How Your Body Suffers Injustices

While our society can make recommendations for what is supposedly best for our bodies, we still have bodily autonomy. We still get to decide what “best” truly means. This, however, is where the injustices come in.

Where Body Injustice Shows Up

CW: Violence, assault, sexual abuse, bodily harm, death

Think back to those large social structures like government, law enforcement, and health care.

Politicians make laws telling us what we can and cannot do with our bodies, and courts frequently strike those down. Sometimes, political decisions lead to human rights violations like forced sterilizations. And sometimes, the medical industry itself does not provide informed consent and uses human bodies as experiments.

And we’d like to think this isn’t happening close to home (I’m speaking to my fellow Iowans here), but it does.

Moreover, medicine is not advanced enough to cope with one fact: All bodies are different. The history of medical care is founded upon the White male body as the default. Not only is that inaccurate, it costs people their health, time, money, and lives. That is injustice.

That’s not even all of it. I haven’t even talked about these industries: food, beauty, fashion, technology, fitness, finance, environment, and more. Most social structures have something to say about our bodies without taking into account the truth that they aren’t prepared to deal with how different our bodies are.

My Point . . .

What I want is to advocate for respecting the differences between informed recommendations, generalized suggestions, and force. Thanks to social power, it’s understandable to want to influence behavior for the sake of a healthier populace. We want folks to stop smoking, to stop drinking to excess, and to avoid anything that creates harm. However, we may not always understand what is best for a person especially when our knowledge on what creates harm is still evolving. After all, medicinal marijuana is almost mainstream while some politicians are fearmongering against it (and mind you, I’m not even that interested in weed in any sense, but come on).

Body justice allows room for bodies to be different, to be respected, and to be honored. It allows us to look at our bodies with compassion rather than social expectations thrust upon us. Instead of certain body types being the default of what’s considered healthy, large social structures can adapt to the realities that some bodies need what others don’t. Body justice changes how we see food, exercise, reproductive rights, disabilities, trans rights, sexuality, and mental health. And maybe we could be less stuck on models that simply do not work like dieting, gender binaries, and outdated laws.

In short, tons of industries are making billions on what they tell us our bodies need without knowing anything about who we are, our genetic make up, or our desires. Instead of tailoring to us, they try to manipulate our desires to fit what they’re selling. I’m saying, “That’s enough.”

Toxic Positivity v. Healthy Dose of Reality

Yesterday, I lobbed questions asking what to do about toxic positivity:

How has toxic positivity kept you down? How has a culture of toxic positivity kept you from facing the pain of growth? How has American toxic positivity furthered your trauma? What can you do about it?

See the original post here.

If your answers are all “I don’t know” or “I know, but I could use some pointers” or “Bitch, I’m an expert, but go on,” then this is the first of three strategy-heavy posts to pull you out of the mire of fake smiles and syrupy feelgoodism.

I said the first of the “seemingly easy solutions” was to find support. These are some ways to find healthy, kind support that doesn’t minimize your experiences, feelings, and pain.

Support Looks Like Happiness

Of course, finding any support poses the risk of more toxic positivity. And where you find support depends upon who you are, where you invest your time, and what you value. I could tell you there are caring folks all over social media, but what they post might not be to your liking. I follow a bunch of folks who hype people up within their niches like finances, dance, and body acceptance. Sometimes, even a good meme account or the internet’s best pets help.

The thought is this: Support doesn’t have to be someone who directly addresses your pain. It can be whatever doesn’t feel toxic just to have a haven away from numbed-out denial smiles.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Support Looks Like DMS, Texts, & Chats

Those folks you go to for meme shares, giggle fits, and gif-heavy group chats might be the support you need, but maybe you didn’t think of them. Maybe you’ve missed the obvious. That’s not an insult! Maybe you’re like me, and you have to joke your way through everything to avoid vulnerability. So, your group chats look like this:

This is an actual screenshot of the group chat between my loved ones.

It might feel awkward, but it can be worth it to say to those same folks: “Hey, this sucks for me right now, and everyone I talk to tells me to get over it. I need a hug.” Those chats might turn into this, which is a shit ton better than, “Other people have it worse.”

Same group chat, new day. It was a rough one for all of us.

The point is: While some of your closest humans might not be great with support, others could be if given a chance. They might’ve been holding on to that Baymax gif for months. Who knows?

Support Looks Like Self-Compassion

Don’t forget you. Self-compassion might not be your apricot jam, but it can be, and you already have it in you to try. OK, get that sarcastic laughing out of your system.

I get it. Less than a year ago, the idea of self-compassion was a joke to me. I still and always will have doubts about it; however, therapy, a fantastic resource, and a commitment to feeling better helped me see the sheer strength self-compassion can provide. It can help you:

  • create boundaries with Toxic-Positivity Tinas (I’m going with that; sorry to the people named Tina . . . minus one . . . but that’s a story for another day),
  • hype yourself up because if you can be your own worst critic, you can also be your own best cheerleader, and
  • find the strength to seek mental health help in the form of a counselor or therapy, if that’s a thing you’re considering.

I’m not even scratching the surface of options here, but it’s a place to start. Just pick and use one to see what it’s like to find someone who supports you without the minimizing, denial, and redirection. Even if it’s reading posts on Instagram about toxic positivity, it’s a way to see for yourself that there’s other support waiting for you.

Plus, starting here can help you consider the questions I asked at the start, which I’ll get to on Saturday. But for now, what will you try? And are you ready to talk about honesty tomorrow? Because it’s happening.

Resource of the Day (RoD): Self-Compassion

My therapist suggested (some time ago) that I read Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. I’m finally getting to it, but I struggled to get going. Self-compassion is . . . um . . . well, I’m not all that great at it. So, I told said therapist I wanted to read it, and at the end of our last session, I said, “Give me some homework.” She said she wanted me to have read the first chapter by our next meeting. So, I asked for this pain.

Last night, I finished the first chapter. There are exercises. I both love and hate this. The exercises generated a great deal of anxiety, and I cried trying to explain it to my husband. It’s astonishing to me that trying to be kind to myself causes me so much pain. One exercise involved writing a letter of compassion to myself as if I were an imaginary character. I chose Offread (or June) from The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ll just let that sit where it is.

But the best part was when I took the associated self-compassion quiz, and I got a low score, and I told my husband in a self-deprecating manner that of course, I scored low. He stared at me and goes, “I know it’s not funny, but naturally, you’re giving yourself shit for not scoring high on a self-compassion quiz.”

Yeah. It be like that.

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