Something a little different for you today folks!
I have had the absolute pleasure of collaborating with two of the kindest girls, and most talented writers I know – George and Haze. These girls have provided me with countless amounts of inspiration for both my writing and how I live my life. I would urge you to go and check out their blog! You can also find my most recent blog post over there. If you have any questions for the girls, pop them in the comments down below and stay tuned for the next instalment of our collaboration. We have a lot of exciting stuff coming up in 2019, so watch this space.
Now, let me hand you over to George and Haze.
The Christmas holidays started as a well-needed break — I was happy to see my family and more than ready to tuck into Mum’s box of Quality Street. But it wasn’t long before I started to feel the ‘itch’. We’ve all had ‘the itch’: the ants-in-your-pants feeling after you ~ finally ~ allow yourself to relax out of the hectic lifestyle you normally lead. So, I decided that I ought to move my body about and get myself to the gym.
As I was putting my contact lenses in, I caught a young woman in the reflection of the mirror getting changed. Her body was beautiful, as though it had been sculpted by Aphrodite herself. She had perky D cups, abs galore, toned arms, and a nice round bottom to top it all off. I blinked (mainly to get my contacts in, but also out of awe). It was evident she had worked very hard to achieve her muscular physique. And her boobs were perfectly shaped due to cosmetic implants. For no valid reason, I suddenly felt somewhat conscious of myself. A little insecure gremlin knocked on the door of my brain and said:
“You’re not good enough”.
I call this gremlin Graham. He enjoys making me feel insecure by comparing me to other people, or should I say, women.
Graham can be even more invasive than he was when I was changing at the gym. Normally he doesn’t knock, he barges straight in, especially when I’m online, and makes me think I need things, like… new clothes, new make-up, a gym pass, tanning lotion, wax strips… the list goes on.
Mid-body consciousness, I thought: Why do I feel so unnatural being natural? I had no make-up on, no jewellery on, no body piercings, no cosmetic surgery; I have an untoned stomach, non-muscular arms, hairy thighs, and one inverted nipple! That’s probably what I will have for the rest of my life, and yet I felt inadequate. Like I had failed some sort of test: The How to Be a Sexy Woman test that I didn’t even know I had entered. Graham told me I got 40%. In university terms, I still passed, but not well.
Online, on television, and in advertisements, bodies are modified, optimized and hypersexualised. This constant exposure has its drawbacks.
My brother once told me that if he heard me fall in the shower, he wouldn’t be able to come in and check if I was okay because “it would be too awkward.” At first, I thought this was a fair response. Perhaps, a lot of people would agree, and of course, privacy and modesty is important. But as I’ve got older, I’ve realised how backwards this mindset is; my brother would prioritise my “modesty” over my physical safety. Why? Because bodies connote sex, particularly the female body. Now, I wonder whether this connotation is really worth dying for?
Its also this inescapable exposure to the “Instagram body” that is not only damaging for our mental health, but for the environment that we live in. Natural states, in all senses of the world, are becoming undesirable and unusual. I’m not saying that we should all become hairy hippies, but we do need a serious realignment with Mother Nature.
Of course, adopting a natural lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t actively try to be fit and healthy. In fact, we believe that the two are intertwined. When I volunteered in Fiji, all of the men had the physique of rugby players because they spent every day either outside on the farm or playing sport with their friends. They didn’t have sinks/running water, let alone weights and shakes. They didn’t have phones to scroll through all day lazing on the sofa, either. They were the fittest, healthiest people I’d seen, and their only tools were motivation and nature.
It’s a Western mindset — the idea that a half an hour treadmill session is more valid, and feels more like exercise, than an hour dog walk in the fresh air. It’s the same for supplements. Why are expensive protein bars or sports drinks, or even weight-loss tablets more appealing than taking real control over your diet and eating a balanced variety of healthy wholefoods?
Fitness, despite going hand-in-hand with natural health, has become a commercial industry, and yet another thing for us to consume. We’re not saying cancel your memberships or stop going (we too are members of our university gym), but remember that your 30 minutes each day to drive to the gym and run on the crosstrainer is not the exclusive answer to feeling healthy and natural in your skin.
I walked back into the changing room, all buzzy from the endorphins. This time though, there were lots of women getting changed. Mothers and children, both stripping with ease, as well as young women, middle-aged women, and elderly women too. I wasn’t intending to be the creep that ‘looked’ but I couldn’t help myself. I was surrounded by women, all here with the intention to keep their bodies ‘in shape’, yet they were all so different.
Some had big boobs, others tiny boobs, some had rolling bellies, some flabby in places others were tight. Their figures didn’t fit into the shapes women’s magazines had told me they were supposed to — I didn’t see any “apple”, “pear”, or “hourglass” shapes — I saw human bodies. They were just bodies and it wasn’t and deeper than that.
Social media, society, advertisements, women’s magazines all told me there was one body type that was perfect. Graham was wrong. Women’s magazines were wrong. I was wrong.
Stupid, I thought, as I took my sports bra off. I shouldn’t be surprised when I see other shapes and sizes — but I was, and it saddened me to be so. My own body doesn’t entirely comply with an ‘ideal’, yet I was still surprised when others’ didn’t, either?!
I peeled my sports leggings off with confidence, ready to join this liberal, nakedness movement and show what my mama gave me to the room.
It is naive to say that the gym is the culprit behind the warped distance between healthy mindsets, bodies and nature. When I was younger, I begged my Mum to let me shave my legs because the other girls in PE all did. I was so impressionable, I remember crying about it. Crying! Because of some tiny blonde hairs! But everyone else had beautiful smooth legs, so my unconscious bias told me that was what I needed. I was completely immersed in an environment that valued image and compliance with expectation without a second thought about natural states.
But how far are we going to push it before it’s too late? If you’ve seen Black Mirror’s Nosedive, you know that striving to make yourself look better online is not going to lead to life fulfilment. The natural is not the enemy, as much as capitalism likes us to believe.
It‘s a common truth that if all women woke up and were confident in themselves, millions of companies would go out of business.
George and Haze xxxxxx
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. Let me know your questions for the girls and keep coming back as the next instalment will be up soon.