If you don’t know yet, I am a huge Brené Brown fan. I read her book “Daring Greatly” last summer and again this summer. Her research on the way shame works on us and how much we need to learn to access our vulnerability in a society that teaches us the opposite has shaped and changed not only how I view myself but also the way I see people in general.
Reading it for a second time, I found myself noticing more details. One section in particular stuck out and has been something I’ve been pondering since.
Brené is interviewing a large coed college crowd for her research. She has ventured into interviewing men, as the majority of her research up until this point has been on how women deal with shame and vulnerability.
A young man tells a story about how while he was deployed in the service, he came home to find that his wife had cheated on him and was leaving him. He said he always knew this would happen, that he never felt good enough for her. That he would constantly ask her what she needed, but she would then move the goal posts.
A young woman speaks up and says guys are the same way. They’re never satisfied. “We’re never pretty, sexy, or skinny enough.”
A discussion starts about body image and sex. How having sex with someone you care about can be scary when you’re worried about how your body looks.
The young woman then says, “It’s not easy to have sex and keep your stomach sucked in. How can we get into it when we’re worried about our back fat?” The young man, who started the discussion, getting emotional, slams his fist on the table and says, “It’s not about the back fat! You’re worried about it. We’re not. We don’t give a shit!”
The class goes silent and he continues. “Stop making up all of this stuff about what we’re thinking! What we’re really thinking is, “Do you love me? Do you care about me? Do you want me? Am I important to you? Am I good enough?” That’s what we’re thinking. When it comes to sex it feels like our life is on the line, and you’re worried about that crap?”
At this point, most of the men have their faces in their hands and some of the women are crying.
The young woman then says, “I don’t understand. My last boyfriend was always criticizing my body.”
The young man said, “That’s because he’s an asshole, it’s not because he’s a guy. Give us a break. Please.”
This whole scene has stuck with me; most importantly “it’s not about the back fat” has been rolling around in my mind.
For women our bodies are a constant topic of conversation. It’s something we worry about. Something we talk about often.
I think sometimes we really forget that as men and women we are all searching for the same things: love and acceptance of our flawed selves. Our struggles, our insecurities are coming from us, not others. It can be all too convenient to say, “we do this because of you,” without taking the responsibility that it’s actually us, how we view ourselves, and placing that responsibility outside of ourselves.
For myself, I’ve used my imperfect, back-fat-body as a reason for why. Mostly I’ve used it for love. I’ve had the subtle belief that if I lost some weight, everything will be better and on a bad day, everything will be perfect.
Because of that, I’ve wasted a lot of time dieting. Even as I’ve been older and more accepting of my body as it is. It’s still there, on a loop. The promise of if-I-look-better, everything-else-will-be-better. Here’s the thing. “It’s not about the back fat.” Or, insert whatever you're insecure about, wrinkles, cellulite, etc. It’s not about that.
It’s about you on the inside and how you see your outside self. I’ve learned that trying to work from the outside-in doesn’t help me. In fact it keeps me further in that backwards belief. The truth is, I will always lose that way. It won’t make my life better. You know why? Because my self worth is not in my body, it is in who I am.
Working from the inside out has changed everything about the way I not only see myself, but how I see the outside world. I am always miserable when I try to be something I am not. Comparing myself to Candice Swanepoel or Gisele Bundchen is a waste of all that is truly beautiful about myself. Which is the simple fact that I am enough.
Being who you are right now is enough. Let me say it again, being who you are right now is enough. Everything you need to feel good and beautiful you already are. You already have all you need.
The people that love me give two shits about my back fat. You know what they give two shits about? What I think, what I say, and how I love. That’s what we all really care about.
I know it’s easier said than done. I still have my moments, because I am human and old beliefs die hard. I have back fat, but it’s not the point. Every day I wake up and get to live. I have a new tactic. Every time I want to look different or criticize my cellulite, I tell myself how good I look or how much I love myself. It’s silly, but look, you gotta fake it ‘til you make it. Eventually, it becomes my reality.
My body is my vessel not my enemy. I’ve decided to love all parts of who I am and what I was given to ride the wave of life in. It starts within and works its way out.
written Janelle Walker
edit Kristen Fogle