Growing up in the 80`s in a very conservative rural environment, there was not much room to question the standards that were set. Standards for how to behave as a girl or woman and standards for how one should look like. Not only were those standards clearly communicated by family members and the direct surrounding, but also by all sorts of media that dripped in.
As a young girl I grew up with the movie „Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella“ a co-production between East Germany and Czechoslovakia. I so much loved this movie and the gorgeous Cinderella, she was the dream to be, and in my daydreams I was like her, only knowing that I was not good looking, not slim, absolutely not fitting into the image of her.
There was this inner urge to fit into those ideals, to be cute, to look like a delicate feminine woman. A constant longing. Well it were either my genes or my upbringing that annihilated this option, whatever it was, I knew those doors were closed for me, it was a matter of impossibility to fit into those wonderful beauty standards. Having gained this inner knowing felt like I already had lost a war against the own physical appearance, but because of the constant hammering in of those beauty standards, there was nevertheless this year – or shall I better say decade - long struggle to anyhow at least try to reach what was the norm.
My body was my constant enemy, because it looked so different from what was needed to fit in, so different from what was expected. So I really deep down knew, I could never be part of the „cool gang“, or even with those who were at least having a good standard appearance.
Yes, I know, it sounds strange to even come up with the description of such categories, but I felt like always ending up in the one, where „unappreciated“ was written in front. Too ugly, too big, too unproportionate, too this, too that and the list could go on endlessly, if I would be willing to go down the rabbit hole, but I am not. I am no longer. I allowed those standards to dictate large parts of my life for far too long. I allowed those standards to hate myself for far too long. It was a painful path, a lonely, insecure one.
And while walking on that path I always admired those who appeared to have found their inner peace, even when they were not fitting into the standards. I admired them for living their life, participating in whatever they enjoyed, even though they were not in the same box with the „cool ones“ and at the same time I felt outraged, by them not kneeling down and feeling miserable like I was.
It almost appears that the endless programming of how we have to look like as either men or women is so fixated, so clearly set up, that it almost doesn`t appear of being a construct, which it is.... it merely is a construct, a societal narrative of how one has to be. Nothing more, nothing less and whether we want to bow to it or not is our decision.
Yes, I know, if we completely ignore that, we might not be part of what is told to be desirable, but maybe it isn`t? Maybe it isn`t desirable to fit in, in order to be loved by others, maybe it would be more desirable to love ourselves first, maybe it would be more desirable to embrace who we are, including how we look first... and yes, I know, this is the hard part, this is the difficult one, because we rarely got taught how to love ourselves, we rarely got taught how to appreciate ourselves, we rarely got taught how to see the beauty in being different.
For many many years, I could not let go of those tight normative standards myself... and I am probably not completely free of them yet. I for sure am not free of them yet, which is ok, we are humans and we want to fit in.
I myself am still on that path to discover how deep that programming goes, to discover that somebody else`s norm is holding me down if I let it, that I allow somebody else`s norm to take away from my life.
I am someone who is still learning and growing, but what I have learned already is, that even though my body for sure does not fit into a glossy magazine - and it probably never will - but this fragile body of mine is nevertheless doing a most fabulous job, day in and day out: my heart is beating every second of my life – even when stumbling from time to time -, I am breathing in and out, in my own rhythm, my body is being a living vibrant vessel to live in. A vessel to experience the world. Experience it with all my astonishing senses. Being able to see all the vibrant colours this earth has to offer, smelling all the varieties of fragrances and choosing the ones I like, feeling textures, enjoying touch, but also feeling feelings themselves, tasting all sorts of incredible tastes, moving, dancing, sleeping, laughing, crying.
I mean, is this in itself not incredible? Is this body of ours not a place to be grateful for?
It is ok to forget that from time to time and it is ok to have wishes and dreams, but what I learned in all those years is that life gets much more peaceful when you can slowly befriend with your own body. Take it as it is, yes, it might not be perfect, yes, it maybe could benefit from polishing here and there, but maybe it isn`t even neccessary, maybe it is good to just ask yourself for a moment, for whom you are doing this? And if you come up with the answer, that you are doing it for someone else, then find out, what you wish to get back from them as their response? And is their response really needed to fill that void you feel within yourself, or would it also be possible to fill it by yourself? Would it be possible for you to just say „I love you“ to your own body, maybe for at least a few tiny moments each day?