Confidence Is Not About Loving Your Body
People often remark about my confidence. Other women in particular have said to me many times, in many ways: "I wish I had your confidence."
As a person who stands for feminist values and radical truth-telling, it's important to me to be honest about the fact that the voice of internalized misogyny is real and it is in my head, too. When I look at myself in the mirror or in photos, I have many thoughts.
I DO think things like:
'Fuck yes, I am a sexy beast. I am grateful to get to live in this body.'
I ALSO think things like:
Why couldn't I have been just 3 inches taller so I wouldn't gain weight so easily?'
Confidence is not about ridding ourselves of the self-admonishing voices.
Most of the time, I work hard for my health by watching what I eat and exercising. The women we idolize as a culture (e.g. Beyoncé, Rihanna) work a lot harder than I do. I think it is really deceptive and harmful for women in media like Jennifer Lawrence and The Gilmore Girls (who, don't get me wrong, I love) to go on about eating cheeseburgers and fries all day. That is not a reality, and it has the impact of reinforcing the shame that most of us feel; shame around the conflicting messages we receive that we should both always aspire toward an imaginary goal and also somehow effortlessly possess an 'ideal' body.
This makes for a lose-lose situation, and just about every woman I've spoken with feels caught in this web.
I know some feminist value systems hold that we shouldn't even care whether we look attractive by conventional beauty standards. I find that approach to be too extreme and damn near impossible to practice. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to feel attractive to others, including men. The problem arises when no one ever feels that they have attained health or beauty, when we collectively believe we have to keep killing ourselves to reach it, and when we accept the notion that it is what matters most about who we are.
I understand confidence to be less about liking everything about how our bodies show up and more about taking a certain orientation toward this internal conflict. We live within a patriarchal system, and we swim in these waters everyday. We cannot wholesale reject them, and we don't need to in order to become confident.
Confidence is noticing all of the messages we hear when we see our image in the mirror and reframing that chorus of voices into a song of liberation. We don't have to leave any part of ourselves behind. We get to move forward, celebrating and nit-picking ourselves all the way.