Name: Stéphanie Jean-Baptiste
Passion: Committed to Free self-expression, and to the abolition of inequalities in all of its manifestations.
Reflections on My Relationship with my Body
I have been very abusive to myself and to my body. I wish I could have given a smoother introduction. But this is my blunt and unpolished truth. I have never really given my body the time or chance to just be. It was always too small in certain places, too big in others. Too weak, too stiff. It didn’t matter what my body looked like, it was never enough, and no measures were too harsh for me to make sure that my body behaved. But my body does not behave. It is not meant to stay in place or look the same.
"My weight goes up and down. I change shape, form, and appearance. Maybe Someone had convinced me, that if I grew a stomach, I would suddenly become ugly. if my breasts drop that I would be less desirable. if I carried life inside my body, and there was evidence of it in the form of stretch marks, or excess skin, than I would be unattractive. That way of thinking has no logic to me, But yet, it is the one I have followed blindly, that I still sometimes follow, on my worst days, on days where my self-esteem is at its lowest point and I’m not strong or wise enough to fight it."
I wish I had been like those people who ooze confidence. Could they sit me down and tell me how to do that thin, where they seem to love themselves, and everything about themselves. Their bodies, their personalities. Who taught me not to love my body? Part of my body that I hated the most was my mouth. I didn’t hate how it looked, but what it did in some ways. Why must it speak? Why must I choke on my own words, forcing it down, swallowing, always swallowing something down. Because my mouth is so intent on speaking or yelling “Why won’t you just love me as I am”. But the world looked at me and told me that I spoke too much. And when I paid close attention, I noticed that the world cared even less when a woman had a stomach that was wider than her hips. It was an odd mathematical calculation; a person’s worth based on the proportions of a body? It never fails. I would know, I’ve assessed my own worth this way and I’ve shrunken myself a thousand times over, and called it love.
"Was it low self -esteem? I could not have considered that option. I used to be so confident, so sure that my mother’s oppression had escaped me. That I was smarter and more able for not experiencing what she experienced. I have memory flashes of my mother, grabbing her stomach in disdain and telling it “if only you weren’t here, if this thing could just be gone, I would be fine, I just need to lose my stomach”. And then I saw my aunt do it, and then before I knew it, it had caught up to me and I was looking down at my own body, in disgust, wondering, why was I cursed with a stomach. It had caught up to me, I who thought I had escaped the curse. I suffered from the arrogance of youth, of thinking I knew everything; or simply the arrogance of being me; I, the queen of assumptions spoken with absolute confidence. I thought I was smart and that nothing escaped me, but I could not see the ways that society had convinced me to carve my body with my own critical mind, and my own sharp tongue".
It was a language of hatred, that I directed at my body. It manifested itself in the form of 7 days fasts where I would not eat anything and only drink water while also working out and lifting weights. I have measured my stomach, and my thighs, and my arms I called it self-discipline. I worked out for up to 6 continuous hours a day, until I only felt pain in my body. Until not feeling pain or sore, felt strange. Working out became a punishment. I told myself “if you eat this slice of cake, you have to run or do 500 sit-ups” (yes 500, the full 500). It wasn’t discipline. It was abusive. And I was convinced that it was the right way to treat my body. It didn’t matter to me; as long as I reached my goals. And I always reach my goals. If I could have a smaller stomach, and if I could hug my own body, maybe I’d be small enough now. Small enough to not be bullied, to be loved, to be nice to, to be listened to. But the world barely listens to women with small waists… so what was the point of all of that?
I really wish that my mind did not concern itself with such futile thoughts for example how I assumed the way people treated me depended on which size I was. I’m getting just tired enough not to care anymore. I’m getting tired enough to realize that the least exhausting route is the one of self-acceptance and self-love. All very empty words for me right now. I don’t really know what they mean. Something to do with having forgiveness and kindness for yourself. And I don’t even really know what that looks like. How can I show kindness to my body? I don’t know… but I know I am tired enough not to hate my body. Tired enough to let go completely during sex, because I don’t want to care about how I think I look. Tired enough not to
go swim naked and let myself take space even when I think I’m too big.
"It gets a bit complicated in my head when I try to think about it. The levels at which this body image thing controls my life always surprises me. I realized that those insecurities were not going to go away, if anything they’re just going to keep piling up. Unless…. Yes unless of course, I decide that that will be no more the case. Can you decide your insecurities away? At the most basic level, when I approach my body as objectively as possible, I now understand my body as a shell in which I navigate the world. No matter the shape or color, because it carries life, it is beautiful, and it should be loved. But I did not love my body; and maybe, right now, I don’t have to.
Instead, I have been trying to accept it, and I have decided to have gratitude for it. I believe that I can display gratitude without love. I am grateful for my body, as it allows me to exist. I am grateful for the stomach that digests my food, even when I overfeed it when I eat from stress and anxiety. I am grateful to my body that allows me to experience the taste of soup joumou, the rain, and the orgasms that I received from kind and mindful partners. It’s been a little better since I started to do that. But just a little. It would be like if someone took 1 pound of a 100 pound rock that’s resting on my shoulders. But at least, now my relationship with my body weighs more like 99pounds on my shoulders. 1pound down, 99 more to go.
So this is it. This is as far as I’ve gotten on my reflections on my relationship with my body. I’m at a point of gratitude, and I am a beginner at being good to myself, and to my body. Maybe, sometime soon, I’ll be able to say that I love my body, and I’ll mean it.
"The body knows things that our reason ignores, which even science cannot discover.The mystery of ourselves, it is up to us to discover it. The mystery of our desires, the key to enjoyment, ecstasy, and passion. Our body knows what we do not know. Our purpose still remains in demystifying it, by creating new dreams, new idealistic perceptions and more realistic projections of it. In a new world that sweeps away the old, a new world where the impossible becomes possible".
Simone De Beauvoir