Episode #64: My Personal Journey with Body Shame – International Women’s Day
I am your host, Caneel Joyce, and this is Allowed. Welcome back to the show. We are coming up on International Women’s Day. And I think I’d like to do something a little different with today’s episode. I feel my hands shaking a little bit thinking about this. I’m going to do something a little different and I’m going to tell you some personal things about being a woman. So I identify as she, her, and that is an important part of my identity. And where I get most triggered and below the line and in drama is when I think that there’s been some anti-feminist injustice and I can very quickly get myself into a mode where I see it all around me. And I get angry and it’s not usually productive.
So a lot of my own journey has been coming to grips with what are the ways that it’s not true this story that men keep me down? What are the ways that it is that the opposite of that story is actually true and that I participate in this thing I’m making up, this story of I’m being oppressed? And I’m really of two schools of thought on this. On the one hand, I realized that oppression itself is a big story and can’t be true because it’s a construct. It’s a story. And on the other hand, a big part of me thinks power dynamics are real.
So I named that just to share that what I’m sharing with you is I’m in a journey. I’ve been in a journey for a long time around this stuff and I’m most likely going to be going above and below the line throughout this episode. So I wanted to name that and name that I’m not attempting to spread drama. What I really want to do is speak to those of you who have also experienced some level of body shame, okay? So that’s the theme for today, body shame.
So I’m sitting here right now and I’m 10 pounds heavier than I was at the beginning of COVID. My work in where I am in my own journey is loving accepting that and not making it a problem. And that’s, to me, a massive feminist goal is not making my body a problem in any way. So body shame is something that we often say comes from the outside. So we get shamed, right? We get shamed by society. We get told that we’re bad, we’re wrong, but then we feel shame and we internalize it. And then we often in an attempt to protect ourselves, perpetuate the shame and the blame and the stories that were wrong because we have some idea that if we do that, we will have more control and be able to be accepted by others.
And I’ve been deep down that hole. Right now I’m in my early 40s, but I grew up in Los Angeles back then in the ’90s when I graduated high school, and this was the peak heroin chic, super skinny supermodel era. And I was also trying to be a legitimate actress and going to auditions and getting rejected. And where I always went with it is I’m fat. I’m fat so I can’t get the roles I want to get. I have to diet. Dieting isn’t working. What else can I do? Nothing felt like it was quite working. Ironically, I naturally lost 20 pounds the second I stopped doing that to myself without even trying or even noticing because food no longer was a thing that I needed to control or that had control over me. I was actually just listening to my body and following it, which led me down a big path of understanding that when I can really just accept and allow and listen, then I am going to be more whole and vibrant and alive. And a lot of that, you’ll see the threads of a lot of that here in this show.
Body shame, we can have Body shame but anything. I think that we talk a lot about when we don’t fit what seems to be the norm of what’s represented, we feel underrepresented in our body type or in the current state that our body’s in. It can be about our weight, it can be about our muscles, it can be about our hair, it can be… Oh, by the way, I’m a personally very, very hairy person. I’ve had a lot of shame about that too. Truly grateful for laser hair removal. It can be about our skin, it can be… I had major cystic acne. I’ve been down that path too, but now you look at me and you think like, “This is a really naturally skinny person.” But my job is not to allow that to define me and to actually enjoy the experience of being in my body versus some imaginary place way out there where I’m looking at and judging my body. Why does this relate to Women’s Day? Why does this relate to feminism?
I’ve read some articles recently that really hit home for me. And I’ve read these things before, but for some reason, this year it’s really hitting home for me that body shaming and actually beauty industry as a whole, the diet industry, a lot of the nutrition industry, the exercise… A lot of that like fashion industry, so many huge industries profit from telling women that they are not enough. Not fit enough, not thin enough, not curvy enough, not pretty enough, not hairless enough, not tan enough, too tan, not spotless enough, whatever. And when we, if you’re a woman, buy into that, or if you’re a man, or if you identify in some other way, when you buy into that big profitable story, you are contributing to gender oppression.
So if gender oppression is real, I think it comes in the form of we learn stories that we use to send ourselves and others into drama. And from drama below the line, we do not have access to our full power. So from that logic, these stories that we need to change the way we look to match some unattainable ideal because there are enough different ideals that we can always compare ourselves to something that we don’t measure up to, but when we do that, we are logically disempowering ourselves and others, including if you do not identify as a woman. Because when there is a rejection of any part of our collective whole as human beings, and women are an important chunk of that, that is also an internal rejection for all of us of the parts of ourselves that are feminine, that are womanly, that are all of the things that that signifies. And it’s a judgment of all of those things and it’s an imbalanced valuing of certain attributes.
We’re not born into body shame. We learn it. And I’m seeing this because we only have power when we recognize that, A, it’s not our fault that we have those stories, that we learn those stories, that we tell those stories. It’s not our fault. It’s not even our responsibility. We didn’t write the stories. We learned them. However, now that we’ve recognized that, it’s time for us to say, “And who’s telling the stories now?” I only have power when I try to control what I can control and when I stop wasting my energy on trying to control things I can’t control.
So what can I control? I can control my choices. That’s it. I can make choices about the types of thoughts I want to encourage in myself. I can make choices around what are the things I’m going to expose myself to or focus on that are going to trigger my thoughts. I can control me buying into an idea that my story is right, okay? I can say, “Hold on. I know I feel really right that I look fat in these pants,” whatever it is. This is just my thing, okay? There’s a million different forms of this. And it’s ridiculous that I… No matter who has that thought, it’s a ridiculous side. It’s a story. It’s a story. But I can control saying, is that really true? If I choose to take that step, is it really true? It’s subjective. It’s not a fact, okay? It’s a subjective thing.
Go back and listen to our episode on fact versus story, which was episode 46. And I’ll link to that in our show notes. And there, you can learn about how when we think that our stories are facts, that’s what sends us into drama and that’s where suffering happens. Learn about the drama triangle in episode six. Again, I’ll link to that one in the show notes as well. But these shame filled stories, when I realize I’m the one who’s telling them to myself, I’m repeating them to myself, I’m encouraging them in myself by where I put my focus, and I keep claiming that they’re right, it means I’m not questioning my stories.
So what is true? What is objectively true? What’s true is there’s a number on a scale. Is that a problem? No. Now, it might be true that I heard my doctor say, this is not the case for me but it’s an example, that I heard my doctor say that it would be good for me to have that number go down to another number or go up to another number or have my body composition change or whatever. Like I could have heard that from my doctor. I can choose to believe it or not, but I don’t have to make it mean something about me. It’s just a thing. And now from here I can make choices.
And what I want to just really point out is there’s such an opportunity for all of us as women to help stop this cycle where we self-perpetuate the drama that we claim we don’t want to be in, where we disempower ourselves and we blame it on others. We can stop that. We can truly, truly stop that. And we can only do that once we recognize that our oppressor is the story and our oppressor is ourself when we’re the one telling the story. And we can also stop spreading it by not bonding over body shame. When I was going to UCLA here, that was also like in the ’90s. So Los Angeles ’90s, very big culture of thinness. And one of the ways that I feel conversation would often have us in like “bonding” was about how are you dieting right now? And, oh, I shouldn’t eat this. Oh, I feel guilty. Oh, this is my cheat day. Oh, I’m doing this Zone Diet or Atkins.
This was a big chunk of conversation at certain points in my life and I now make a very conscious effort that even if I have a thought sometimes like that, I quickly recognized that’s a disempowered thought. That’s a disempowering thought. That’s a story. It’s not true. That’s just a little remnant of my oppression of myself and my oppression of other women and I’m not going to spread it. I’m not going to name those thoughts. I’m not going to use those stories and words to “protect” myself. I used to think that if I called myself fat, nobody else would blame me for it. That in some way it was like at least I know. I’m not walking around like cellulite on my legs and nobody knows I know. Now, I still have these thoughts guys, okay? I do. This is the thing that I have done a lot of work around. I do not diet, but I still have these thoughts. But I have a choice of I can choose to question the thoughts, I can choose not to spread the thoughts.
So I share that with you as we head into Women’s Day that I want you to love every part of yourself. Every part of yourself is so lovable. I could find like what’s the part in my body that I feel is the least lovable and then I’m just going to love on that area as much as I can. And I’m going to say, “What do I love about this? What is good about this? What do I love about this like extra layer, squishy layer on my ribs? Ooh, it feels so squishy and liquid. I bend it makes these lines and it’s just gorgeous.” I can work with it. So can you. You’re perfect and beautiful in every way inside and out just as you are. The stories aren’t yours. Stop telling them.
All right, love yourself, love each other. Happy Women’s Day. Share this with a woman who could benefit from hearing it, share it with a man who could benefit from hearing it, share it with anybody of any gender identity who could use a little more love for themselves today. All right, you all. Thank you so much for listening. Please go to our membership site, caneel.com/yes. I would love you to join our membership. We’re going to get to learn about your zone of genius and discover your zone of genius. I’ll take you through a big process there. And man, connecting to that, the shame has no place anymore. So I want you to bring that into the light, gorgeous and beautiful. And I’ll see you there, caneel.com/yes. Thanks for listening. Thanks for giving yourself this gift of time. Bye bye.