Sunday, 7 September 2014

Love yo' self Day 4

Only I would choose to break away from looking in mirrors while doing a show centred around mirrors.
"Mirror mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?"

Snow White - one of the the oldest and best loved fairy tales of all - one of Disney's first, hundreds of adaptations all over the world. Age 3, life lesson learned: IF YOU LOOK IN A MIRROR AND LIKE WHAT YOU SEE, YOU MUST BE VERY VAIN AND EVIL, LIKE THE WICKED QUEEN.


"Don't be vain" crops up time and again in mythology. Self-love, according to the old tales, can only lead to arrogance and delusions of power - both of which are undeniably bad things - but what I do think has happened is that enjoying one's reflection has been damningly tied to very negative character traits.  I know several people who celebrate themselves and their bodies without going around poisoning people they think are prettier than them with spiked fruit. One of our most basic teachings is being challenged here, but it needs to be challenged - because we've ended up with generations of people feeling that enjoying the way they are and liking how they look somehow makes them a bad person.

Life without mirrors so far has been pretty eye-opening and not a little revealing of what really happens in the back of my head when I go to look in the mirror. I'm suddenly very aware, in the moment when I decide to take a look or not, that the reason is I'm going to look for something to criticise. It's a little obsessive-compulsive, in a way. My love for myself is horribly conditional. "If I look like I've lost weight, then I'll love myself. If I look like I've put it on, I'll hate myself." My anxiety has been quite difficult to handle the past couple of days, and I do think it's partly down to the fact that I've taken this huge habit, this excuse to love myself or not, away. I want to love myself no matter what. I want to love myself whether I'm overweight or underweight or in-the-middle, whether I lose a leg or start getting wrinkles or go blind. There shouldn't be any conditions, and there are - that's what needs to change.

The bathroom mirror is conveniently at waist-height, the sly thing, so that one is particularly difficult to ignore (it's obviously a family mirror, so I can't really cover it up) and I keep slipping up there. I will try, if I catch myself looking, to ignore whatever it is I'm thinking and breathe in what I see and accept it with the sense of unconditional acceptance I'm after.  I'm certainly more aware already of how I'm feeling physically - what's achy, am I hungry, am I thirsty, do I need fruit or to eat a big meal - I'm finding it easier to listen to what my body needs, as opposed to what I think it needs.

Until next time, \

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Love yo' self day 1: Breaking the habit

In a fit of exasperation, I put the following status up on Face-ache this morning:

"I am going to experiment. Thank you, people who keep telling me "you've lost weight? That's amazing! I'm so fat and ugly." I really appreciate you unloading your body consciousness off onto me, while I'm trying to break the habit of obsessively checking my reflection in the mirror for any sign of weight gain that I've had since I was 16... As if weight gain is the ultimate sin. Funny how if you lose too much weight people start to tell you you're looking too thin? 
SO. Until this time next month, I am breaking away from mirrors. I will cover up my full length mirror, and carry on eating when I need to and exercising as much as I like. I am ELIMINATING unhealthy body scrutiny for a whole month. I will try to stick a short blog up every day with my findings, and various arguments against body shaming of ANY kind. STOP YOUR HATING! If you don't like something, change it. If you're happy to way you are and someone tells you you shouldn't, tell them to *drum roll* Fuuuuuuck off."

When I was sixteen and doing my BTEC in Musical Theatre, my year had an obsessive, intense, all-consuming obsession with being Skinny. Ribs and abs scored major brownie points. (You weren't allowed to eat the brownies, though. Hurr hurr hurr).  I've been on the curvy side all my life, and never really noticed or minded, as a child. It wasn't until a classmate of mine came into school and went "Mum says if you can pinch an inch, you're too fat." And thus it began. 

I spent the last six months of my first year at college living off pinches of fruit, and every spare waking moment looking in the mirror. Measuring, comparing, pinching, learning to hate - though at first I thought the act of starving myself  was an act of utmost care.  Inevitably - because I don't have the sort of body that works best at so low a weight - I put all the weight back on and then some, and the sense that I had somehow failed - as a dancer, as a female, as a human being - was overwhelming and crushing. 

Living to look a certain way is torture. Exercising and dieting with a sole goal of weight loss is torture. Everyone fluctuates from day to day. So weighing yourself is torture. 

My personal aim is to once again reach that childlike state of unconditional acceptance. This is my body, I know how it works, I am grateful for it. I want to stop looking in the mirror and wondering how others see me, and start looking inside for how I see myself. At the beginning of this year I stopped exercising to lose weight, and started exercising because I enjoyed it and to take care of my body as a whole, and it's done wonders for my mental health. 

So, my rules (and anyone else's rules if you want to join in) are simple - 
*Cut the compulsive mirror-checking. Completely. For one month. I may use a hand mirror to do my makeup for shows because otherwise I'll end up looking like Ronald McDonald.
*Eat what you need to eat. As much or as little to get you through the day, so long as it's balanced.
*Drink more water. EVERYONE CAN ALWAYS DRINK MORE WATER. Even fishies.
*Exercise in a way that compliments my lifestyle and interests. I think I'd rather stab my eyes out with a bassoon than go for a run, but I could Zumba for days and be happy the whole time. So I shall do more twerking and less jogging. 

I will try and keep this blog rolling over the month. You can look forward to such titles/structured rants as:

Namaste xxx