Role Models

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

So I'm listening to the radio, and a young woman who is Miss Nebraska USA (I think) is running for Miss USA soon here, and the morning radio hosts are interviewing her about her experiences.  One of the hosts asks her about how she deals with the swimsuit portion of the competition, and what advice she has for others who have problems being in a swimsuit in front of just themselves.

The young woman's answer wasn't very helpful, and what's worse, it sounded like she hadn't even thought about what she might say to that question.  She just said, "You have to be comfortable in your own skin.  People are judging me on my physical appearance, so I have to be comfortable in my own skin."  I'm paraphrasing a little, but that is the gist of it.

Now, that's not a terrible answer, but like I said, it's definitely not all that helpful.  What if someone isn't comfortable in their own skin - what do they do then?  That's the question she didn't answer.  I'm going to take my own moment of judgement here, and guess that this isn't something she hasn't really had to deal with an awful lot. I could be wrong - just about everyone has their own insecurities.   But obviously if she's competing at this level, she's got some sort of confidence about her physical appearance, and knows that she is beautiful enough to do this sort of thing. Doesn't mean she doesn't have issues with her body, but she's had enough positive reinforcement to "be comfortable in her own skin."

So as a role model, which is what she is in this position, I really hope she takes some more time to figure out how to be a positive role model considering how she became one in the first place.  The other thing she mentioned that stuck out to me was the fact that this particular competition doesn't have a talent portion.  When asked what her talent was, she said, "I can't sing - I don't know what I would do."  If she thinks her only talent or sellable aspect for these competitions is being beautiful, I feel really bad for her.  She's been doing this for a while I'd imagine, and I think she would have had to showcase some talent before, or at least think about what it would be.  And she doesn't think she has any talents?  That's really sad.  She's been relying on one part of who she is to be successful; her looks.

Everyone has talents, things they're good at, things that make them totally awesome, that have nothing to do with what's on the outside.  I hope she takes some time to do some soul searching and figure out what that thing is, and even if it's not traditionally something you'd see showcased in a beauty pageant, that she feels proud enough of what it is that she goes ahead and does it anyway.  I remember there was some Miss America contestant recently who was really good with bow-and-arrows, or skeet shooting, or something like that, and while they didn't allow her to choose that for the competition, that's the talent she presented to them originally.

The one thing she did say that made me happy (and surprised honestly) was that she doesn't worry about how much she eats.  At least, she understands that to be at the top of her game, she needs to have sleep, and she needs to eat - to have the proper energy to really give it her all.  I was glad to hear she seems to have a healthy outlook on how she eats.

But man, as a role model, again, I hope she takes some time to think about those things that aren't beauty related so she has some wise words for the girls looking up to her.  It's a tough world out there, and if all you can show to people looking to you for advice or how to be is that physical beauty is the most important thing, there's something you're missing.  Beauty goes so much deeper than that.

Body Love Conference: Mind Blown

Monday, April 7, 2014

So, if any of you follow my life on facebook, you know that I attended the Body Love Conference this Saturday in Tucson, Arizona. I would just like to say that this was such an amazing event. It was put on by Jes Baker (aka The Militant Baker) and her wonderful team, and not only was it super positive, but it was also very well organized and ran super smoothly. So kudos for that. I'm going to give a quick overview of everything, but please, please, please check out the links or contact me if you want to get more detailed information. There was just so much!

I have to say, one thing I hadn't anticipated was how emotional of an experience it was going to be for me. Just being there, knowing how long it'd been since I'd heard of it, all the time spent being excited for it, learning more and more about body love in the meantime... it was just overwhelming I guess to finally be there, knowing how much body love has come to mean to me. I had a hard time not bawling my eyes out several times.

In her opening talk, Jes mentioned that the event was not about warm fuzzies. That, sometimes when we are trying to move on beyond the difficulties we have experienced because of body hate and fat shaming, we have to face those experiences and feelings head on. This was definitely true. I think somehow I've been tucking those experiences away while working on my own body acceptance. Not necessarily denying them or ignoring them, but since I choose to focus on positivity in my life, they have been filed in the back of my brain.

Something else that happened - I realized I'm not quite as self-assured about my body as I thought I was. I love my own body, but I still have a long way to go in allowing -others- to love my body. And as much as I claim to not care what other people think, I must have some sort of hangup with that. It might not be so much caring about what they -do- think (like if someone makes a stupid comment), but I tend to assume I know what others are thinking, and this is what I put so much stock in. For example, "That guy wouldn't be interested in me, guys don't like girls who are fat." "I'm not going to get that part, because I'm too short." I mean.. really? How do I know that? And so, through this conference, this and a few other things were brought to my attention. And I'm totally cool with that. We need to be aware of problems if we want to work on them, right?

I heard some great speakers and met some great women. Sonya Renee Taylor is the founder of The Body Is Not An Apology, which focuses on radical self love and body empowerment. She had some wonderful things to say on facing the things in our lives that are causing us to have shame or doubts about our bodies. Her website also has some other great ways to live and love ourselves radically.

I came across an organization called Be Nourished that focuses on health and weight loss from a holistic approach. It's not about numbers or a certain size to attain. It's about connecting with your body and mind rather than dieting. They had a session about our relationship with food and eating, and how to get away from viewing this as a thing of morality. Like, "I was super bad today because I ate half a pizza." You were "bad?" No... you made a choice to eat half a pizza. That does not make you a bad person. I didn't attend their session because I feel like I'm in an okay place with this topic, but I look forward to learning more about their approach as a whole and what they have to say.

Tess Munster gave an brave and heart-felt keynote about her experiences in life, how she came to be a plus size model at 5'4", and how she's spreading the message about body positivity. This woman has gone through so much, including attending high school in a Walmart after her school had been destroyed by a tornado. She faced a lot of harassment from being poor, fat, and having a disabled mother. And really, her life growing up was just kind of crazy. But she was able to come away from all that and be this totally successful and inspiring person. She has this cool campaign going on, called #effyourbeautystandards. Definitely check it out. It's to promote the fact that women can be beautiful at any size. And it's snarky, so even better.

Jes encouraged us to not isolate during the conference. I'm soooo glad she said this, since I went by myself. I probably wouldn't have thought anything about that during lunch. But because she mentioned it, and I agreed that it was a good idea, I found a few other women to eat lunch with. They were three very different women, in life and in body type. It was wonderful hearing their stories and experiences, what they had learned so far, etc. That was way better than sitting alone looking at emails and facebook.

There were so many other great things I was able to hear about and women I learned from, I just can't include it all. Here are some things I jotted notes on:
  • Self-rejection/hatred/loathing is the most universal and least recognized problem in our lives; it is the source of all our difficulties in giving and receiving love.
  • Think of what the worse thing that could happen would be. Try to experience it, and see what the result is. It's probably not as bad as you think. 
  • You become secure by doing. It's growing from the vulnerability. 
  • That's my issue, not theirs. (on assuming others' thoughts and opinions)
  • People who are all up in your shit just don't want to be in their shit. (on others shaming you) 
  • Body shame assumes there is some "should" about our bodies.
  • Move beyond acceptance and into radical love. 
  • People see me looking like that in real life and still like me. (On allowing people to see "bad" pictures of ourselves) 
  • Don't assume everyone cares about "pretty."
  • After the flash reaction in first 3 seconds when you meet someone, others have moved on to being concerned about their interactions with you, not those initial reactions. 
  • Each time I make a choice for self-love, I am creating new neural pathways.
  • Connect with that part of you that you have a hard time accepting; be present; validate your feelings; sooth yourself; notice moving towards acceptance.
  • You can be fat and happy, and stay fat. You can be thin and happy, and stay thin. You can be fat and want to lose weight and still love your body.
There were also about 100 things I wanted to get to that I couldn't. So I'm definitely going to take some time to check them out. If you want to look into any of the topics or presenters, check out the event schedule below.

All in all, this event was just wonderful. There were about 400 people there from all over the country, and even one woman from Vienna, Austria (I met her too, she was a delight!). This was just the very first conference of its kind, so I think there's going to be a great future for the body love, positivity, and acceptance movement coming up here. And I'm so privileged and lucky to be a part of it.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

There's a new viral video going around on the internet. It's called "Fat Girl Dancing." You've probably seen it. If you haven't, here it is...

Anyway, I have some real mixed feelings about this. First of all, I think it's awesome that this girl is kicking butt and think she's a really great dancer. Woohoo! Go girl! Get it!

The other part of me says, "So what if she's fat?"

I've been dancing in one form or another since I was a kid. Once puberty hit, I, too, was a "fat girl dancing." There were often heavier girls in my classes. There are often bigger ladies in the musicals I'm in nailing the choreography. And in Zumba, there are constantly curvy ladies shaking their hips. So to me, a fat girl being able to dance is not really shocking at all. And I find it odd that so many people out there in interweb land are shocked by this.

Now, part of the reason this gal is getting so much attention is because she is an activist for positive body image. That's really important and I admire her for that. Her website? So I am in -no way- dogging on her. But this whole "OMG LOOK AT THAT FAT GIRL DOING ALL THOSE FANCY DANCE MOVES" thing really saddens me. Especially when I see other body positive blogs or personalities doing this too. I suppose it's nice to SEE a video like that going across the internet for people to see that, yes, fat girls can be healthy and sexy too. But really, that's not often the main message I see when it's being posted.

Like I said, I have mixed feelings. Ultimately, I suppose however people are being guided to her website and positive body messages, it doesn't matter too much. It all helps in the long-run. Breakin' stereotypes and gettin' down.

The Human Body: Amazing

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lately there have been many wonderful models and photographers focusing on showcasing larger women and their bodies. A lot of the stories that correspond with these pictures ask what the impact of having these bodies shown off more and more. So, I started to think about my personal reactions. And honestly, what I noticed most was looking at how each body ebbed and flowed. What kind of curves did each woman have? Where were they? Did they have a lot or a few? And even though I was intrigued by these different figures, it wasn't really so much out of disgust or "watching a train wreck" as they say. I was really fascinated by how unique each one was. It's amazing to me how the skin, fat, organs, bones, and other body parts figure out on each person exactly where they're going to go, how they're going to lay, how far out they're going to stick, how dense they're going to be, how flabby they're going to be, how lumpy, how thin, how they're going to end up. And then any time people gain or lose weight, each body changes in it's own way. And to me, seeing all of these shapes and sizes is really a celebration of that, and how amazing the human body is.

The Body Images is one of my favorite galleries that is an example of this. Check it out. These women are beautiful.

Gettin' My Girl on at the Lincoln Women's Expo!

This weekend I attended the Lincoln Women's Expo. I've been before, and had a good time, so wanted to go again. Normally I'm not super, "GIRL POWER! I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!" but it's something different to do, and it supports local businesses. So what the hey.

After I'd made the plans to go, I realized that this might be an interesting opportunity for a blog topic. I mean, if you just look at the list of exhibitors, it really makes you wonder how many of them are apart of that multi-billion dollar weight-loss/fat-shaming/insecurity-women-making industry, and how much good an event like this really is. So I went in with my battle face on (sort of) ready to get women talking about health, body love, and confidence in themselves.

Well, turns out I'm not much of a fighter after all. Actually, I didn't really see too many exhibitors that were targeting women by taking advantage of their insecurities. There was one booth for a plastic surgeon, and I was sort of listening to what the woman with the booth was saying to the woman who was asking questions. It was interesting to me because the woman asking questions looked like the pretty typical "beautiful" woman. I wanted to ask her what she was hoping to change, why she was wanting to change, where she was in her journey, etc. But I wasn't brave enough. I also wanted to ask the woman with the booth about the people who come to their clinic. I wanted to know if they provide any sort of counseling to their clients either before or after the surgeries, or if they simply let the clients deal with drastic changes and the results on their own. I can imagine dealing something like that could be difficult for people who have major self-image issues. But again, I was not brave enough to approach the exhibitor.

I did, however, come across one booth in a section providing health information that asked women if they wanted to know what their BMI was. This I could not simply walk away from. I approached the woman at the booth, and she very kindly asked if I wanted to check mine. I told her I did not, and let her know I was about to rant (with a smile). And of course, I was very polite about what I had to say, rather than combative, because I know they are just trying to help and because people react better when you're nice. I just kind of told her that BMI's are a really inaccurate way to measure someone's health. I let her know it was something that was invented in the 1800s, and reiterated that it is literally the ratio of one's weight to one's height. It can be very misleading in that someone with a "healthy" BMI could actually have a terrible lifestyle healthwise, and someone with a "dangerous" BMI could actually be quite healthy. So why, in 2014, we are still using such a ridiculous "tool" as an indicator of health is quite beyond me. It is really a good guess, at best.

Another booth I came upon was the Women's Foundation of Lincoln and Lancaster County. I hadn't ever heard of this so I was intrigued by what it was all about. I spoke to the exhibitor a few minutes about this, and found out they help with things like legislation, finances, education, etc. by having different events, mailing lists, a TV channel, and other things. I asked if they ever had anything about body issues, and the woman actually said they hadn't. She thought that was a great idea asked that I write down the suggestion for her, so I did. Hopefully something will come of it.

No expo would be complete without a little shopping. And these vendors probably made up most of the expo. There were quite a few that had some really neat stuff, and I did purchase a few things. I got a bracelet from Michelle Avery Jewelry, and then also a dress. The dress was from a boutique called Diva Wear Plus. Although the name has the word "Plus" in it, there are actually clothes for women sizes XS to 6X. It was really neat seeing a retailer providing such a wide range of sizes in a store for plus size women. I don't know that I'd seen that before. So I hope this women continues to be successful in her business. The store is located in Kansas City if you ever want to check it out!

I think it might be kind of cool to have a booth of my own next year. I'd have it full of things to help women feel good about their bodies, resources they can check out, shops, websites, information about health, exercise, stickers, and who knows what else! I don't know that it'll actually happen, but it's a great idea for sure.

Oh, and also, the Lincoln Ukelele Group performed!