As a femaIe person, body image has been something that I’ve always been so aware of – at points to a destructive degree. Men and women alike are privy to such an absurd inundation of gender norms and standards of one’s appearance from the time we are born until we are about 60 years old —- when society stops giving any kind of shit what one looks like, man or woman. (and soon forgets about the individual’s existence what-so-ever). Many of these messages on what kind of body we are supposed to have are on a subconscious or even subliminal level, so deeply ingrained into language and behaviour that they even may go under the radar of highly sensitive feminists. But the majority of the manifestations of appearance norms are so blatant and obvious yet they are rarely even questioned and are simply accepted as the status quo. I must say, though, that since the time that we were teenagers (ohhhhhhh wow, I’m feeling old), I feel as though the discussion around body image has shifted and open dialogue has become much more visible, creating room for more body types to be seen and accepted. But perhaps this is just a refocusing of my own comprehension of the world rather than a change at-large. All I can say is that in many ways I’m glad I’m no longer 16.
Now, as a 27 year old, I feel like I have a moral conundrum about my body. On the one hand, I believe in accepting all body types and allowing myself to age in whatever way ageing manifests itself. But on the other hand, I feel that it is important for me to maintain my health – and body – or at least attempt to do so. To me this doesn’t mean aspiring to the societal standards of beauty, but feeling good and strong in my body and taking care of my body in a thoughtful way are somewhat priorities for me, even if I’m not always good to my body. (I should probably exercise more, get more sleep, drink less, stop smoking weed…. but then again I should probably move out of the city, and to create the ideal-ideal life would just mean that my life is curated and that’s not really living.) At the same time, I feel hypocritical about attaching so much value to my physical person. I feel like it’s so important for girls to see their worth in other things than their bodies, and so it makes me conflicted and angry even that I spend so much time and invest so much money into doing things (exercising, exfoliating, moisturizing, all kinds of procedures…) that reinforce this idea that our bodies are our worth.
I know, I know, we still live in a reality where our bodies are by extension ourselves, and taking care of our bodies means that we have a better chance at living long lives with less risk of sickness and other incidents that may kill us or prevent us from living out our lives to our greatest potential. And so this is why I am torn between the corporeal realities and pressures we face and the philosophical and figurative world of letting go and using energy to focus on other things.
I do contemplate the consequences of a world where we are immortal or where we are detached from our physical selves (like the movie Surrogates). I think that fear of death can motivate people and that knowing that there is finality has great significance in people’s decisions. And I think that the plot-line of every individual’s life is special in it’s own unique way. If we all existed forever, we would eventually know and experience everything possible and things would get boring.
Whatever. I guess what’s really important is some kind of balance. Sometimes it’s good to pamper yourself. Sometimes you have to push yourself to do things you don’t enjoy because it will pay off in the long run. Sometimes you eat an entire container of ice cream, and that’s okay too.
But you know what’s good? Doctors. Everyone should go get tested for HIV and screened for cancer regularly. Because what’s worst of all is leaving the world before you’re ready to go, when your body revolts against you and you give up on fighting for your life and succumb to what’s easy – just letting go.