New Year Resolution: No negative body talk

written by Andalee on January 12, 2014 in Body image with 5 comments
New Year's Resolution

Andalee contemplates her body image at a photo shoot. Photo by Kolaya Photography.

I don’t really make new year’s resolutions, because I know how terrible I am at keeping them. However, I do use each new year to set and reevaluate my life goals. I like to set personal goals, career goals and, of course, belly dance goals. However, I got to thinking that maybe this year would be a good year to set the kind of resolution that I might be able to stick to. Maybe.

Referring back to the actual definition of the word resolution, to make a resolution means that you are going to proceed with firm determination or to be bold and steady. This is the part of new year’s resolutions that is the hardest to keep! Things start out strong but fade by mid-February, March if we’re lucky. I guess the best way to think about a resolution is to make it a goal that you will meet with steady determination. 

I have decided that my one and only resolution for 2014 will be to stop negative talk about myself to others and to stop thinking/saying negative things about myself to myself (this is called negative self-talk), especially in the area of negative body talk. This is going to be a monumental task for me as self-deprecation is a huge part of my identity. We’re all guilty of it from time to time, but I have been mean to myself my whole life. A lot of it has to do with the circumstances that I was raised in, I know that, but some of it is due to the fact that I suffer from depression.

For many years, I have worked on my self-esteem, and to some extent my body image. I’ve gone to counseling and support groups. I’ve journaled and read self-help books. It has done a lot of good, even if there are still areas that I need to work on. I used to hate myself and think that I was worthless. That is no longer true. I have faults, but I also have value. I used to think that I was hideously ugly, and now I know that I am above average in looks and that people, like my husband, most importantly, find me attractive. (I’ve also discovered that it’s important to place less emphasis on being attractive overall).

However, the one area of negative self-talk that I haven’t been able to conquer is the way I call myself fat. The word generally has negative connotations in our culture–with exception of the fat activist community who have reclaimed the word as the generic descriptor that it is–so it is important that I explain that when I call myself this, I am not being neutral. I use this word with vitriol. Even as a child, when I was slender, I thought I was fat. As a teen and a young adult, I thought I was fat because I wasn’t as slim as my friends. However looking back at old pictures I was just fine. Even at my thinnest, I still poked my stomach and hips hoping that they would get smaller. And today, as the largest I have ever been–and I am now actually fat–I still berate myself for my size.

Yes, I like to say that I practice Health at Every Size–I do try. I know the scientific literature on weight and health outcomes is mostly flawed and incorrect. I know that diets don’t work. I have accepted all of this, but I just can’t accept my body as it is. I am not OK with how I look and long for the slimmer me from several years back.

Over Christmas, I was hanging out with my family and my mom complimented me by saying that I looked healthy and that my face was glowing. She said my color and my skin have improved. My sister piped in that her mother-in-law had commented that I looked better than I have ever looked. I replied, “Even though I am fatter than I have ever been? No, it’s just my new facial routine.” (My skin has been looking great lately, thanks to a good dermatologist and finding the right products–thankyouverymuch).

My sister said, “Why do you say things like that? For talking as much as you do about Health at Every Size, you should be a little bit nicer to yourself!” I told her that I couldn’t help myself, that it just comes out. It’s true. Every time I see a picture of myself, I am disgusted (the mirror is OK most of the time). I question whether or not my husband really still finds me attractive. I am the worst about being negative to myself around him. Heck, I’ve even contemplated going on secret diets and trying to lose weight while still telling people I practice Health at Every Size, but I never do because I know it won’t work.

It’s ridiculous really. I am a smart lady and I know that there is nothing wrong with being fat. I am not disgusted by other people’s corpulent bodies. I think it is great when a plus size lady can rock a bikini, a revealing belly dance costume, or even just form fitting clothing. Plus, no one else is mean to me, why should I be mean to myself!?

So my resolute goal for 2014 is to try to end this negative self-talk and self deprecation. Right now, I am at the beginning phases of this process, so I am not really sure where to start. If you have any suggestions of where I can go for help or support, please let me know! I plan on writing about my findings here.

About Andalee

Andalee is the founder of Belly Dance at Any Size. She is an Oriental dancer and instructor from Durham, NC, now based in Montpellier, France. She has been dancing since 2005 and teaching since 2008. Her mission is to promote Oriental Dance (a.k.a. belly dance) as a respected and valid performance art.