Thursday, February 25, 2010

Body Image, Bravery and HNT

I have struggled with body image issues my entire life. I don't remember a time when I didn't hate my body, whether it was my freckles, my hair, my pallid skin, my body size or shape...none of it ever pleased me. I never looked in the mirror and thought good thoughts. Like so many other girls, I have never been able to look in the mirror or at pictures of myself and not tear to pieces what I saw there. No matter what cruel things have been said to me by various people at various times, I have always been the person who treated myself the worst.

I am a recovered(ing?) bulimic. It's been awhile since I purged, but rarely a week goes by without the compulsion rearing it's ugly head. It's a compulsion like nothing else I've ever felt. But, now, there is always in my mind that beautiful young girl I'm raising, and the idea that I could relapse and she could find out about that relapse is a pretty decent defense. It gives me more strength than I'd ever have on my own. Because, you see, as a mother of a young girl, I am painfully aware of negative body image and the effect that media has on a young girl. I try really hard to make sure she knows that she's beautiful, that she's perfect the way she is. I try to help her love who she is and the body that contains who she is. But I am just one tiny voice, and the media is everywhere, telling her in subtle and blatant ways that she is not good enough, that she will never be good enough. And the idea that she could hate herself the way I have always hated myself sickens me in a way I cannot ever describe.

Just recently, she had an assignment for school and she had to do a project about her biggest hero. To my utter delight and surprise, she chose me. She wanted to talk about how smart I am and how I deal with being sick and how I'm still a good mom despite that. And, wow, nothing in the world makes you want to be a better person than the realization that your child admires want to feel like you deserve that admiration. So, we had an evening where we went through my old Academic Decathlon stuff, and pictures of me and we talked about me. Which was...disconcerting. I mean, certain things I love to talk about, like Academic Decathlon, and my friends and things I like to read and basically anything dealing with my intelligence, of which I have an inordinate amount of pride (or vanity). But when she asked me why there are hardly any pictures of me, I had a hard time coming up with a good answer. How do you tell your child that you hate yourself? You can't. Not if you are a halfway sane and decent parent. So, I stuttered about and made excuses about always being the one taking the pictures, which she called me on because I never let her take my picture. So, I made some more lame excuses and changed the subject.

But, later on, and over the past few weeks, it's been gnawing at me. The best way to lead is by example, right? Because that whole "Do as I say, not as I do" thing is ridiculously ineffective. And I want to keep her respect, and being a hypocrite isn't the best way to do that, I think.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs last week, and the writer had posted her HNT picture. For those you who are unfamiliar with HNT, it stands for Half-Nekkid Thursday. You can read about it here. HNT is different things to different people. For some, it is an opportunity to let out their inner exhibitionist, for others, it's about the art and for still others it's about bravery. But, the basic idea is to celebrate the human body, in all it's wildly imperfect perfection. HNT is not pornography nor is it about sex, though, of course, given the subject matter, many HNT pictures are sexy or provocative. But, they can also be silly or sad, serious or light hearted.

I've been looking at HNT pictures for a long time, as I do truly admire the human body, and yeah, some of the bloggers I look at regularly I find attractive, but that's not why I keep reading their blogs. They have substance, or their pictures are beautifully artistic or they give good photography tips. So, I've been sort of ruminating and I've decided to begin HNT here on my blog. I'm hoping that by forcing myself to take pictures of myself, I will have to look at my body through different eyes. Not hating, loathing eyes, but objective eyes. I'm hoping to gain acceptance of myself, and wow, does that sound awfully corny to my cynical mind.

Obviously, I'm aware that since some of my readers (most, actually) know me in real life, this is sort of a pretty big minefield to navigate. Americans are incredibly prudish and while it's totally okay to look at pictures of people we don't know, looking at naked pictures of our friends and family members is a huge taboo. But, even though I'm embarking on this learn to love my body project, I'm not looking to change my basic personality, so you aren't going to see something vulgar or horrifying. I mean, my mother reads this blog, as do other family members, and there's a contingent who know about and read this blog in what I feel is an attempt to find things to use against me. So, while you're going to see more of me than you ever have, you're not going to be seeing anything R rated, let alone X rated.

I thought about starting a different blog, or just posting on one of the many sites that allows random posting of HNT pictures, but I rejected that idea almost immediately. First of all, I post here erratically enough as it is, splitting my posting energy between this blog and another blog is unrealistic and would lead to the demise of both pretty quickly. Secondly, starting a new blog would mean having a blog with zero readership, so there would be no accountability. And, I really think this is important for me. It will be good for me to in that making this commitment guarantees that I blog at least once a week, but I think it'll actually lead to me blogging more than that, because I'm going to not want it to be all about HNT, so I'm going to be forcing myself to blog on other days about other things.

I took this picture in bathroom mirror. My bathroom has the best lighting of any room in the house, and since I'm new to this, I wanted to keep it simple, so I didn't want to try to set up a scene and use the timer function on my camera, though another perk of this project is that it's going to push me to be a better photographer.

Without further ado...Welcome to the first edition of the Queen of the Universe's Half-Nekked Thursday...


Osbasso said...

Welcome to HNT! I love reading your reasons for jumping in! I've heard dozens of times over the years from women who have felt the same as you, and how HNT has helped them. I hope it does the same for you!

I also like your description of what HNT is for various people. You really HAVE been around to check that you!

Looking forward to seeing more from you!

The Covert Lover said...

Ok, first I must say that freckles ROCK! ;)
But I totally understand the hating your body thing - and I think most girls do. HNT can definitely boost your self confidence, and I sure hope it does for you.

I also second Os about the HNT description - it's perfect.

Great pic and the mice are too cute! :)

Loverboy said...

Hi Laura

Lovely first HNT~!
You have such gorgeous hair and beautiful skin~!

Loverboy & Al

Lou Ann said...

What a beutiful pic! Composition, subject and for this blog site very well done! I was wondering if your self-dislike (won't call it hatred, as in my eyes, that would include your entire being, and as you pointed out, that is not the case), still bothered you....and so glad you are being honest with Cass - its sooo hard on a parent when they haven't a clue how their child feels about their image, and as u said, u are up against society and thats a hard thing to get thru to another person. And you need to be honest with Cass so she will be honest about the way SHE feels and will share that with you. Any way, just to let you know, I have lots of pics of you over the years you can share with your daughter, I can send them to this is an important part of sharing with proud of you (once again :-) )

Anonymous said...

welcome to the hnt party! love the mice tats


Curvaceous Dee said...

I am so damned proud of you, Laura! Welcome to the HNT crowd - and you started with a stunning photo! It's one of my favourites this week, so it's going to be in my Sunday roundup.

xx Dee

The Panserbjørne said...

Here via Curvaceous Dee's link. I just wanted to jump in and say that I applaud your attempts to get control of your self-image. That is a perfectly lovely shot and I thank you for sharing it with us.

Happy HNT to you; I hope you'll continue to participate.

-- PB

Genevieve said...

Welcome!!! I started a new blog so I could participate in HNT and am still freaked out that certain people from one part of life will find their way to this other area I'm trying explore.

Cool blog! Great photo!!

Kiwiana said...

Hi Laura, I've not met you but wow! I'm blown away by your words and the intense depth of your thoughts. Your post is courageous!

I found your HNT on Curvaceous Dee's favourites post. I love the picture. I was drawn to it because your cleavage is shaped like someone I know. And the photography styling and crop is delightful. Most of allyou're beautiful.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Lovely Laura,

My beautiful sister, I am so proud of you! I wish I could be as brave as you.