Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Recognizing Presence

I recently had a wonderful conversation with one of the teen girls I work with as part of a mentoring program:

We paired up to interview each other, asking fun questions like, "What is your favorite cereal?" and "What show do you like to binge watch?" to more intimate questions like, "What is your advice to live by?" We were paired together because of the odd number of students. 

What came of the fun questions was a great conversation about life–all aspects of it, parents, siblings, respect, honesty, chores, sexuality, body image, being introverts, all in all an amazingly beautiful, honest conversation. I like real conversations. The stuff that makes you you. Not the BS adult chit chat, gossip-y conversation that normally ensues. I fucking hate small talk! Talk to me about your passions, what you are doing, your family, your dogs, pretty much anything other than, "Oh how are you? Good. You?" Ughhh! Makes me want to scream. This is why I love teens, they just talk. Sure it is hard at first to get them to open up, but once you do (the secret is food and ask lots of questions) the flood gates open and you learn more than you would ever think possible. I love, love teens for this reason. The pretense, the BS, the showmanship of one-upping each other, nada, we are just two people connecting talking about everything under the sun.

One of the questions on the interview was, "What famous person do you like?" I said Ashley Graham. For those of you who don't know who Ashley Graham is (have you been living under a rock, JK) she is a "plus size" (seriously sarcastic air quotes here, because what is deemed plus size in the fashion industry really is anything over a US size 4, when the average American woman is a 14-16!!). She has graced the cover of Sport Illustrated, Glamour, Elle, and so many other major media publications, which is her job, she's a beautiful model, but what I love her for is her activism. Her body positivity and debunking the fashion industry myth that only skinny is pretty. She is real–cellulite, stretch-marks and all. She's a size 16 and she prances around in lingerie and bikinis in shoots and on the beach. She is graceful and beautiful, yet goofy and humble. She is relatable and I think so many of us are looking for relate-ability in media now.

The girl I was speaking to, didn't know who Ashley Graham is, so I hope she looks into her and finds inspiration like I do (or at least a source that is relevant to her), but she said something amazingly profound about how we feel about ourselves based on the people we surround ourselves with. This is true! If you surround yourself with people who love themselves (not in an egocentric way), but truly love self and accept their self as they are, being around them, innately makes you feel more comfortable in your skin.

Being a teen is incredibly challenging for that very reason, you are not sure of yourself. As are none of your peers. Most of teen years are spent comparing, adjusting, judging yourself to those around you, who are just as unsure of them selves! (Are adults really any different??)

That's why I think role models, regardless of that buzzy term, let's say people in media, must show the diversity of who we are. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and colors. Stretch-marks, cellulite, rolls and all. Celebrities are unattainable and often not relatable, yet so many of us look to them for a sense of self-worth or something to compare to or judge against, but really what anyone really needs is someone to relate to. To see a bit of themselves in that person.

"If you are drawn to [someone], it is because there is already enough presence in you to recognize presence in another." Eckart Tolle

There is a level of acceptance and comfort in your own skin that comes with time, and also with stopping the rampant comparison of each other. I spent so much of my youth wishing I was shorter, had smaller boobs and butt and thighs, that my stomach was flatter and, and...but at some point you have to realize this is your body and it does amazing things for you each and every day. 

We take our bodies for granted, continually hating on the parts, not nourishing it properly, talking badly about it, sucking it in and wrapping it up, and yet it is still there each morning, pumping blood to your heart, allowing you to breathe and get out of bed. You can either spend the rest of your life self loathing and hating that body or love the pieces that make up the whole. I am by no means saying it is any easy, overnight process. It takes time. Self-love. Self acceptance. Self reflection. Movement. Proper nourishment and some meditation. And even then, some days are better than others, but we have to take them in stride. We are all our own worst critics. It is a life lesson for all of us to really be in our bodies. To accept it as it is, or change it if you really want, but in real, loving, healthy and supportive ways.

We see beauty in others and compare ourselves, often in the negative, rather than seeing the beautiful parts that are also in us. Tolle has it right, there is something in someone else that draws us to them, and you have a bit of that something in yourself. If you can see it in someone else, work to try to see it in yourself.