The Power of Image [a musing]

Thin, fit, thick, short, muscular, bony, dark, light-skinned, big-eyed, nappy-headed, curly… 

It is amazing the power body image has over so much, over our own holistic self-images, over others, affecting ideas of worth and ability and potential.

We fantasize about the perfect body, obsess over it, and go to great lengths destroying or altering the one we have in order to obtain an ideal likely crafted only by computers. Those that naturally come closest to this rare, singular standard of beauty are placed on a pedestal and, oftentimes, further pressured to do the extra it takes to be the model image, not allowed to be satisfied with the mediocrity of nearness.

Our bodies, particularly our perceptions of them, of men and women both, are weapons. In the hands of ourselves, they are tools that reinforce our self-assurance and confidence, satisfy and inspire us, can even assist us in our divine purpose. In the hands of others, it is a weapon of oppression, used to influence self-destruction and conformity.

Because we are one way, we become convinced we cannot do certain things – I am short and thick and soft around my hips, therefore I cannot be a fighter or run well. He is tall and lanky, he should stick to basketball, he couldn’t do acrobatics like a real gymnast. And the cannot’s become darker in nature as well, affecting our perceptions of self and others – he has almond-coloured skin and wears a beard, he cannot be trusted. Her hair is kinky, she could never be pretty enough to be a model. He’s too dark for TV. Et cetera.

The greatest irony here is, whether we love our bodies or not, whether we accept others or not, whether others accept ours or not, our physical bodies are but temporary vessels for the most important aspects of us and do not tell of where our spirits have been before nor where they are headed next. Our bodies matter then in the sense that they must be cared for and kept healthy so that we are able to continue in this part of our journey and accomplish what we are destined to do. Part of our ability to do that means recognizing the true potential of the physicalities we have been granted and nurturing and loving them to that end, in spite of what we are told by the media and those fallen sick to its influence. In order to accomplish this, we must be conscious about holding on to our images and the positivity we feel about them so that the changes we do make are truly for ourselves and our health, above all else.

Let you, as you were designed naturally, be your first and highest standard of beauty.

.

I climbed out of bed today and paused before my full-length mirror and mused at the changes to my physique that have happened without my direct intention since I returned from Haiti. I was driven from my Sunday morning haven of pillows by a hunger that was growling louder than the thoughts I was trying to untangle, but as I observed the way my curves have been cinching back at my waist and running freely at my hips like a river meeting its ocean, I wondered if I needed that jar of peanut butter I had ambitions to tackle. It’s going to fall into my waist. I instantly became aware of the motivation behind the thought and shut it down.

Even for someone that has fallen in love with herself, her appearance, her physical abilities, I realize I still run the risk of falling into the trappings of negative influence. It is with conscious avoidance and constant metacognition when I am confronted with propaganda that I am able to defeat the voice that looks in the mirror and says, “this is more of what people want, this is how you will be loved, this is closer to beautiful.” I do love my curves and I do believe I’m beautiful and if I do end up with a smaller waist, I’ll embrace it because I think what’s leading me in this direction is the strength I’m slowly building as I improve in capoiera – an art that, up until I started really looking at the way my body worked, I had been convinced my small, thick, and clumsy body would not be able to perform in any semblance.

Loving yourself – even the parts of us that are only temporary – is powerful and not the easiest thing for everyone to learn, for we all have conflicting experiences that teach us better how not to; but once you’ve arrived, it is also, like any love, something that must be nurtured and held onto in order to keep.
By the way, I enjoyed the cinnamon apples and peanut butter breakfast I did “indulge” in.

Give Sharkey a piece of your mind.

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