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These Eyes —

October 19, 2011
by

Today is Love Your Body Day, a day to celebrate the beauty inherent in all human bodies, regardless of size, shape, color, disability or whatever “flaws” you see in yourself.

Your body does so much for you without so much as a thank you. More often, it is subjected to self-hatred and some minor forms of asceticism to either correct the “problem” or else punish yourself for not being “perfect.”

All of these words (flaws, problem, perfect) are arbitrary values attributed randomly throughout the culture. While one woman may prefer having a smaller chest, another may despise her petite frame. While one man may be at peace with his disability, another may see his physical impairment as a curse.

This is the kind of self-dissatisfaction that fuels, and reinforces, the multi-billion dollar Beauty Industry. The media spends countless hours glorifying the Thin, White Ideal, leaving those outside the industry standard to question their value, their function, and their beauty.

Today, we call into question everything that we have ever thought or said about our bodies.

Today, we take another look at ourselves and ask why we should feel bad about those unique features that genetics and fate have endowed.

Today, we examine the messages we hear from television, film, magazines and society in general, and wonder who decides what is and is not “beautiful.”

Today, we begin a journey of self-acceptance, beginning with those features that we most despise in ourselves.

When you think of the one thing you would want to change most, ask yourself why. Why change what has been given to me? Why am I so bothered by it? Why does everyone sees themselves through a harsher lens? Why not accept that I may not have the body I would create for myself, but that mine is a good body that serves me well? Why not learn to see those features as much an irreducible part of me as all of the features that I do like? Why not embrace myself, warts and all, and focus on true happiness and satisfaction?

Many people celebrate Love Your Body Day by talking about the things they already love about their bodies. Today, I want to challenge you to defend those parts of your body that you most frequently attack.

I will start: I hate my eyes. I have squinty eyes. Especially when I smile.

I hate my squinty eyes.

However, I inherited these squinty eyes from my 94-year-old Grandma Kate. On her, I love these squinty eyes, especially when she smiles.


Why should I hold myself to a different standard than the woman I respect and admire, and find beautiful and unique in part because of her eyes?

No, these aren’t the eyes I would pick for myself were it possible to design my own body. But these eyes were handed down from generation to generation, and who am I to question the wisdom of genetic endowment?

These eyes will be the only thing that remains of Grandma Kate, when she is gone. In fact, these eyes are the one thing I can be certain have been a part of our family for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.

Human nature is to be self-critical, and modern media encourages us to direct that self-criticism toward face-swapping fantasies, which is why I frequently look at my eyes and wish I had been blessed with “better” eyes. But even if I were to design my perfect body, once I inhabit that new body, I would set to work right away picking it apart again.

Instead, I will put my foot down and say to myself that these eyes are mine; these eyes are wonderful; these eyes are beautiful. These eyes speak for me when words will not suffice, and I love these eyes because without them I would not be myself. Without these eyes, I am less of me.

What about you? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What have you loathed in the past? Maybe even this morning? What beauty can you see in those features that you fret over? What pride can you take in having your unique constellation of attributes?

Question yourself relentlessly and ask difficult questions that may have no answers. But do not accept that it is normal to be critical of your body. Common is not the same as normal. Strive to rise above normal and find the beauty and value in all that you are and in all that you are not.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Seegz permalink
    October 19, 2011 11:45 am

    SHANNON YOU ARE ADORABLE

  2. L.J. Utter permalink
    October 19, 2011 12:50 pm

    I normally hate my pooch. But I make myself think about what happened for that pooch to be there: I gave birth to 2 beautiful children. I carried them, they stretched me out with their growing, and I graciously allowed them to use my bladder as a soccer ball.
    I am celebrating today by buying a pair of shoes I have been drooling over for a long time. It has taken a long time, but I love me. There is absolutely no reason not to

    • October 19, 2011 3:38 pm

      LJ,
      Perfect example! This whole notion that women shouldn’t gain weight during pregnancy is nonsense. A woman’s body changes, both physically and hormonally, when she has a child. Anyone who expects a woman to “return” to her pre-pregnancy body is an idiot. By its very definition, a post-pregnancy body IS different and beautiful. Celebrate the journey that your body has made in bringing your children into the world! And get those shoes!

      Peace,
      Shannon

  3. October 19, 2011 3:06 pm

    I’ve been struggling for so long not to hate my body. But I hated it even when it was almost 200 pounds lighter. I still thought I was “fat.” It makes me furious that “fat” is seen as almost worse than being a child molester in this society.

    • October 19, 2011 3:41 pm

      Faycin,
      I feel the same way. I was convinced that I was fat throughout my adolescence and, as most people do, I look back at photos from that age and think, “How in the hell was that fat?” But that’s what others told me and that’s what I believed. Now I need to erase the belief that I was fat as a child along with the belief that now that I really am fat, that there is anything wrong with it. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  4. October 19, 2011 3:44 pm

    I love this post! And I so needed to hear this today, so thank you!

    I have spent most of my life criticizing my body. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my first child that I realized what a wonder my body actually is. It has never been as thin as I would like and I have always hated my thighs, but my body has produced, carried, and birthed three children. I also realized how many small things I took for granted on a daily basis: being able to get off the couch unassisted, being able to bend over over roll over in bed–all things I never thought about before getting pregnant.

    I need to remember this everyday when I mock my “faults.”

  5. Ruth permalink
    October 19, 2011 4:04 pm

    I find it so very very hard to like how i look. I always have had such high expectations for myself and when placed up against something I basically cannot change, or cannot change enough it is.. painful. No amount of surgery or effort would make me beautiful. Im working on it. Trying to find things I like about me, and about how I look so I can one day have things I love then everything I love. We arent all there yet but I want to at least keep trying.

    • MrsS permalink
      October 20, 2011 7:19 am

      Oh, Ruth, I want to put my arms around you and hug you. I’m sorry that you have such a poor self-image. I don’t think that anything that I could say would make you feel better about yourself. As you said, keep trying.

  6. Lillian permalink
    October 19, 2011 5:44 pm

    At Occupy New Hampshire, a man told me that I had Shirley Temple hair. My hair is blond and curly. I see it as frizzy especially in the rain. It didn’t feel like cute Shirley Temple hair, but a damp, frizzy mess. On a side note, check out an Occupy location near you. We need to tell the world that people matter.

    • Fab@54 permalink
      October 20, 2011 8:18 pm

      YAY LILLIAN – for your Shirley Temple hair, AND for Occupying New Hampshire!! WooHoo!

      I’m going to a local Occupy… protest this Saturday in my home town. I’m not expecting much in the way of big numbers or anything, but who knows, might be surprised, right?

  7. Fab@54 permalink
    October 20, 2011 9:54 am

    I am embracing my age and embracing my silver hair! (I refuse to call it gray… because it’s prettier than that! It’s “Silver” thankyouverymuch)
    When I turned 50 I decided to let my hair go “natural”. I’d been coloring it since I’m 30 and I knew it was pretty much salt n pepper; heavy on the salt.
    Well, everyone I knew was pretty much non-supportive of my decision. Oh let’s be real – they were appalled. I met with tons of resistance to this idea / plan by both family and friends and yes, even the ladies who cut my hair had a negative comment or two.
    My husband was the only one never to say one single negative thing about my decision to go silver, and I always appreciated that.
    Anyway, after a few months (as my hair color faded, and more of the silver grew in) I gave in to all the negative comments and disapproval and colored my hair again. I hated myself for being such a wimp and caving in, too, because deep down- I kinda liked it!

    But nearly 5 yrs later – this past June — I said ” Fuck it… I’m going to go all the way with my beautiful, shiny, lovely Silver hair and whoever doesn’t like it can just keep their opinion to themselves!!” And here I am, 5 months later, absolutely LOVING my silvery hair! I got myself an awesome tan this summer and I look fantastic! I hope I never bow to pressure again when it comes to accepting myself and my looks as they are – naturally.

    Oh and by the way– I’m ‘naturally’ fat, too. 😉

    • October 20, 2011 1:51 pm

      I started dyeing my hair at 16 because I hated the natural “dishwater” color. I got my first gray hair at 27. By the time I was 45, I was almost entirely gray and I stopped coloring my hair. I have hostesses give me the senior menu at restaurants! Most of the time I think it’s pretty funny but other times I find it kind of insulting. I have virtually no lines on my skin but I tend to look “old” due to the exhausted dark circles under my eyes. I’ve always had bags under my eyes, even as a teenager.

    • vesta44 permalink
      October 21, 2011 11:47 am

      I have silver in my hair too, and my ex-daughter-in-law always used to bug me about coloring my hair and covering up the silver. I told her I had earned every one of those silver hairs, I was proud of them, and no way in hell was I going to cover them up. I’ve always been told that I don’t look my age, but that’s debatable, as I was in Sears one time, back when I was 34 or 35, and the salesman in the tool department asked me if I wanted the Senior Citizen’s Discount (I thanked him, and told him I didn’t qualify yet).

  8. October 20, 2011 1:06 pm

    Well, I really and truly hated that one front tooth among all my teeth that has to be just that bit crooked as to actually be visible. The dentist told me that if I were to get braces I’d have to have two teeth removed and all others moved to accommodate the one that was crooked, and since it’s not actually enough to be medically relevant, my parents decided to leave it be.

    It, my freckles, and my frizzy curly auburn on a good, rather signal red on a bad day hair have caused me a lot of anguish as a teen.

    Today, I love my crooked tooth. It’s what gives my smile personality instead of making it just another wide grin.

    My hair… well, I’m working on that. I really like it when it’s a little bit not-so-frizzy, plus I’m a species in danger of extinction according to Glee ^.^ The freckles I’m still not too fond of but I don’t mind them all that much anymore because I keep saying to myself that they are cute.

    I love my body most days. I’ll take a little more time for loving it today.

  9. October 21, 2011 12:49 pm

    My body is messed up, but who else is going to defend it but me?

    That means not listening to all the nuts who tell me to go mutilate it, and cut all the nutrition off–WLS, even though I have digestive problems.

    If you have read my blog, the fat acceptance world isn’t too happy with me. But guess what, I want what will keep me alive and keep my body going, not what is POLITICALLY CORRECT, and I meant it when I said I’d jump on a real fat cure, that didn’t mutilate or harm, like a mouse on a hunk of cheese. Most people who hit the weights I do, do not get 15 more years, they die.

    I do not think I am ugly, not at all all, though the world may try and tell you that over and over.

    Of course I wrote the body is only so important, it is what carries YOU around on my blog.

    http://fivehundredpoundpeeps.blogspot.com/2011/09/body-isnt-everything.html

    Forget this looks obessed society, that wants everyone to look like drones. I think you are just fine looking.

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