10 SEPT 2019

Self Love: A Commodity In The Art Of Wokeness. 

Part 1. Not all that long ago, a photo like this would have horrified me. For years I’ve seen girls go through the body-love journey, sharing their radiant, joyful ‘after’ photos however many kgs heavier, proclaiming how happy they are.

I thought, ‘maybe one day I’ll accept my body, but I’d never love it like that.’


Yet I have surpassed acceptance, and reached a level of respect and honour for my body that can only be described as love. And it hasn’t happened overnight.

~ It takes dedication to ignoring aesthetics and daily gratitude for function. 

~ It takes discipline to make pleasure and sensuality a priority in life’s busy schedule.

~ It takes focussed education on sexuality, empowerment and liberation. 

~ It takes cut-throat downright aggressive loyalty to stick by this form in whatever shape she takes. 

~ It takes culling social media of accounts that trigger insecurity and comparison and filling it with inspirational leaders and courageous powerhouse voices who encourage and lift my spirits daily.

~ It takes silencing the mind and listening to the wisdom of my heart. Even though in the middle of my major crisis last year I blamed my body for the anxiety, discomfort and pain, she was simply steering me in a direction that my mind alone didn’t have the strength to move in.


However, this absolutely does not mean I always like how my body looks. Despite all of the above being true and wanting to preach body love from the rooftops 99% of the time, I still have bad days. I still struggle with disordered eating mentality when I binge and I still feel occasional repulsion and shame if I catch myself at a bad angle. It’s held me back from sharing more because often I feel like a fraud when I find myself in this love/hate contradiction. Yet while I am still navigating this journey I have discovered the biggest plot twist ever. You can not like the way something looks, but still really fucking love it. 


This contradiction is what makes me human. It’s dancing the fine line between these two complicated worlds that so many of us are experiencing. 


Part 2. For many years, women have been constantly told by society that they are ‘too much’. In the emotional arena, too much hysteria, too much drama, too much talking. Physically, too much hip, too much thigh, too much stomach.

The blueprint of modern western beauty has plagued society for over 60 years since the beauty-industry-revolution took women from the constraints of the ‘abiding housewife’, to the ‘sexually liberated, autonomous social rebel’. As women gained more liberty in the political and social scenes, this blueprint of beauty sowed it’s seeds into the deep hollows of our insecurities. The idea of feminist freedom was in some way a facade, because we instead became neurotically focused on appearances, so the sense of imprisonment simply turned inwards. (I've summarised an entire book: for a more thorough read on this topic see The Beauty Myth; Naomi Wolf).

With the rise in photoshop and augmented images, the ‘Victoria Secret Body’ is a fantasy waved around for the other shorter, larger, hip bearing 97% of the female population to lament over. This ideal body type is in every form of advertising imaginable and embedded into our psyches. We’ve been consciously and deeply subconsciously manipulated to want to look a certain way.


Nowadays with the further development of female empowerment, the self-help epidemic, social media and ‘New Age’ Spirituality, so much light is being shed on the topic of body image. A new vibrant movement has risen out of the ashes of the burnt spirits & self-esteems of millions of women the world over. In rebuttal to history telling us how to look, influencers, life coaches, gurus, celebrities etc etc, are encouraging us to love our bodies as they are. It is a noble and necessary pursuit that should be widely celebrated and encouraged, but one that can potentially be mishandled in the mind of an already hyper-critical, self-judgemental, perfectionist...


Part 3. For me, self love had become a commodity in the art of 'wokeness'. It manifested unconsciously as an additional layer of punishment, where not only was I managing the insecurity that comes with weight gain or cellulite, I was also managing the overwhelming sense of failure at my inability to love myself as I am. A way to score my success or failure as the 'ultimate ideal woman with her shit together'. The addiction to measuring just snuck from the rolls on my rib cage when I rotate my torso, to my level of tolerance for them. “Have I been a good girl and loved myself today?” asked in a passive aggressive, terrifyingly sickly sweet Mrs.Trunchbull-from-Matilda tone of voice. Because the goal of 'self love' is to love the way our bodies looks all day, every day isn't it? It isn't. Given the ingrained psychological conditioning we are fighting against, we are doomed to fail now and again.


The fundamental lesson from practising Tantra over the past 3 years is: ‘What we resist, persists.’ 


We push away emotions like a hollow, weightless beach ball held beneath the surface of the water. It takes only the slightest nudge to be knocked off balance and have it whack us smack bang in the face.

When negative thoughts creep up and I don’t feel great, I would immediately attempt to banish them in a mental cage where they rattle and scream from the dark recesses of my mind. I’d begin the internal onslaught of guilt and resistance to the thoughts themselves. But sure enough, what doesn’t help, is finding a way to hate on myself, for hating on myself! No shit...

So now, my Ms. Honey-from-Matilda dialogue pipes up. ‘darling that is absurd’ I say, ’darling, you have the weight of history on your shoulders telling you not to love your body looking the way it does. It’s fair enough!’ And it helps. Because it is fair enough.

Kind of fuckeduply (ok fuckeduply is my new favourite word), the more I feel the hate, shame and disgust and let it pass like every leaf going down every river in every meditation ever, the softer it becomes. The less I push it under the watery depths of my soul, the less it wants to spring up and smack me in the face.

Part 4. Obviously, we should never stop fighting to love ourselves fully and deeply, nor should we accept self depricating thoughts. But we do need to refrain from using it against ourselves as another standard and test of our inherent worth, now that 'the confident woman’ is revered above all else

It is unbelievably comforting to believe that simply changing our bodies is the silver bullet to finding happiness. Yet without a shadow of doubt, the times I’ve been thinnest, I’ve also been most miserable and dysfunctional. I’ve outsourced my self love, hoping others would validate my physical form but in the process I've been regularly rejected and dumped while looking my absolute ‘best’, and I’ve been zealously taken in many deep passionate encounters when I felt utterly physically undesirable. We hold on to a linear notion of a + b = c. If I look 'a' I will get 'b' and it will make me feel 'c'. But it simply does not work that way.

So I come back to my body and love it devotedly despite everything I may occasionally feel is flawed. ‘Tuning in, being present, witnessing’ - whatever airy fairy spiritual jargon we call it - has etched it’s way beneath the softening surface and left a lingering love that I truly never thought possible for myself. I may not love the look of it all the time, but that’s ok. I revel in the uniqueness of the layers of soft flesh, the way my hips move between my sheets at night, the way my spine shivers when I gently run my fingernails over my thighs. Sensuality and sexuality really are the gateway to healing these wounds, and I give my deepest gratitude to all who have helped facilitate this journey.


When I revel in all that, the love grows a little deeper. Each time the bad days resurface, the cycle begins again and I learn a little more about what I need and I feel slightly more equipped to ride it out sooner and bring myself back to kindness.

That’s all I want for women and men alike. To learn what they need, start accepting, stop resisting and ultimately have the bad days pass a little quicker and the good days last a little longer.


Thunder Storm



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© 2017 Tess Fowler Arts

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