What’s the deal with body confidence?

There’s all sorts of articles on body positivity, body shaming and body confidence coming out on social media and from traditional media sources.  The damage done by previous generations about telling people they weren’t good enough as they were ended up causing more harm than good.  The type of harm that takes years of psychotherapy, medication, or abusing their own loved ones to undo…if it can ever be undone.

We think about tough love as being a good thing.  We tell our children or mentees that they need to realize that there’s something wrong and we’re not going to hold their hands for them to figure out how to fix it.  Being firm is meant to stir up this “need” inside to want to change something about ourselves so that people in a position of authority (parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, teachers, bosses, etc) will think we are worthy of their approval.

It took me over 30 years to undo the damage of tough love and the constant message I wasn’t good enough as I was.  I wasn’t thin enough.  My face wasn’t clear enough.  My own decisions about my friends or what I did with my life could be better.  My mistakes I was told were devastating and I shouldn’t have made them in the first place.  I spent too much money on silly things (travel, joining a sorority, buying clothes I didn’t need, makeup, etc).

All I can say about these messages was that they were dead wrong.

Mistakes are worth making, that’s how you learn.  Mistakes do not denote failure.  Mistakes are opportunities for growth.

My body wasn’t meant to be stick thin. No matter how much I exercised or ate well, I was never going to get thin.  And even if I did get thin, what was the consequence?  See my previous blog post about the consequences of dieting and jumping on the weight loss bandwagon when you don’t need it.

My face reacted to my hormones and is still reacting to hormones and there’s nothing I can bloody well do about it.

My friends are my choice and in fact I never hung out with a “bad” crowd, ever.

All the experiences I had with money were based on my desires and passions.  Never a bad decision was ever made.  No decision was ever made lightly.  And if I was broke, that was also my decision.  Being in debt for a while in University wasn’t something that came out of nowhere because I couldn’t read my bank statements.

What does it mean when you are sent these awful messages?  What does that say about you as a parent or caregiver when you send these messages to your kids or wards over the course of their entire formative years?

Let me tell you about consequences of destroyed body confidence, also known in the medical community as body dysmorphia. And no, body confidence is not something regained overnight without professional medical and psychological intervention.  Self-harm, depression, an inability to make positive connections with people, and inability to be confident about your own decisions, the lack of trust in your own instincts, the penchant for chasing relationships with abusive people, obsession and hating yourself for hours a day…these are all some of the consequences of destroyed body confidence.

I’m not saying that parenting is easy and I’m not blaming or shaming my parents for what happened.  However, they won’t be getting away scot-free either.  Tough love goes both ways in my world.  It’s the coping mechanism I developed to survive and unfortunately it’s not something I can or am willing to undo.  The walls are up and in some cases they remain permanent.  Those that can be torn down, have been dismantled.  It’s my choice and it’s not perfect or ideal.  I won’t win a lot of friends over it, but that’s ok by me.  Those who stand by me are meant to be in my circle and it’s those friends I want to let in anyway.

In the meantime, I’m going to be writing a series of blog posts about how I regained my body confidence over the course of several years.  I hope you’ll stick with me in this storytelling and maybe you’ll find a similarity in your life that lets you know that you’re not alone.

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