In our consumeristic culture we are all exposed to a frequent barrage of media messages telling us we need to change. The essence of marketing rests on the lie that we must constantly pursue new possessions, new looks and new personality traits to be enough To be worthy of love, laughter, joy. To live a life of meaning. These messages start with the broader culture but are often reinforced by our families, friends and other groups. We’re told we need to change to fit in and we start prizing the ideal instead of celebrating our differences.
This takes place in a multitude of ways, but the most common one that comes to mind is appearance. When I was young I danced many hours each week at a local studio. I was one of the lucky ones because I was naturally slim despite my tendency to eat almost nothing but chicken fingers, fruit rollups and Twinkies. Others with a different shapes stood out from the group and it is common knowledge that this pressure only escalates as one moves into more competitive dance circles.
Unfortunately the professional critics are not always our harshest ones. While my mom has told me many times throughout my life that she thinks I’m beautiful, it’s the negative comments she has made that are the ones that stick in my head. Those are the ones I can repeat verbatim. The ones that flash back through my mind when I’m looking at myself critically in the mirror and which seem impossible to let go. To this day she still simultaneously pushes me to eat dessert every time I visit while praising me if she thinks I’ve lost a little weight or hears I’ve been exercising more.
I know she means well, but we need to do better than this for each other.
As is true in many realms of our politically charged world today, we need to preach more acceptance and less judgment. More care for our whole selves – body, mind and spirit – instead of a sole focus on the first part of that equation. More celebration of our unique attributes. Imagine how much less interesting our lives would be if we were all the same.
One movement working towards this, Body Acceptance Week, is taking place at universities around the country this coming week. The theme this year at CSU, Celebrate EveryBODY, encourages us to actively celebrate everything that makes us who we are. Our similarities and our differences. While it’s great to have a week of events targeted towards this, let’s take this opportunity to remind ourselves to start celebrating every person every week until we’ve made this the norm.