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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Bodies » Dealing with other people's opinions of your body

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Author Topic: Dealing with other people's opinions of your body
polyprotic
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Sorry this is so long. Feel free to fastforward to my questions at the end and answer them generally. The rest is just back story.

My whole life, it's seemed like I've had to put up with other people's ideas about the way I look. I mean, there's really no way around it. I was an unfortunate looking kid. And I was told so by just about all my classmates. I really didn't do much to help myself out, either. When my mom found out about that I had been assaulted since I was nine, she said that I "had no modesty." I was twelve then and really took that to heart. I did just about everything I could to hide anything remotely attractive about myself (I deliberately put on about forty pounds, wore only loose-fitting clothes, tons of costume-esque makeup, two sports bras everyday, etc.).

I did that until I was about sixteen, when I lost the weight, started taking care of myself and dressed better. Then I was suddenly seen as attractive. I still have a lot of trouble seeing myself that way, but it's hard to miss the way a lot of men look at me now, at eighteen. The second I started wearing even slightly more revealing clothes, my mother began harping on the "you have no modesty" spiel again. I have very large breasts for my size, and she feels the need to tell me I should get a reduction twice a day. I told her to drop it, that it's my body. She did for a while, but then I wore a tank top when we were visiting my grandparents, and all hell broke loose again. My grandpa just about straight up told me that I was asking to get raped wearing that, and my mom didn't say anything.

Today she said that I'm going to have to learn to be more modest next year at college, or else I'm going to attract stalkers and get raped. I calmly told her that those situations are not brought about by someone having big boobs or being attractive. Then she said that I just don't know how attractive I am, and that I had a lot to learn. I kind of went off a bit there about how she needs to change her attitude about that, but she kept saying how naive I am and didn't know where my anger came from. I know for a fact that she hasn't experienced any of those things, while I have. And at nine, I can assure you it didn't happen because I had big boobs. And ummm, only assault and stalking victims are young, physically attractive, buxom women? I see a big issue with that perception alone.

I've also never had a partner or anyone else my age to say good, supportive things about my body. I don't suspect that helps much either.

I'm sorry for the long, ranty post. I just couldn't believe that she could so easily fail to consider what I'd already been through and trample on my already fragile body image like that. Also I've been feeling really crappy about a lot of things, especially about my past, lately, so this obviously isn't any help. I'm so confused about what's expected of me. Some days I'm proud of my body and would like to show it off a little, but days like this, I just want to wear something along the lines of a burqa or snuggie.

Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with your own body image/self-esteem when you have to continually put up with the negative attitudes of others? How/can I tell the people in my life that my body and what I put on it (or don't) is none of their business in a way that isn't too vicious, but will make my thoughts clear?

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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I've dealt with some similar attitudes around rape and sexual abuse in my life (including from the police, back in the 80s). I'm sorry your mother is saying what she is, and personally know how maddening those kinds of statements and misinformed ideas can be.

In terms of advice about feeling better about your body in your unique situation, can I ask what you do that's about FEELING good in it rather than about LOOKINg good in it? In other words, I hear you voicing that you're experiencing a lack of others giving you positive feedback on how you look. While certainly, having that can be a boon to body image, it actually tends to be a smaller one than many people imagine, because it still kind of keeps us stuck in appearances and external validation.

So, what do you do that's about how your body feels and what it can do? Know what I mean?

Per how to voice what you're feeling to others, I'd say it depends on how safe you feel in being honest. For those where you can be very honest, I'd think a statement like, "It's taken me a long time to feel good about the way my body looks, and I'm still getting there. I feel like the things you say set me back, and what I really need is your support."

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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polyprotic
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I can't imagine what that must have been like to hear from the police. I'm glad a lot of people have changed their attitudes since then.

That's a really good way of looking at it, Heather. I guess educating myself and learning about the human body as a whole helped me realize how awesome my body is (showing my nerdiness there). Also beginning to acknowledge and accept my sexuality for myself, instead of how it relates to anyone else was a big step (which is why I think what you and everyone else does here is so great.) And I went vegetarian and started cooking for myself, which made me feel like I'm not putting so much crap in my body anymore.

That's pretty much exactly what I'm feeling, but I don't know if I'm able to be /that/ honest with anyone.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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I think there are ways of voicing that sentiment in tiers, per how honest you're willing to be.

I mean, obviously, if you just can't be honest at all in that respect, my best advice would be to simply cut any conversations about your body with that person off right at the pass. In other words, a "Do you know what? I need you to not talk about my body with me," and have it stop at that. I know (believe me, I know) that if and when that person is a parent, that's a tough, hard line to draw, but it sounds like your boundary is being crossed here, and when that happens, with whomever it does, clearly stating our boundaries is so important.

Do you feel like you can do that?

It sounds like you're starting to identify some ways of feeling good, not just outwardly looking so. That's great, and it may just be that you need some more time with those things, and perhaps also some clearer body-boundaries with people who are overstepping.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Karybu
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In addition to what Heather has said, you might find it really helpful to start doing some sort of physical activity that's just plain old fun, and that feels good to do. For example, I've been a dancer all my life, and so if I'm having a day where I'm feeling not so great about my body, it really helps to put on some music and dance around my bedroom or my kitchen - somewhere where it doesn't mater what I look like, but where I can just move because it feels awesome to do so. Yoga is often another great way to do that, and so are things like hula hooping, or roller blading, or even just going for a walk outside when it's nice out.

Just a suggestion, but finding some way of moving for the sole reason that it feels really good can be helpful if you're working on appreciating what your body can do.

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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polyprotic
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I have told them something along those lines, and they listen for a little while, but pick it up again, insisting that they know better than I do. It's very frustrating, and I do have this problem about getting defensive easily, which really doesn't help me any with this.

Karybu, that's a great idea. Usually I just exercise to exercise. Maybe I'll join a sports club, or something this year :]

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Sometimes, as much as it stinks -- and oh, does it -- you just have to keep reiterating a boundary to someone who keeps crossing it, as if they were a small child.

If someone keeps doing things like this, you also might want to consider simply no longer having them be in your life.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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