Body Confidence: Living Life out Loud
Most mornings I look into my bathroom mirror and I say, “I’m a big bright burning star and I’m gonna shine forever!” The reality is some mornings I may not believe it but I say it anyway. It’s my chance to cloak myself in love and assurance before I walk into the world. For me taking risks, albeit calculated, inspires me to live completely, to play the leading role in my one woman show even at times when I’m doubtful or uncertain of the outcome. Having read the late Maya Angelou’s poem The Mask I try my best not to live my life as, “a dance that’s walked a song that’s spoke.” What is body confidence? For me it’s living out loud, strong, fearless, and at other times vulnerable, fearful, stomach in knots…its being present in my best moments and forgiving of myself at my worst…it’s knowing when to take things seriously and when to play tag.
Body Confidence is our ability to move in this world proudly (re)claiming who we are —glitches and all — realizing that they by no means diminish our qualities and immeasurable accomplishments. Our differences marked by age, race, body size, gender, class, dis/ability, our sexuality and more represent multi-faceted parts of our humanity. Our many dimensions help inform our social lens and our response to social injustices. Intersectional, and different as we are, one of the strongest connections we share is our ‘messiness.’ Life is messy, complex, and through our courageous conversations and interactions with each other we realize the similarities in our worries. On the other hand, in the face of our many variances are opportunities for building bridges, repairing communities, addressing collective problems where we can share our truths — including our misgivings.
Much of my work towards my own body confidence has involved my attempt to help reimagine mine and others’ diverse bodies away from fault and beyond decoration or objectification. The Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCAs) is an opportunity to acknowledge people who are actively redefining what image, what body confidence, and what ‘emBODYed’ activism can look like. It’s our opportunity to recognize “othered” bodies that talk back against stifling body ideals and social scripts. Our bodies as we know, especially women and girls’ bodies, are highly policed which in turn encourages self-policing and a kind of chipping away at the soul that resorts in too many of us being concerned with our ‘package’ instead of our purpose. As a child, a talkative one at that, I was often told, “Shhhh…good girls are seen and not heard.” Good girls wore pretty dresses and flattering accessories not to mention we were made of sugar and spice. Without knowing it then these gendered messages advocated silence, promoted second-guessing of my expression, and tried to predetermine my style within some confinable gender box. Not for long though. As I’d age I’d quickly learn how much I enjoyed being a “bad girl” in the most fashionable pant suits I could find! I learned to enjoy troubling silence and subverting boundaries. Sure, there is power in silence but forced silence? That’s questionable.
I’ve been very fortunate to speak with women and girls about body confidence. I celebrate the power we own in sharing our ideas, raising our hands, taking up space even when we might not know the right answers, taking up space even when you are the only ‘one’ in the room. What are right answers anyhow but consensus? Sometimes ‘wrong’ answers are often the most compelling, the most transformative. As I’ve learned firsthand, nothing is more haunting than when a question is asked and the person next to you in the ‘classroom’ or ‘boardroom’ of life answers the call, rises to the occasion, and says exactly what you planned to but couldn’t. Today’s girls connected with strong role models and mentors are singing a different tune. They are speaking up and out, embracing feminism, tackling racism, anti-oppression, championing LGBTTIQQ2SA and disability rights, and taking their rightful place in herstory today. This is body confidence.
I dream of a world filled with body confident women and girls. A world where we can learn to live, love, and lavish ourselves intellectually, plot against societies inequities boldly, and one day take over our worlds unapologetically! In the end to paraphrase one of the world’s greatest intellectual activist minds the late “Black, lesbian, feminist, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde, if you do not define yourself for yourself you will be crunched into other people’s fantasies for you [of you] and eaten alive.” I ask you today, what does your body confidence look like? What does it mean for you? Don’t forget to share it with your world. We are all fantabulous works in progress and when we share we grow. JILL ANDREW,
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