A little while ago video passed across my facebook page of a very brave woman who stripped to her underwear in Piccadilly Circus, armed only with a blindfold, some marker pens and a white board reading “I’m standing for anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder or self-esteem issue like me… To support self-acceptance draw a [heart] on my body.” The video takes you through the initial agonising moments as there’s an air of confusion but gradually one by one complete strangers took the pens from her hands and draw a multitude of hearts on her body. I am moved to tears because it’s a powerfully beautiful statement. Her vulnerability was striking, not only was she naked but she was asking for something from the strangers she could not see walking by. How often do we chose to stay quiet, afraid of being noticed, afraid of judgement or ridicule? But Jae West didn’t stay quiet, she had a very simple message she communicated in a silent yet striking way. She says,
“With the growing prevalence of eating-disorders and self-esteem issues around the world, this public act of self-acceptance aims to get people to question the true relationship that they have to themselves and body-image.”
I am reminded of various relationships I’ve had with my body; mostly negative. I am tormented by areas I consider “fat” and “disgusting”; when my joints ache I’m reminded of the punishment I’ve inflicted on my body; when I build up muscle through healthy exercise I am distressed by the increase in bulk; at lower weights I’ve been pleased with how I look but still the clothes don’t fit right – it doesn’t matter what weight/shape I’ve been, changing rooms, mirrors and photographs remain my enemy. I try to remember when I’ve felt proud of my body’s achievements, it’s run half marathons, it’s climbed mountains, it’s survived everything I’ve thrown at it!
I feel pained when I hear the negative relationships people have with their body. I look at other people and I can only see beauty. I believe we are all fearfully and wonderfully made (fearfully = with respect and reverence and wonderfully = to be distinct and unique). So why does my brain, so often, dismiss this belief and look disdainfully upon my body? I try to remind myself I’m “healthy” but no rational thinking will shift my juxtaposed beliefs. I’m sure I am not in a unique position. Why do we hold onto the beliefs that will only knock us down? My husband is saddened, as the compliments he wishes to bestow cause me pain; thinking about my body is hard enough, hearing what someone else thinks feels intolerable. I feel sorry about the sadness I cause by my lack of acceptance, it is unfair on him that my insecurities get in the way of him expressing his love. Why do so many of us find it hard, if not, impossible, to hear compliments?
I believe I am a survivor of an eating disorder, I do not suffer any more (I struggle but I do not suffer). My last hurdle is to come to terms with my body. I wonder what it is going to take. I thank Jae West for standing up for us and I dream of being able to fight the fear of judgement and ridicule and having her courage.