Sunday, March 6, 2011

Be Comfortable and Breathe

For years, many of us have tried, usually with little or no success, to portray a certain image and we have been brainwashed into looking outside of ourselves to decide exactly what that image is. We have been told how to dress and how to feel about it. I recall being in seventh grade and feeling simultaneously excited and nervous about starting ballroom dancing classes. Shortly before the first lesson, my mother presented me with a garter belt, nylon stockings, a girdle and a long line bra. Imagine that! Seventh grade and already I had to fuss to hide every bulge and jiggle. My emotions, as I recall, were mixed. Partly I was excited to make my grand entrance into this mysterious grown up world and partly I was horrified. I remember the flesh of my thighs overflowing the tight little stocking tops and I remember smiling through my misery as I tried to look absolutely beautiful gliding across the dance floor. What was to be a magical, wonderful experience turned into a strained and difficult one. Did you ever find yourself in such a predicament? Were you ever dressed to match an image that didn’t quite fit? Did you ever eat to soothe those emotions?

We do not live in a culture where we are encouraged to be creative. We do not celebrate differences in body shapes, sizes and styles and we do not learn to love and appreciate our bodies as unique and beautiful no matter how large or small. Instead, for the majority of us, we are shown how to hide our curves and “flaws.” This is unfortunate. Our
self-esteem certainly suffers and we might go through our entire lives feeling unacceptable, inadequate, unattractive, constricted and ashamed.

A number of years ago I attended a women’s music festival in Michigan. Thousands of women attended the week-long event and no men were permitted on the festival land. The summer weather was deliciously warm most of the time and the majority of the women wore little, if any, clothing during the day. All ages were represented. There were little girls and elders, and there were women from many different countries. I saw women of all shapes, sizes and colors. These women walked freely about the land and appearance mattered little. I thought what a beautiful sight it was to see these women moving about freely, uninhibited by social expectations or clothing constraints.

Now I know we can’t all walk around without our clothes on. Nor would we want to. Buying clothes that please us is fun. We can choose colors and materials that we love and think of our own needs when we purchase clothing. We can dress for comfort and still look stylish. One of the reasons we may overeat is because we fall short in our vain attempts to look like the models we see. If we try to emulate these women, who are perpetually young and unrealistically thin, nearly all of us will fail. Please do not dress to look like or be someone else. Be yourself. Be comfortable and breathe. Choose what suits you.

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