By: Rose Arscott
About a year ago I was having a very dreamy midnight drink in a Brooklyn bar with a good friend. I was just at the beginning of my Body Positivity journey and I was practically fizzing with it. However, as I talked, instead of joining my Body Positivity high my buddy seemed to be retreating into herself. Eventually, she expressed her frustration. Her point ran somewhere along the lines of this (I’m paraphrasing):
This is all well and good but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I need to be thinner. I KNOW I would be happier if I were thinner. I have been thinner and I was happier.
She went on to talk about how it felt to be overlooked by so many men in LA and how she knows that if she were thinner finding suitors wouldn’t be as hard. The truth is that I too have tied myself to all the supposed benefits of my former life as a thin person. I related to her irritation with feeling invisible and saw how that same exact thought pattern was surfacing for me in terms of my acting career. Most female actors have been told at some point that they need to lose weight in order to work and I am no exception. For a long time, I dragged this belief with me everywhere I went. It eventually became so heavy I just stood still, torturing myself trying to lose weight that wouldn’t budge so that I could START my acting career.
This past month I got paid to act for the first time in ten years. So what changed? I didn’t get thinner, in fact I’m pretty sure I got wider, but I did find self-love and decided I wasn’t going to wait to be thin to work or even be happy. Because, why wait for, or work hard to achieve, something you don’t actually value?
That’s right, I’m saying it, I no longer value thinness. Actually, I no longer value achieving a physical ideal fed to us by pop-culture. (I should point out that I do value people who happen to be thin, but because they are people not because they are thin.) Ok, cool, so how did I find myself here? Sound a little too easy right?
Here’s what happened. I started asking myself questions. Like, how could I feel such great love for others but not extend the same to myself? Or, what qualities do I value in others and why couldn’t I find them in myself? After what felt like forever asking questions some logical answers surfaced. Logic blew into my life like an infuriatingly intelligent teacher. Logic taught me that if I loved myself I was happier and if I was happier I was operating more efficiently and unsurprisingly my love for others deepened. The logic works thus: If I love myself more, accept my flaws more, honor where I am at more, I am able to do that for others with greater ease, and that then circles back around to me, constantly learning how to love more.
Here are some moments from my life when I felt profound love for another being:
We danced in bubbles like little children at the stupid mall we both hated. I knew I loved this person because it was both of our first instinct to run and play in the bubbles.
We pulled an (almost) all-nighter so she could finish her 10-page paper. I happily slept on her floor, using a Snuggie as a blanket and a yoga mat as a mattress, because she was struggling and it was important that she wasn’t alone.
I asked her to lay with me while I cried. I know she didn’t understand because she isn’t human but on some level she must have because she was kind enough to lie on my feet while I wriggled my way out of a depression.
When I run through the rolodex of love moments in my mind I cannot find a single one that has anything to do with that loved one’s appearance. My deepest love feelings may include some aspect of aesthetic but it is never the defining characteristic of the emotion. For example, I am absolutely nuts for my partner’s forehead. It’s usually covered but when he sleeps his hair falls back slightly and there is this little private moment I get to have with the top of his face.
When I started to investigate why I was struggling in my relationship with myself, I was still standing in front of the mirror, hurling insults at the girl looking back at me. I treated her like my enemy, which was ironic because I was trying to find some validation in that mirror. I stepped on the scale every morning searching for worth. I searched for it by comparing myself to my slim friends. I searched for it in lustful gazes of acquaintances. Really what I was doing was banging my head against the wall; returning to the same desperate “fix” only to be disappointed time and time again because I have been taught to believe that success and happiness are only achievable if you look like you belong in a Robin Thicke music video. At a certain point I got tired of coming up empty-handed in my search and I made the decision to stop looking down at the scale for my self-worth. Instead I turned to my own heart and had a look at what I truly valued.
I came up with a list of things I value in the people I love: kindness, humor, depth, political ferocity, creative energy, sparkle, vibrancy, musicality, rhythm, and the list goes on. At no point have I ever thought, “I trust and admire so-and-so because s/he wears a size zero.”
Today I am living a more joyful life than before because I asked myself the following question: If appearance is only a tiny aspect of what I value in the ones I love then why is it the only thing I value in myself?
Here’s the thing, maybe my weight will mean I work less than my slimmer contemporaries, maybe it won’t, but I won’t know until I try and I’m choosing to be loving and joyful in the meantime.
Here are some links I have been reading for you to FEAST on: