Content Warning: This post contains information about depression and anxiety caused body image, which may be triggering to some survivors.
"This Thing Called Loving my Body," Danielle Johnson
Recently my father came to me and told me he was sorry. He told me he regretted not being the father I needed and for the things that he had said to me (I would never have a boyfriend unless I lost weight, wouldn’t get the lead in the school play, wouldn’t make it in the music industry because of my image, and more). He told me he now understood that he needed to just love me for who I am. He wanted things to be different. This was not a conversation I ever anticipated having, nor did I know how to respond to it.
I know that I am lucky, because this is not a conversation many people get to have with their parents. They do not get the chance to “start over,” to acknowledge the things that have gone wrong. The problem is, his saying “sorry” doesn’t erase all of the things I heard him say. It doesn’t dispel all of the things I have come to believe about myself because of him and because of what I have heard society tell me about my body. I forgive him, and we’re working on our relationship…but the damage has been done.
This thing called loving my body, this radical notion in a world that tells me my body, and therefore I, am not lovable, is really hard. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And for whatever reason, it’s not getting any easier. Even after months of counseling and the revelation from my father, I am still struggling, and struggling a lot.
I’ve tried so hard, believe me I’ve tried. I have tried wearing what I want, eating what I want, trying not to care about what other people think about me, but it’s difficult. I find myself thinking the same things, fearing my old fears. I have tried to accept myself and love myself for who I am, but some days I think it would all just be easier if I looked differently.
And trust me, I know I’m awesome.
I’m smart, I’m funny, and I’m a positive person.
I care so much about other people. I work hard for the students that I give my all for. I like my hair, and I have nice eyes. I am nicely proportioned. I laugh loud and long. I’ve got a good fashion sense. But I’m afraid my body and people’s ideas about my own body is holding me back and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m afraid that people’s perceptions will forever be in my way.
I wish that more body positive people in the spotlight would talk more about this. How it is a battle, day after day after day, to tell yourself what the media and what others think is not true. There’s a lot of stuff to wade through, and it’s more than just telling yourself that you’re great. I know I’m great.
So why do I still feel ashamed?
Why do I still feel discouraged?
Why do I still wish I was in someone else’s body?
I feel like most of the people I look up to and most of the people who talk about body positivity don’t talk about their struggles. They just say “Nope screw it! Screw what everyone thinks! I’m awesome! And it doesn’t matter what anyone else says!”
…Okay, but don’t you ever still have bad days? Don’t you still find yourself thinking negatively about your body? Some of them do mention things, but rarely go into details. Well, I need to hear it. I need to hear that I’m not alone, and that while I’m trying to believe I’m awesome, it’s okay to not be quite there yet. And it will be okay years from now when I still struggle, because by now I know this will be a life-long battle.
There is so much for me to unlearn. I need to know that it’s a process. I need to know that this is a journey, that even though I wake up and say “I’m awesome”, and that I’m still going to think these things because I’ve been programmed to. And that it’s okay. It’s normal. I have hope that one day I’ll be able to be comfortable with who I am and what I look like. Until then, I’ll be wading through, hoping the darkness will turn into light.
About the art:
This painting is for Danielle.
It is inspired by a song that means a lot to her. "Last Hope" by Paramore. If you haven't heard it yet, I definitely recommend you give it a listen. It is an incredibly moving song and I can see why it means so much to Danielle.
This painting is of a sunset over a city skyline with stars peeking out to represent the infinite possibilities in her future. The dancer pictured in the bottom center is her free spirit with the bright colors bursting forth representing light, love, and happiness.
Danielle is an incredibly sweet person and I am so glad she shared her story and that I could make this for her.