This is what people have said to me over the years…
– Your skirt is too short
– Your arms are too fat, you have chicken wings (referring to skin around my arm pits)
– You are too hairy. Have you heard of lip wax?
– You have hair on your chin
– Have you heard of hair removal?
– You’re cute, except for your nose
– Why did you shave your head? You look like you are in prison
– Oh, you’re going grey, dye your grey hair, you have bad genes – are you sick? Mahn! You’re grey.
– You are too dark skinned, get out of the sun
– You are too light skinned, get in the sun
– Pull your belly in
– Your legs are fat
– You’re too skinny
– Your birthmark looks like a burn, you can laser it off
When did this start? From as young as 14 years of age, these comments have come through from people I love in my family, from friends, from schoolmates, from strangers, from people I was paying to design outfits for me, from ex-lovers, from ads I see on TV, on billboards, on Instagram, on Facebook, on remarketing ads following me around online and from movies….to name a few places.
A few of the comments over the years that I have heard, comments that have caught me off-guard, comments I have awkwardly laughed off, and these comments have felt hurtful, personal and made me second guess who I am, the way I look and how I am. I didn’t bite back because I didn’t want to offend them even though they hurt me deeply. I am a polite, nice and quiet Pacific Island girl after all and am a tough cookie. I can take it. I thought to myself:
– Am I too ugly the way I am?
– Does my face offend you?
Cos your attitude reeks of disrespect and disregard for me, how I feel and the colour of my soul.
They say sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me. Well, actually words are incredibly powerful. They can build someone up. Or chip away and slowly but surely slice someone’s sense of self. My sense of self.
There’s a difference between me seeking out advice and receiving unsolicited and bloody offensive advice. I’m sitting here minding my business and hello unsolicited advice. Taken me so long to find my feet and to find my voice and say a big FUCK YOU. I like me the way I am. No, I am not sick cos I have grey hair with my ‘bad genes’ and I like my short skirts and don’t want to use lip wax.
In our beautiful world of Instagram perfection, I am standing here asking where your decision making comes from? Is it from external voices, pressure, images broadcast to the world, or from your heart space? For a really long time, I did alter what I did and how I thought I “should” look, act, live and work from the outside -in rather than internal decision making….decision making around all facets of life. Not only the colour of my hair. Since working from the inside out, my world has changed to make decision making for me and I feel way more grounded and connected to me, my body, my breath, my mind and sense of self. I’m 38 now and I don’t know what’s sadder, that it’s taken me this long to find my way here to feel at home in my skin or that children as young as 8 years old have body image issues.
Let me repeat that, children as young as 8 years old have body image issues in Australia.
I have sat with women from Papua New Guinea, to Australia, to New Zealand, Indonesia, South Korea, Sweden, Canada, U.S, U,K, Vanuatu, Fiji and China…and you know what? Women the world over are receiving conflicting messages around beauty, youth, self-worth and where it lies and that to grow old is disgraceful not to mention disgusting. Women are Barbie dolls and men are like Ken, right?
What is it to age gracefully? Where is my value and worth tied? Is it tied to having no hair on my face, my legs. What’s the core message to women around the world?
Alter your natural God-given body, wax it, laser it, shave it, colour it, tweak it, twerk it, stretch it, bind it, stitch it, manipulate it and then maybe….just maybe you will be good enough.
If the world we are in is not supportive us and encouraging us to simply embrace who and how we are today, why are we passing this insecurity on to the next generation?
Men are not exempt from this unrealistic pressure either. Male body image issues are rising as buff gym selfies flood social media feeds. Why are male body image issues on the rise? Why do you think?
Young children inheriting this dissatisfaction with their body horrifies me because with these body image issues and unnecessary pressure, comes self-worth tied to the external world rather than moving from a place of internal peace and joy. Something I think about and about the next generation that is coming through and how I can support my community, my family, my friends with loving who they are. Completely. Unapologetically.
The world of yoga is not immune to body image and ideals that craft an idea of what a yoga teacher ‘looks like’. People have walked past me in studios because I don’t look like a yoga teacher apparently. Am I too brown and too short and too hairy to be a yoga teacher that does not fit the cover of a yoga magazine?
Even so and even though I do want to stay cynical at times, I will keep advocating for body and self-love. I will keep advocating for you as you are as I embrace me as I am. I want to share that whatever you decide to do, whether you choose a long or short skirt or to shave, laser or not to laser, to dye or not to dye, may it be from your heart space and supportive and kind to you rather than from external pressure. You owning you and all of you, as you are today.