Friday, October 10, 2014

Sick day: a body of jumbled thoguhts

I started feeling sick yesterday afternoon and gave myself a nap and a much longer amount of time than usual to put together and post my essay. And it's only gotten worse. It's been a challenge to convince myself to eat a decent amount of calories.

I do not love my body today. I have trouble loving my body when there is wailing ache in my tendons and when the pain between my ears is so loud and makes concentration impossible. I hate the pain but the pain is also part of my body. The messages my brain is reading as pain are parts of me.  And I sure as hell don't love them right now.

As someone who's dealt with chronic illness, who experiences gender dysphoria on the regular, and someone in a community of people who often take steps to change their appearance and bodies to reflect their identities, I take serious issue with some of the simplified and often heavily gendered sentiments of body positivity.

Nobody feels beautiful and content with their body all of the time. Life, our own unique brains, and mostly our toxic culture has made "loving yourself" a task that is uniquely difficult for everyone. Meaning yeah, it is harder for some of us.

The oversimplified directive of "love your body" can be excruciating to someone who is dreaming of, intending to, in the process of, or has gone through a physical transition process. As well as for people who are feeling sick or ill.  As with many things, when we attempt to simplify, package, and universalize it, body positivity can get twisted, exclusive, and misleading pretty fast.

This is a very similar process to the cultural awarenesses of LGBTQ experiences. In the sense that many people who aren't LGBTQ think of "coming out" as a simple one time easy task, when it is in fact a very long, involved, and individualized process. "Loving yourself" is absolutely as complex as that. It is a process not a single accomplishment. And not one that everybody has the same resources to endure.

It can be a denial of someone else's pain to demand that they love themselves. If I get hives, or have just been catcalled, or think no one will ever see me as a boy, I am not going to be able to "love the skin I am in."

It's hard and it kinda hurts to do it but I try accept people's feelings about their bodies. Because those feelings are real (even if they conflict with the way I perceive/know reality to be). One of the hardest compassionate things to do it to just be with someone when they are feeling awful and not try to make them feel better or "fix" their way of thinking. Even if what they're thinking about themselves is problematic and even harmful it's not something anyone else but them has the power to change.

Now this is not a wholesale condemnation of body positivity by a very long shot. I love it as a movement and I love that it challenges people to have healthier thoughts about and relationships with their bodies. I love that it's changing and complicating the balance of images and messages we're taught about our bodies.  I just want us to be vigilant, and handle everyone like they are each the unique individuals they are. Which means a simple slogan that works for some ain't gonna cut it for everyone.

I'd written most of this post before realizing someone else made a comic that did all the work already:

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