A while ago I wrote a piece here about my journey with body positivity, which kind of sparked an idea to ask my friends a set of questions about their relationship with their bodies. So I picked a few of my close friends, from all over the world, and questioned them about their bodies.
This post is the first of a series I’m starting on my blog, which I titled “conversation with friends.” Throughout this series, I am going to question my friends on a number of different issues/topics to show to them and anyone who reads this blog that sometimes we do struggle with the same things. And maybe through that we can create a solidarity between us, which could help us not feel as lost as we all feel most of the time.
could you please share a little about yourself (your gender, sexuality, age etc) if you are comfortable?
Alara: 23, she/they, bisexual.
O.G.: I identify myself as a gay man. Even though I like women emotionally, I rarely get attracted to women physically.
Berk: Hi, I'm Berk. I have a biological male body. I am 23 years old.
Leonie: I'm cis female, straight, white, 23 years old.
Aiza: My name is Aiza. I’m 26 years old, I identify as a woman and, unfortunately so far, I’m straight.
Irem: I am İrem, 25 years old, straight and single female with really high libido.
Irma: Hi, I am a 25 year old straight woman. I have a regular sexual life.
do you love your body/like the way you look?
Alara: most of the days i do but i have this constant fear and anxiety that i will wake up one day and realize i have gained a lot of weight. :-)
O.G.: I always liked my body and still do. But this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to get ripped and gain muscles. Currently I am not fit and still happy with the way I look
Berk: Absolutely love it!
Leonie: On a good day, yes, I think so. On less good days, I like parts of it. The way my hair falls or my eyes or how I look in a certain top or whatever. But usually still unsure about the whole package. Problematic, I know.
Aiza: Eh, it’s a struggle and a process. It goes up and down. Sometimes I’m avoiding mirrors and wearing baggy clothes just because I feel like my body is too big. For me, it’s always been about my body being too big. You know, how some people don’t like their lack of muscles, or want to gain weight, or don’t like their thighs? I always just generally thought I’m either too big at the moment, or I’m okay for now.
Liking my body definitely always correlated with when I felt most skinny. Only recently, I’ve become liking my body best when I felt I was taking care of it.
At this point, I’m at the stage where I like my body. But I know that it could easily go away if I gain weight. So, I’m trying to work on loving myself and my body regardless of the fat it has and how conventionally skinny I look like. I think there’s enormous power in loving your body always, regardless of what others think or what society tells you to think about yourself. Loving my body as a conscious choice, as a strategy of resistance, and not attaching my self-worth and self-confidence to my thinness is something I’m working on.
Irem: I hated my body for years but since I had a break up, I started to like my body better. Being single pushed me to focus on self love more. I like the way I look now.
Irma: I love myself most of the time, but I generally don't like my body. The places I don't like on my body are always the same, they never change. But I'm not doing anything to change it either. As such, I always think I don't want enough.
have you ever struggled with body/confidence issues?
Alara: i have—throughout my life, to be exact
O.G.: this issue went away before when I was in high school
Berk: Generally I have never had a personal problem.
Leonie: Both. Definitely have stressed over how people think of me, both in terms of looks / body and what I say / do, if I'm funny or smart or likeable etc. Also I hate posing for photos and always think I look weird.
Aiza: Yes, I have started noticing it mostly in university. I think this is when my body dysmorphia started. I would look at other women’s bodies and constantly compare them to my own. On some days, all I did was think about how my body looks like and how I want it to look like. Comparisons are deadly. I’m now actively stopping myself from comparing my body to others but it’s not always easy, especially in the age of Instagram.
I also find it kind of funny how obsessed I’m with how my body looks like when it really is just a vessel. In my case, my body is doing great in terms of functionality and I should be way more grateful for that than I already am.
Irem: I have had, and I still do struggle with those issues. I didn’t like my shoulders. I thought my eyeballs looked horrible because they are big. having so much body hair made me feel disgusting.
Irma: I have always had a problem with my body, I have never been completely at peace. I have always had problems such as hiding and not being able to dress comfortably.
if so, what do you think are the reasons behind this struggle?
Alara: my family’s obsession with weight control and how the media has terrorized my perception towards cellulites
O.G.: I don’t. But I feel sad about people who do. Because I do know I am somewhat repossible for societies unrealistic beauty standards since I’m a part of the society.
Berk: I said I don't have a personal problem, but I'm always struggling with it. My motivation in this struggle is to base one's own declaration of existence.
Leonie: Patriarchy. More specifically, family members saying things like I should lose weight, seeing certain (fake) body images everywhere, gossip among peers (maybe even when I was participating in that, it teaches you that if you're weird yourself, this might turn against you), the "summer body" pressure,... I could go on for a while.
Aiza: There are, of course, personal factors, such as my mom being very fatphobic when I was growing up, instilling this notion in me that ‘the skinnier – the better’. She did not know any better, it’s the society that she was brought up in. I think mostly it is just the way women are conditioned to hate our bodies and strive for an impossible standard of beauty. It is really hard to love yourself when you have multibillion-dollar industries (beauty and fashion industries, for instance) with their enormous resources and extensive reach undermining your self-confidence and then selling you the myth of how you should look like.
Irem: Biggest reason is spending our life under a capitalist system which wants us to adore their “production” that we see on tv, billboards, magazines and everywhere else. we are forced wanting to be look like women in media. Another reason is a bit personal one, growing up in turkey is a big struggle for a woman. people pay more attention on how the others look like. Body hair is disgusting in turkey. and I have too much of it. You are gross if you have some on your legs or armpits. Living in Europe since a long time made me feel better about my body hair because here people don’t care about it that much.
Irma: probably society. That's why I can't love myself "as it is" in the first place. Even though sometimes you make peace with yourself, it is not easy to make this change permanent when you live in a society that is the opposite.
do you ever get comments from people about your weight/the way you look?
Alara: most of the days, yes
O.G.: I do get bad comments since I gained around 15 kgs. My reaction to them depend on how close I am with them. If we are close I try to get it positive but if it gets repetitive I make them shut their mouth.
Berk: People generally say how tall I am. (Two meters) I think why this is something surprising. As you seem out of the ordinary, I cannot understand people's negative statements as well as their positive statements.
Leonie: Positive comments from friends or especially during my GS degree from other students in the department. Oh also from my boyfriend, forgot he's relevant to this issue for a sec. Negative comments on weight and general looks from family members. Not all the time, but there's the occasional questions or jokes about weight or clothes, sometimes even in a supposedly supportive way ("You look good, have you lost some weight?")
Aiza: Yes, people feel very entitled to comment on women’s bodies, I feel like. When I gained 10 kg after university, old acquaintances could stop me on the street and tell me I’ve gained so much weight. At the same time, if I lose weight, everyone feels entitled to compliment me on that as well. This way, you get this very clear message about how people prefer you to look like. It’s extremely sad and disturbing when you think about that.
Irem: People usually think I look good because I am “skinny” which doesn’t make any sense. And once you’re skinny, especially in turkey, whenever you gain or lose weight people talk about it. Since living abroad, whenever I see any family member or friend who pays big attention on people’s appearance asks me if I gained weight or not. My cheeks look big. i don’t see any point to answer those questions. And people often comment on my small boobs and they feel bad for me. At the end doesn’t matter if they comment on your skinny or “fat” body. They objectify your body because you’re a woman. You have to look like “something” to satisfy their expectation. I am super sick of it. We have to stop thinking about each other’s appearance.
Irma: I didn't pay any attention to it, but when there is a major change, I usually get comments.
does it help to know that other people are struggling with the same issue?
Alara: unfortunately yes, it does
O.G.: As my personality, I don’t get my happiness over other people’s dramas. We are all on our personal journey
Berk. People can roughly tell you a point you are sensitive to. Not only that, they can also be in the prejudice of your appearance and who you are. Being in solidarity is definitely a source of motivation.
Leonie: It does. But still hard. I know I'm ignoring lots of the advice I give my own friends who are struggling with this.
Aiza: Yes and no. Yes, because then I know it really is a systemic problem and not a personal thing. No, because I’m so tired of this body positive Instagram posts that are mostly just tokenism or already quite thin people talking about body positivity.
Irem: Of course it helps. More we share with each other more we get over it. I would do anything to make others feel better about themselves. Cause everyone deserves to feel good in their body.
Irma: Yes, it makes me happy whenever I read experiences similar to my own. I feel more "normal".
have these questions made you uncomfortable, if so, why?
Alara: yes, they have. i’m sick and tired of knowing everyone is constantly monitoring my body and therefore is entitled to every single fucking detail of it
O.G.: Kind of did. Do you see me as fat?!??? Just kidding. Actually I am honoured to answer these questions. I think you asked me because you value my opinions.
Berk: I wasn't bothered by the questions.
Leonie: Not really, probably because we already talked about these issues before and I feel comfortable talking to you about stuff like this. Thinking about posting about this publicly makes me uncomfortable though cause (see point 3) insecurity about what people think is hard to get rid of.
Aiza: Not uncomfortable, but they made me think of the depth of my body issues. It is definitely a big part of my self-confidence struggle.
Irem: No they haven’t, im so glad you are asking those questions. We need to talk more about this issue in order to change things in this disgusting society. All over the world. You are amazing and I love you so much. Marry me.
Irma: I felt a little uncomfortable because these are actually questions about whether you love yourself or not. It is a very important issue. But on the other hand, it wasn't something I'd never thought of before, so I was comfortable. Because those who are not at peace with their bodies know, you can never forget this issue. Sometimes you think a lot, sometimes a little, but it's always somewhere in your mind.
any final words?
O.G.: Stay true b*******s
Berk: What complements a mind is the soul. Forget the idea that a soul should have a body or sex. Now!
Leonie: That sounded very negative. Would also like to add that it's all a work in progress and I do actually feel way more comfortable about my looks and opinions now than I did a couple of years ago! Talking to (female!) friends and wearing clothes I like, and reminding myself I'm not actually that important to other people (it's not like everyone spends all day thinking about how I look and what I say) help, among other things.
Aiza: I think about these Audre Lorde’s words a lot: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
In a world where capitalism made our (women’s) insecurities and self-hatred so profitable, loving yourself, and your body, is not just a nice thing to do. It is an act of resistance, an act of your own little feminist revolution.
Irem: People are more than their appearance. people have to stop objectifying people and focus on what’s inside. Or not focus at all. People better focus on themselves, try to enjoy living in this fucked up world and don’t comment on each other.