Reflections on my experiences with a larger body, and musings on society's 'ideal' body type.
Image - Lucette Romy
A few weeks ago I spent four hours searching for a costume to wear to a party I was attending that night. It wasn't my intention to do this, nor was it enjoyable.
I had actually pre-planned this whole outfit thing way ahead of time. I'd ordered my costume online, a process I normally undertake to prevent experiences that might encourage negative thoughts about my body. I had learnt this trick after many previous not-so-nice in-person shopping experiences.
But unfortunately the online-ordered costume had arrived the day before the event and was the wrong size. So there I was, trekking through multiple different shopping centres searching for something suitable for the party. I was finding that the relevant shops only supplied up to a small-sized 14 (and I am currently a 16-18).
This left me in the uncomfortable position I have been many times before in the past four years, which I'm sure many others with varying body sizes can relate to.
My choices were;
- settle for something that does not feel good and barely stretches over my stomach,
- 'make-do' with something I already have in my wardrobe that does look/feel good but is not technically a costume,
- or just simply not attend the party.
It may seem in the recounting of this day as if I was/am feeling sorry for myself, and yes there was certainly a bit of that going on at the time. But, as discussed in my last post, I actually love my body. I feel good about my body, how I dress, how I feel in my body the large majority of the time.
While on this shopping experience, I started feeling a rollercoaster of emotions, sad, angry, sweaty from trying on too many things, inquisitive, and tired. I felt excluded and not catered for by general society in terms of a costume for this party. I observed my inner talk and noticed an old thought pattern I hadn't heard in a while surfacing, the idea that my worth might be measured by my body size. That felt super yuck. That old thought dominated by mind in the past, and I wasn't interested in welcoming it back to take up real estate in my brain.
In my everyday life I can, and do, choose to ignore that or to rise above it, or just find other ways to exist. But it doesn't change the fact that this messaging, which can (and often does) generate ongoing unproductive inner dialogue, is out there for myself and many others to experience. It is something that those with larger bodies, or different bodies, have to consciously choose to avoid.
People with larger (or different) bodies are simply not accounted for in the large majority of mainstream stores.
In my experience, online shopping is what seems to be required to buy anything of decent quality in a size 16 or 18 (or above). Admittedly there are few select in-person stores available for general attire, but nothing that I have found as yet in the way of costumes (or lingerie).
Is it simply true that larger framed people do not attend costume parties? Or they don't ever have a need for sexy lingerie? No, of course not.
People with larger bodies are not sub-human. They don't just stay at home, not participating in society, not enjoying the clothes they wear, not having sex, or feeling sexy.
The wider issue is that society has an 'ideal' body type. And we hear about it from a young age. It is everywhere we look, in magazines, on social media. It takes effort to not take notice, or to drown it out. And not many of us fulfil that stereotype.
It makes me feel super sad that our society lacks fundamental inclusivity. We don't see larger bodies, or bodies with different ability levels, represented on Instagram or in our media anywhere near enough. The slim body with certain specific features is the one that sells, and it's not the body that the majority of us have.
I am aware that myself and others with larger or different bodies, can choose to change our attitude and focus on what feels good for us as individuals.
Loving our bodies exactly as they are is every human's right. But is much more challenging to love our bodies if we are only seeing one type.
I want to see all bodies represented with respect in our publications, media and social media. I want to see people with all types of bodies feel comfortable to share their body online (if they want to) in their bathing suits, costumes, doing exercise, visiting waterfalls, doing yoga poses, and wearing fun clothes. I want to see more support for our young people growing up and learning to love themselves for who they are. Where they can see the spectrum of bodies in all shapes and sizes, and know that the individuality in each body is actually normal.
I spent such a long time hating my body, in part because all of the societal messages told me that I was not measuring up, and I made that mean I was less worthy as a human overall as a result. Most of the time, due to a lot of work on my inner self-talk, it is now possible to counteract these media/societal messages with self-love and self-compassion. But sometimes, after experiences like the above, I feel super shit for a little while, and I know many many others do too in similar situations.
Society should celebrate all bodies, no matter the size, colour or ability.
I can, and have since, gone back to the world I normally live in, where I honour my body and it's size as perfect right now and worthy of love the way it is, and I can find clothing that feels and look good when I need to. But I also want to be real about this, and acknowledge that it's also okay to say that things suck sometimes, that we can do better as a society, and to fully allow the feelings of that experience at least for a little while. Not to play the victim, but to feel the full spectrum of emotions fully. To shine a light on this need for improvement in our society, and be a part of the change.