, again, is that its not actually about the body so much as about the fact that we are MISSING OUT ON LIFE by being obsessed with our bodies, our weight, our appearance. (check out this Ted Talk on "Beauty Sickness") The truth is that it is simply a huge time suck be forever worried about the size of various parts of one's body.
This is time that could be otherwise allocated to doing AWESOME THINGS and to utilizing one's talents and energy to create and be engaged in life.
Many readers said they experienced body shame because so many of us feel or have felt as if we are weaker-spirited or weaker-minded if we feel bad about our bodies...Strangely this is NOT often a function of body fat percentage or pant size. In many cases, women feel ashamed and self-conscious regardless of how our bodies actually look or feel. This is interesting isn't it?
This is what I call a social epidemic. And we are 100% able to change and heal it. It begins with letting go of the shame and guilt by using your intelligence and heart to understand that this way of thinking is learned, it is not natural, and it is not YOU.
The other fascinating aspect of everyone's feedback is that so many women used words like "courage" and "bravery" when commenting about the images of me. Yes, I suppose its brave to put pictures of oneself in one's underwear online in front of peer, family, and public groups. Totally. I agree. But thats not actually what most people were referring. See, it has become very normalized for thin women and models to be in our faces in the media with very little clothing on, but when a bigger voluptuous woman does so -
-its, daring, a bit taboo, its totally courageous!
The reality is, I'm just another woman posing in front of a camera in her underwear(!) -My waist is thicker and cheeks are fuller. Its really not about the amount of skin being shown, for we see hundreds of images every day in the media showing equivalent amounts of skin. The fine print in what some readers are really saying (perhaps only subconsciously) is: "It isn't culturally accepted to have curves, (weight in the areas where most women naturally do) and so the bigger curvy woman is less attractive, less sexy." And so, for a curvy woman to show others what her body looks like, instead of hide, camouflage or reject it, is considered... SO BRAVE!
Take a minute to dissect all of this. I encourage any of you who had this response to question the underlying/unconscious belief from where it came. You may find that this is very likely a culturally-constructed belief that you absorbed at some point in your socialization and that maybe it has also affected the way you look at and treat your own body.
I imagine many people felt the dual reaction of both sadness and empowerment from this site- which are both awesome and authentic responses. So yes! -Be sad, grieve it, be angry, cry and scream (highly recommended for releasing a bit of rage). And then afterward, forgive, move on...and get fierce. Things are changing fast. For example, check out Natural Models LA, an agency that represents models of all sizes.
Your grace and sense of self are exactly and all you have.
"Beauty is not found in perfect symmetry, it is found in grace, power, and simplicity."
I have fallen in love with the enemy. I drink from the vessel which harbors humanity's lust for the material, the superficial, lowest of low on the spiritual totem pole. I joyfully swallow the kryptonite.
Let me explain: I am a martyr for the future of BODYLOVE.
My newly realized ardor has shown me the great power of loving the seemingly unlovable. I have learned the craft of engaging what once harmed me, to heal me. What, you wonder, is this philosophers stone of mine?
I have found a daft if not obsessive preoccupation with the burgeoning world of plus-size modeling and plus-size models. These women now grace the covers of fashion magazines, are the subjects of blogs of all variety, star in television commercials and walk high fashion runways. They are women who represent the TRUE average-sized American woman. These are women who have curves and it makes my heart sing to see them represented in the media in all of their perfect real-world glory.
As the modeling world opens its doors to full-figured women, the plus-size industry balances on a precipice. I am inspired to be part of the growth of this movement. I am inspired to love that which I had previously imagined unloveable.
Take home message: Take off the blinders and find the Love inside. Do whatever needs to be done to unearth it and let that out. Let that radiate. Your whole world will change. And, very likely, the body will follow accordingly. Great if it does, great if it doesn't. When you are In-Love, these matters are trivial; they take care of themselves.
Do not be bound to the body - move beyond it, and by that I mean rest at ease within it and Live Your Life. Join the party.
"The body is a blessing not a curse. The body is a resting place and a vessel."
The question has never been whether or not full-figured women are beautiful.
And the most compelling part of this conversation is not whether "plus-size" women and fashion models are worthy of being celebrated in the same way "straight-size" women and models are. FYI: Plus-size in the fashion world is considered to be a size 8 and up; most plus-size models are around a size 14.
But we are missing the point in attempting to categorize women using one label or another. It is simply a waste of time - for two main reasons: 1) The grey area between the two categories (women sizes 6-16, say!?) is ill-defined and nebulous 2) There are 160 million women in the U.S. and the average American woman measures in at a categorically messy size 14. If the national average is a size 14, then plus-size is in fact the norm. And so below that national average is what then.. minus-size?
The whole thing is exhausting. But we, children of the Age of Reason, how we love nomenclature! The problem is that if women must necessarily fit into said categories then one group is cast against the other, its team members fighting a lonely, ceaseless, mildly insane battle.
This is not the way.
When we make a stand for something, we raise awareness about an issue and ask for equality/justice/recognition only until it becomes clear that it is for the good of all that such a thing be widely accepted. We fight for it only until it becomes unnecessary to do so. All the effort is simply for the thing to become normalized. Think Free Speech, Civil Rights and Women's Suffrage.
The relevant question really is: Why has the body become a tool for comparison, suffering and commerce?
The point is that it is not about the body. The body is a blessing not a curse. The body is a resting place and a vessel. Loving the body and enjoying being in it is after all, a crucial first step to truly knowing oneself, to becoming Whole. And it is your birthright to be Whole.
I am interested in how women and men FEEL in their bodies. I am interested in how we embody this fleshy vessel. I have finally begun to understand and to experience that BodyLOVE is what makes a person beautiful, healthy and vibrant.
Here's the real quantum formula: Love+Appreciation+Acceptance of the Body = The Ultimate Beauty Elixir.
It has been with great enthusiasm that I have watched plus-size models make an entrance into the international modeling industry. It seems perfectly in line with what I see as a massive social shift towards greater self-acceptance, coupled with a yearning for media diversity in the representation of women and beauty. I am not at all surprised that plus-size models are gorgeous in print, take great photographs and can work a runway. I’ve always been big and curvy and I never thought that I wasn’t pretty because of it. But I did feel uncomfortable in my body and self-conscious that I was bigger than other women.
Getting past feeling uncomfortable about and in the body requires a special kind of work, and this work is for the most part a process of un-learning. It requires us to un-learn that we are not good enough as we are; to un-learn that the body’s appearance is a measure of our worthiness. We are asked to let go if the idea that there is a point in the imagined future in which we will have changed ourselves to meet an invented standard, allowing us to finally be worthy of living a joyous existence and being loved.
Loved by who? Loved How?
What you really want is to be loved by YOU.
When the Love is found within - THEN you are seen, THEN you are better understood and THEN you are beautiful in the way you seek,-the way that matches your true nature. You are beautiful in the way that a flower becomes ever more exquisite the more closely it is examined; in the way that the light moves across the surface of the ocean, colors shifting as the sun moves through the sky. You are a flame, dancing.