The Compliment is in the Ear of the Receiver
I stumbled upon this article, “The Harmful Body Image ‘Compliment’ We Need to Stop Giving” on Hello Giggles, a few hours ago.
My first reaction was “right on, you go Mia Micozzi, I’m all for bashing negative self-talk and as a feminist (I am, aren’t I?) I’m obviously anti-objectification of women too…right?”
While I see the authors point, and applaud her for talking about body image, I happen to have had the opposite experience as her and actually find the “but men like it that way” argument to be potentially insightful and even helpful
We are often our own harshest critics and thus taking to heart sincere complements and feedback from others about how they see us can be help shift our own self-perspectives in a healthy way.
This morning my husband was sweetly and sincerely complementing me on how much he liked the way the jeans I was wearing look on me. I offhandedly replied that I had bought them when we were living in Peru and that they didn’t look nearly as good on me then because I was about 10-15 pounds heavier than now. He gave me a kind of sad and confused look and I realized that was an unnecessary and unhealthy thing for me to have said.
Tate and I have talked several times about how living in Peru was a hard time for me for a multitude of reasons, one being that I was, for my comfort level, overweight. Every time it comes up he reminds me that he truly doesn’t remember that, not like he wasn’t paying attention but like he found me just as attractive, healthy, and fit as ever.
Last night a “naturally” thin and gorgeous friend commented how she’d never seen me naked but was sure I looked good judging from what she has seen of me.
(Okay, this is obviously out of context, it started around those naked celeb pics that leaked recently then went on from there to a fine art dance photo shoot I did recently where I was maybe going to be nekked (ended up in nude bra and underwear) then onto talking about how our young-thirtysomething year old bodies look even better than when we were in our twenties…anyway…)
My point is; this friend is petite and thin and lovely and cellulite free and stretch mark free and well proportioned and I am always a little surprised when she sees me as having a hot body. We’re similar heights but I’ve probably got about 20 pounds on her in thick bones, thick muscles, and straight up body fat. At 5 foot 3 inches I often feel like a little person however next to her smallness I become aware of my…density.
Her comment brought to light some of my own distorted ideas of personal ideals. For whatever f’ed up reason I figured that since she is lithe that would also be her idea of what looks good naked.
I’ve experienced this from the other side too, like admiring how great a friend looks in a bikini and being surprised when she expresses a distaste her her stretch marks because I don’t found them unattractive in the least. Yet I find the marks on my own hips, butt, and breasts rather distracting and unfortunate.
Call me objectified but I am fine with admitting that other people’s (men and women, but men have most definitely made it well known that they “like it that way”) admiration of my round, strong, ample ass has made me see past it’s stretch marks, cellulite, and blemishes (tmi?) and develop some serious booty-licious confidence about my derriere.
Similarly, my tummy-ideals shifted after an old boyfriend told me that he didn’t care for the oft coveted “six-pack” abs on women and that he found my strong, thick, muscular, and a bit soft with a few rolls mid-section to be “perfect”. On the same note, men letting me know that they liked my (as I see them) stubby and thick thighs and tiny tits has given me a new appreciation and acceptance for body parts that I haven’t always been thrilled with.
Allowing myself to “be objectified” has actually helped me get over some impossible standards that I was holding on to; a fat-free six-pack is not realistic for me nor is a small butt, and only good things can come from being comfortable and feeling attractive in my skin and I am only grateful that my husband is ready and willing to remind me that I am hot to him no matter how thick or thin.
So while I agree it’s bullshit to say “but men like it that way” as a means of creating self-acceptance perhaps we can use the reflection and perspective of others to find a kinder, gentler, more realistic way to treat ourselves and look at our own body’s. It’s absolutely incredibly important to have a healthy self-esteem from the inside out but I don’t think that I’m alone in being very susceptible to other people’s (and media! and culture!) opinions and perspectives.
Let’s make a goal of cultivating positive self-talk, both in our heads and out-loud, and by all mean’s, women AND men, let’s keep the sincere flattery and positive affirmations about body image coming.