The importance of validation
I suppose I should preface all of this by saying that I’m a huge geek. I love comic conventions and cosplaying at said conventions. If you’re not familiar with the term “cosplay” it just means dressing up as comic/movie/book/anime character. Within the cosplay community, there is a lot of discussion on plus size individuals participating in cosplay. Recently a friend and I were discussing a thread we saw on Facebook in which a woman asked for plus size cosplay advice. Most of the comments were directed at the idea that she should cosplay as whatever character she wanted-regardless of her body type. And I get that they were trying to be supportive. But what if she wasn’t ready to do that yet?
I’ve noticed the same mentality in the belly dance community and, while I appreciate it, I think we need to be careful that we’re not invalidating the concerns of the individual we’re trying to support. For example, I wear a belly stocking when I perform and I NEVER show my stomach during workshops or classes. Although it’s my choice what I want to show (or not show), I’ll share with you why I don’t show my stomach any more than is absolutely necessary. I have the worst stretch marks I have ever seen on any human being ever. Honestly, it looks like I was mauled by a tiger. Now some of you may be reading this and wanting to encourage me to love my body as it is and to proudly display those stretch marks I “earned” through pregnancy. Well, thanks for that, but don’t invalidate me. If I’m self-conscious about a certain area of my body, don’t make me feel worse about it by making me feel, well, worse about it.
I know I should love my body and I would never tell any other person with stretch marks to be ashamed of them. But isn’t it up to me how I work through that? If we’re going to be supportive of one another, I think we need to be careful about validating concerns that individuals may have regarding their own bodies. I appreciate when I hear someone say “I think you look great, but I can understand where you’re coming from. I feel the same way about my (fill in the blank).” That’s the kind of support I’m looking for. The kind that comes without what feels like judgment. Someday I may feel comfortable showing off my belly–stretch marks and all–but maybe not. And that’s okay. It’s my journey. And some journeys take a little more time and little more work than others.