Body fat? Don’t sweat that!
Body fit? Don’t give a . . . you get the idea.
Today I want to talk about an important topic; body image (I will use the term “beauty” and body image almost interchangeably). Specifically, I want to talk about your body as it relates to massage. At least once a week I hear something like this:
“I’m sorry you have to touch my hairy legs, I forgot to shave today.”
“Oh hey Abby! I really want to get a massage from you someday, I just want to lose a couple pounds first.”
Body Image ≠ Massage Worthiness
Boys and Girls, I’m here to tell you that your body hair and your body composition have nothing. . . like, zero to do with your worthiness of receiving or enjoying a massage! In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that your job, relationship status, whether you’re a good parent, if you paid your taxes, if you smoke or drink too much, your exercise regimen (or lack thereof), your bank account, your water intake, how many chicken wings you ate last night, your age, your sexual orientation . . . NONE of it has anything to do with whether you deserve a massage! Why? Because massage is self care, and we all deserve self care . . . it’s actually super important for maintaining our emotional and physical health. If everyone deprived themselves of massage because of their body fat, body hair or any other superficial B.S. like that, let me tell you, I’d still be slinging egg sandwiches and mocha lattes! I, and many other massage therapists, have seen it all and we aren’t going to even notice or care. We’re not in the business of judging people, we’re in the business of helping them!
I mean seriously, most of my male clients have leg hair, so why on earth would I care if my female clients had full leg hair, much less a week’s worth of stubble? I have clients who are so proud of the 70 pounds they lost to get under 250, why would I care about the extra 10 someone’s been carrying since the holidays? So please, don’t not (double negative – roll with it!) get a massage because you’re self conscious about these things. Your health and well-being are far too important!
‘Tis the Season for Body Positivity
Because we’re heading into that season where everyone starts to question their body image, I am here to tell you that all of the stuff I just listed above, that has nothing to do with whether or not you deserve to wear and do whatever the heck you want this summer. Want to wear a bikini but have stretch marks? Wear that damn bikini; those are powerful reminders of the incredible thing your body did! Dude’s got a hairy back, so what? Rock that sweater vest at the beach! Are you fatter than a supermodel? Perfect! Most of us are. Let’s have a pool party!
I’m so tired of hearing people trash on themselves for not being perfect! We all have a friend who comments on her belly fat or stretch marks . . . I get it, she’s thinking about herself and not the other 3 of us she’s talking to, but the second she does that, we’re all thinking “Oh shoot, right. We’re supposed to be more perfect than this. I hate my (insert body part here) and I feel self-conscious about that.” The whole self-flagellation thing is really destructive to ourselves and those we speak this nonsense to and it serves no purpose.
I’m even more pissed when people trash on other people. Who gave any of us the right to comment on another person’s body? That’s their effing body! So what if it’s not perfect, it’s doing pretty much what it’s supposed to (breathing, moving blood around, taking care of stuff) leave it the eff alone! And if you say crap about your or anyone else’s body around kids, I might have to pinch you (that’s as violent as I get).
Do it for the Kids!
Listen, kids don’t know anything about beauty or body image. You know why? We’re not born judgemental. We’re hardwired to think our caregivers and loved ones are the most beautiful beings on the planet because babies still remember that beauty actually comes from within. We get programmed by society to think ABC are beautiful and XYZ are not. True story; up until I was 11 I believed that my 5’1” mama with a belly covered in stretch marks and a funky foot that turned out to one side was the most beautiful woman in the world. Then I learned about Seventeen Magazine (blegh) and Cindy Crawford edged her out. (For what it’s worth, 30 years down the road, I changed my mind again. Love you Mom, you’re beautiful!) When we pass judgment on our own or other people’s bodies in front of kids we are setting an example of judgment and body shaming, and you know what comes next? They start doing it to themselves and each other. What is sadder than a nine year old child coming home from school, having been teased about their weight? Oh wait, I know, an eight year old child saying to their mom “I hate that picture of me, I look fat!” We have to change this!
Last summer my 10 year old niece asked me, “Why do you have long armpit hair?” My response; “Because I reject the conventional standards of beauty established by the patriarchy that say the hair on my head should be long and the hair on my body should be non-existent. If Grandpa/Uncle/Dad can have shaved heads and armpit hair, so can we!” Did you know that in 1915, during World War I in 1915, the Gillette Safety Razor Company introduced the first safety razor for women: the Milady Decolletée, as a means to increase razor sales? They marketed it heavily to women who, up until that point, mostly went au natural. It seems a little silly that a couple generations later we are so programmed to believe being attractive means a woman must do something a man does not. Moreover, if a man DID shave his legs or pits, I’d wager that someone would take issue with that as well. In my opinion, it’s especially important to offer girls different concepts of what is beautiful, and actually, to stop placing so much emphasis on a person’s physical attributes at all. When a little girl is told from a young age that she’s beautiful/pretty, instead of bright, powerful, whitty, interesting, imaginative, capable, a good athlete, creative or talented, she is conditioned to believe her identity and value lay in her physical appearance, when what we really want to do is empower our girls to be strong, independent and engaged in the world around them.
I want to live in a world where girls and boys are encouraged to find their own expression of beauty; to buck trends and dare to be different. Because really, what’s more beautiful than confidence, individuality and open-mindedness? One of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known would not be found on a magazine cover, but they are so generous, kind, loving, engaging, honest, funny, genuine, open-minded and pleasant to be around that they light up every room they walk into. I want my – strike that – ALL kids to care about that kind of beauty, not what someone’s belly or armpits look like!
I feel like this is an important time for me to make a couple points:
- We are all insecure, each and every one of us, about some aspect of our physical appearance. One person’s insecurities are no more or less valid than another’s and we don’t get to decide who’s allowed to have theirs and who’s not. It’s totally ok to be insecure, and totally necessary to battle those demons that tell us our flaws mean anything about our character.
- Character is everything. Your beautiful hair, toned body, white teeth and perfect eye lashes mean nothing if you’re a crummy person.
- I’m not saying that you should feel bad if you care about your appearance. I’m not saying you should stop shaving if you’re a woman or stop working out if you’re a man. A person’s grooming choices and exercise regimen are none of my (or anyone else’s) business. The entire point is, you do you, leave other people alone. Better yet, you love you, and encourage other people to love themselves!
So, tell me, are you ready to be a little more positive about your body? If you need me to remind you, I will; you’re beautiful! And . . . you should get a massage if you want a massage.
The concept of body positivity has been around for a while, so if you’re interested in exploring it more, here are a few great resources:
https://www.thebodypositive.org/model – a great organization that provides training and resources on inclusion and body positivity
http://www.kaarelong.com/body-positive-is-easy-to-say-much-harder-to-do/ – this is a great blog, and this post in particular talks about walking the difficult walk of body positivity.
https://www.buzzfeed.com/norawhelan/body-positivity-101 a great article about the basics of body positivity
Oh, and because it’s almost Father’s Day, skip the tie or BBQ utensils and get him a massage gift certificate! 10% off now until Sunday! Use code ILOVEDAD at checkout.