Radical Vanity: It's a Ted Talk I watched the other day by a woman named Jessi Kneeland and it really stuck with me. I recommend you check out the Ted Talk if you have about 12 extra minutes tonight but in the mean time I'd like to share some thoughts I've had since watching it.
First of all, the talk starts out with some pretty staggering statistics about women and how we view our bodies, some of them being:
-91% of women "diet"
-Only 2% consider themselves beautiful
-The number one concern for girls age 11 to 24 is how their body looks
-97% of women surveyed reported having AT LEAST one "I hate my body" thought Every. Single. Day and some reported having that thought around 50-100 times a day
So pretty much everyone hates their body, meaning it can't possibly have all that much to do with what kind of body you actually have; it has more to do with the culture we've created surrounding women and their bodies. Jessi goes on to discuss that things like negative self talk, shame, and disgust have become habits, and self-loathing has become the automatic lens in which we view ourselves. She continues by saying that although body positivity movements are great, we find ourselves trying to "fight distorted hyperbolic levels of self loathing with moderate, polite levels of self acceptance". This is why she calls us to embrace "radical vanity", the concept of being ridiculously, excessively and radically proud of how we look and who were are, because as she puts it, "waiting to love yourself until self love becomes the norm is a pretty bad plan". The hope behind radical vanity is that although as a culture we are so deeply consumed with negativity, if we attempt to swing the pendulum as far as we can in the other direction, we might stand a chance of landing in the middle someday.
I won't continue with the Ted Talk; she offers a lot of other great insight and I don't want to share too much because I highly encourage you to watch and think about it. However, I can honestly say that every single statistic I shared in the beginning of this post used to be true of me. I HATED my body in high school. I felt so much shame because I didn't look "perfect" (whatever the hell that even is?!) I fell into diet culture, HARD. I would restrict myself, fail (because - who wouldn't), blame myself, call myself weak, and repeat. There were times I went as long as I could without eating, and when I felt like I was going to pass out, I would eat something small (I never lasted long lol). I didn't have an eating disorder by any means, but I had VERY unhealthy habits revolving around food. In college I did a 180. Instead of restricting myself, I let myself have whatever I wanted. Because I had decided "I'm not supposed to look good. I don't have the genetics". And I abused my body. I ate beyond full and I reeked total havoc on my body with night after night of binge drinking. And deep down I cared, but I lied to myself and told myself that this was the easier way.
I have a much healthier mindset these days. I don't think there are good and bad foods; just foods you should eat 80% of the time and foods you should eat 20% of the time. I believe in balance. I don't feel shame after I have a treat meal. I don't force myself to do extra cardio on days when I don't eat "perfectly". I've shared this before, but the mindset really changed for me when I stopped caring about HOW I looked, and I started wanting to actually take care of my body. I saw the people I cared for at my work trying to live while managing multiple [totally preventable] chronic diseases. I watched the age of those patients decrease as our population got less and less healthy. I wanted a different life than that. I learned to appreciate my body. I learned what it was capable of and I was so thankful for it. Once I started loving my body and taking care of it, some of the aesthetic things I had been wanting all along started happening. In addition, I could go on a hike with my husband and our dogs and keep up. I could walk and have a conversation with someone at the same time and not get winded.
Now, I would absolutely be lying to you if I said there weren't things about my body that I wanted to change. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my days of being hard on myself. But overall, I love my body. These days when I stand in front of a full length mirror in the morning, I don't shudder, cringe, hide, or say mean things to myself. I can stand there, look myself completely over, and appreciate my hips and the femininity they make me feel. I love my strong hamstrings and quadriceps that allow me to sprint on the treadmill. I don't mind a little pudge in my belly that reminds me I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. I never thought in a million years I could look at my naked body in the mirror and think anything other than shame. But thankfully, this is what I've come to realize: you can be a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously. You can want to change things about your body without HATING the one you have now. You can love where you are right now, even if it's not where you always want to be.
I want EVERY woman to feel this way about their bodies. It almost makes me tear up when I reflect on that younger version of Rylee who thought so little of herself, and it makes me even more sad to think there are other women or young girls who still feel that way. So - embrace this idea of radical vanity. The next time someone gives you a compliment, accept it - or better yet, agree with it! Stop responding to compliments with a put down about yourself. Heck, start complimenting yourself! Compliment other women. Encourage other women. Empower other women. I promise you - when you start putting your energy into loving yourself you'll be surprised how much you can accomplish: more productive work days, better workouts, an ability to better love your spouse and others around you, more time for your hobbies. Let's end this self loathing stage we're in today and be the women people look at and think "I wish I had that confidence!" and then let's teach those women how to do it as well!
Watch the Radical Vanity Ted talk here