Having grown up in an environment where we did not really discuss our bodies beyond how they looked, I have definitely noticed a societal shift. Is it perfect? No, but it is better than it was when I was a kid.
I did not truly understand bodies until I became a parent and, later, a doula. I like to look at the amazing things my body has done for me. It has carried four babies to term; it has nourished four babies for over five years. Baby me could never. Stretch marks back in the day felt like a death sentence to my self-esteem, and now they are badges of badassery that I wear with pride.
Even though society is better at accepting bodies of all shapes and sizes, it is still a work in progress. I am constantly trying to uplift and support my boys’ changing bodies. Puberty is hard, y’all. But I’m glad to know that others out there will affirm them in their changing bodies. We need to help support the notion that all bodies are good bodies.
I have been a disabled woman all of my adult life because of the autoimmune disease lupus. About 90 percent of the people with the condition are women. Forty years ago, it was assumed doctors — mostly men — had authority over disabled bodies. Women were “protected” from information about their condition, and medical professionals treated disabled bodies as mentally unstable.
Two things contributed to shifting attitudes — first, the explosion of the internet. Finally, women had access to medical information. More importantly, we had access to other women with the same condition. Comparing symptoms, we noted similarities and demanded better information and treatment from our doctors.
Secondly, over decades, women entered the medical profession. Women physicians seemed more willing to understand my disease, and women researchers were more willing to study it. As a result, society became aware of lupus and how it affects women.
I have seen huge improvements in how society perceives disabled women’s bodies, but there is a long way to go. Hopefully, through increased information and awareness, the bodies of women with lupus will no longer be threatened by society’s attitudes or the disease.
I tend to be skeptical of anything related to advertising, but I have to admit I appreciate the recent shift to include more diverse models in marketing. When my daughters and I go shopping these days, we see pictures of models with a broader range of body shapes, sizes, and colors. This may be a small and relatively superficial change, but it is certainly different than when I was growing up, and I welcome it. It feels like a small opening, a lifting of a weight. It rejects the idea that there is one ideal physical shape to which we should aspire and is an invitation to appreciate the beauty inherent in all human bodies.
Yes, there has been a societal shift as our knowledge and understanding has grown. People are concerned about the negative effects of stress, nutrition, and chemical toxins on their bodies and psyche. We are cognizant of their effects on aging, cognition, and our susceptibility to disease. We strive for self-care, even if it is hard to realize due to the endless responsibilities controlling our lives. At some point, we must learn to stop and say, “Enough.” We must regain control of our lives by putting everything on pause that is not essential to our immediate needs, realizing the importance of just breathing, quieting the mind, smelling the air, and being in the moment. Learning to breathe and meditate is a fantastic way to release stress and to realize what and who is important in our lives.
When I am feeling overcome by stress, I find a quiet corner to sit, breathe, meditate, and focus on my happy place. As I breathe in, I allow peace to come. As I exhale, I release stress and its toxic chemicals.