Amanda Light, March 2021
Amanda Light's Story Behind Beauty
Body image is something that I've struggled with for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, much younger, my first memories of what my body looked like to others, was that it was "less than". I was always chubby. I've always carried extra weight... and how did I know this? Because people told me so. These people were sometimes close to me, family members even, while others were just casual acquaintances. But I knew very early on that the world equated "thin" with "worthy" and that I was not either of those things... and so began my lifelong struggle with my weight and feeling good about myself.
Amanda with her kids Fall 2020
At 38 years old, I can still pinpoint moments that hurt me very deeply and created the mindset that I've had to work so hard to combat. In the society that we live in, especially when I was growing up, being fat was/is not a good thing. Being "overweight" is considered shameful and this was just how I had been conditioned. I didn't get to be fat and not be consistently reminded of it. When I was in elementary school, we had this thing in gym class called the President's Physical Fitness test. The whole thing left me feeling inadequate but the moment when our gym teacher would weigh you then grab the fat of your arm to measure your BMI in front of everyone... that was one of the first moments I felt traumatized. He marked me down as "not passing" or "obese"... in elementary school! There were others in the same boat as me but at such an early age, I didn't think to say to them, "Wow, this is some bullshit, right guys?". Instead, I thought to myself
"Wow, I am so unworthy. I am so fat." These were the thoughts of a child.
When I was in junior high, we had a substitute teacher and were allowed to just do whatever. Two boys in my class decided to use this time to sit and ridicule me. They sat there asking me what it was like to graze, munching on grass because I was as huge as a buffalo. They laughed. They kept bullying. They'd laugh some more, while I sat there having to take it. I went to the teacher and told her what was happening and she did nothing about it but excuse me to the bathroom so I could cry with some privacy. This happened to me when I was still a child.
When I was in high school, and after I had lost a considerable amount of weight due to a diet of broccoli and a lot of exercising, I was still ridiculed for being fat. I was still the chubby friend at my lowest weight ever as a semi-adult human. I sat in an art class while someone called me "fatty" over and over again. I asked my teacher for support but again, he did nothing. The adults in my life allowed this shaming to continue, over and over again, over the course of many years, so it's no wonder that for many, many years, I have and still do have an inconsistent relationship with food, exercise and how I look at my body.
These are just a few specific examples of the things that can condition a person to have very low opinion of themself and these are some of the things, among others, that I have experienced. I am one of those people who looks back at pictures and thinks "damnit, I was way too f&*ing hard on myself, like WAY too hard." But it is what it is. I tell you all these experiences not to elicit sympathy but to explain how a person can get to a place where they can think so little of their own person. These things happened to me and for good or for bad, they have shaped who I am today.
At some point since having children, I decided that I just needed to give myself some grace. Perhaps it's that body positivity is now "a thing", a thing I am allowed to be... proud of my body and all it has done and can do... or perhaps that as I have gotten older, that I just don't care as much what other people think of me? But one day a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to wear a cropped shirt, so I did, and my belly showed, the belly that belonged to a woman who birthed two children, and I only felt a little bit self conscious about it... and it was a small thing yet a big thing, if that makes sense. It was a turning point in my body image journey.
I still battle diet culture, societal pressure and all the things going on in my own brain, every single day to be sure. Afterall, I had been successfully programmed from early on... but now I have more tools now at my disposal, tools that help me combat the shit that I have been fed for over 30 years of my life. I see other women and men talking about body struggles and I don't feel alone. I see women and men showing their imperfect bodies and being proud of themselves. I see people calling out fitness instructors for telling us to "earn our food" with a workout. I see people speaking up and out about toxic messaging coming at us from all angles and it gives me hope that things might just be improving... but it's only if we all change our mindset, right? We all have to say #OwnYourBodBabe and f&*k you to all the haters. We only have one life so let's not spend the whole thing torturing ourselves to fit some unattainable and/or unsustainable beauty ideal. We should be allowed to feel beautiful in our bodies, end of story.
Oh, and I will never, ever, ever be one of those adults who purposely dulls the shine of a perfectly beautiful human being. I am taking my shit and ending the cycle in my life.
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