So I’m just going to go ahead and assume you guys have heard Beyonce’s new album. If not-
It’s pretty much time to get out from that rock- it’s stuffy in there!
So I’m just listening away to a few songs at the gym, and then all of a sudden- I’m stopped cold in my tracks.
The song “Flawless” has an INCREDIBLE spoken word sample from writer Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie:
We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man“
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
The first 2 lines are what really got me and are what I want to expand on here. Lately I’ve been thinking of the psychology of our culture and how women do feel like they need to “shrink” themselves. Even at a healthy weight, most women still feel they’re not good enough.
“Here’s how to lose those last 5 lbs!,” we hear incessantly in every magazine ad for a fitness/diet product, ever.
Especially around this time of year I can think of about a zillion ads I’ve seen with that exact same tagline. I personally know women that I even see on a regular basis that are TINY and talk about the weight they need to lose incessantly- like the fat on their body is some sort of demon that needs to be exorcised until they are absolutely skeletal.
It seems many women do feel the need to shrink themselves physically as well as in other ways-
To shrink vocally by not speaking up about issues that bother them for fear of being too “strong,” and to shrink their entire being, apologizing for who they are instead of wholly embracing it.
(I know this because I was exactly that same way at one point in my life.)
The endless pursuit of shrinking gets many a woman into an absolute tizzy trying to achieve a level of “perfection” only seen in fitness competitions or magazine covers. And here is where I want to bring in an excerpt from an absolutely FABULOUS blog, Fit and Feminist (PLEASE GO CHECK IT OUT) who really hits the nail on the head here:
“I can’t help but wonder what good it does to have a lean body if your entire existence is immersed in maintaining that physique? What good is an impressive 1 rep max deadlift if you haven’t a clue what’s happening in the world outside of your gym? What’s the point of looking great in a bikini if you cannot empathize with anyone but yourself? Sure, you’re totally ripped and pretty to look at, but is there anything going on beneath that?
The cult of the body takes the whole universe and shrinks it down to the size and shape of your body. And not even what’s inside of your body, like your heart and your mind, but just the exterior. The world becomes so narrow and so small, and maybe it’s less scary that way, but it’s also a lot less exciting and interesting that way, too.
I need my life to have more meaning than that. I need to feel like I’ve made a positive impact in the world. I need to be able to look at my life and to be able to say that I left my little corner of the planet a bit nicer than when I arrived. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think most of us want these things. But I think that a big part of this involves turning away from all of the cultural bullshit that tells us happiness and personal fulfillment can only be achieved through attaining physical and material perfection, and figuring out what actually matters to us, not what we’ve been told should matter to us.”
I read that and literally wanted to applaud. It really articulates a lot of thoughts I’ve been having lately, about what life really means to me, and if not having the perfect set of abs to show off on Instagram like all the other fitness bloggers is really all that important in the grand scheme of my life. (Spoiler: it’s not. For me, anyway. )
I also have been struggling with not being able to perform as well as others I see in the fitness community- for example other women lifting heavier than me, running faster than me, etc. I start to want to shrink away and think, “Maybe I’m really not qualified to be saying the things I do…Maybe I’m not really good enough….” But when those thoughts creep up I just remind myself, ”
“Hey! I’M AWESOME.”
…and the shrinking stops there.
I have to wonder- what would happen if more women thought they were as FLAWLESS as Beyonce instead of constantly comparing themselves to everyone else? If we stopped hating our reflection in the mirror, piling on the make-up, and started focusing on the things that make us unique and amazing?
Think of the people that love you.
Do you think they see acne scars, “love-handles,” or big ears? No. They see the whole you. The you that isn’t all about aesthetics that our society likes to obsess on. And what’s more- they love you FOR the “imperfections” you have.
We should all aim to see ourselves the way the person who loves us the most in the world does, and make our internal self-talk more along those lines instead of along the lines of something you would say to your worst enemy.
This is always a constant process and even I struggle with it at times, still. But the more I can really focus on my positive qualities and what I can offer to the world beyond a body that would win a trophy in the IFBB or sell a product on a TV commercial- it comes easier and easier. And it can be easy for you too if you let it!
Now go out and be FLAWLESS!
[IMAGE: ROBIN HARPER/INVISION FOR PARKWOOD ENTERTAINMENT/AP IMAGES/ASSOCIATED PRESS]