It’s not the same as being closed-minded. Being closed-minded means you’re unable to take on new ideas, so it’s really quite different. I am also a bit of an idealist, so I will seek out good ways to achieve stuff, but I try not to invest too much time or effort in methods that don’t seem worthwhile. In this way, idealism and scepticism complement each other nicely.
A theme I’ve been picking up on lately – something I find quite strange about our culture – is how we think of negativity and positivity.
It often seems that being sceptical is regarded as having a negative mindset, whereas doing what you’re told without objection, question, or reflection is regarded as being positive. I have often heard people say things like “you just gotta do what she says, no thought, and in three months you’ll be thin” – but to me this doesn’t seem positive, it seems foolish.
When you decide to (try to) accept your body and stop trying to lose weight or play to the beauty standard, it is often seen as being defeatist, as giving up, as being negative – as if you’re accepting illness, a poor quality of life, rather than fighting against it and trying to change. This is mostly spin. It denies the uncomfortable truth that illnesses often cannot be overcome by strength of will, and trying to do so without thought, without question or reflection, is unlikely to lead to an improved quality of life. And anyway, obesity and sickness are two quite different things, much as the status quo would like you to believe they are the same.
As an idealist, I tend to believe there is usually something you can do to help improve your circumstance, but pouring your efforts into activities that do not yield results is hardly positive. I oppose weight-stigma, because opposing weight-stigma helps. When you resolve fat-hatred within yourself, and you improve your own self-image, everything else in life seems to be more achievable, and more meaningful, and less laden with judgement and guilt.
And maybe it comes down to simple shifts in perspective – exercise is often good for you, and your health, but not because it might make you thin; exercise is good for you simply because exercise is good for you. It’s the behaviour, and your mindset (exercise in the name of fitness and physical expression, not thinness, for example – use a thing for that thing’s purpose), not your shape. If you are going to be positive, be positive and believe in yourself, while using your head. Don’t believe in crap and hope for the best. But this isn’t a post about how we could all be healthier if we simply exercise more. I don’t write those posts, because it’s not quite what I believe.
And if you start to point out that you don’t need to lose weight to be a good person, or a healthy person, or the person you were meant to be – it’s not always taken well. People think you’re trying to rob them of their hope. But that’s not true.
These days, positivity is seen as negativity, and negativity as positivity. We are told to be critical, to hate our fat that is a necessary part of ourselves (and we are not so good at emotionally separating that thing from our own selves; we think I am fat, not I have fat), and then one day when we finally change (and have properly formed the habit of believing we need to be different), we are told we will be happy? Really?
I recently read this great post by the Fat Nutritionist on why diets don’t work. And because there’s a lot of evidence that weight loss attempts are unsuccessful, and therefore the suggestion that attempts to lose weight are futile, the question started to arise – does this mean there’s no hope for me?
So I posted the following comment (which in turn, led to the writing of this blog post you are currently reading):
On the theme of “is there any hope for me?” – I do believe there’s more hope for all of us – because if your weight is not a reflection of your willpower, character or moral fibre, then there’s no reason left to feel bad about your body.
Except for stigma, of course, which is what body-positivity is all about. If size does not reflect your worth, then your worth is not up for debate.
And even health status/threat of sickness against a non-compliant body isn’t a reason to feel bad about yourself. Our fears are exploited in the name of health – “if only I’d been more obedient, I might not have gotten sick” – or maybe you would have anyway. Really, so much is in the hands of God/chaos.
Chaos, that bastard. We really are all in the same boat here. We will all one day get sick – if we’re not already, and the way to learn how to cope with that isn’t to bury our heads in the sand and just try to delay it for as long as is humanly possible. When a thing is inevitable (death, taxes), putting it off doesn’t make it easier to manage when it one day arrives. And my capacity to avoid the inevitable is not what I am going to judge the ‘success or failure’ of my life upon.
So the body is not a reflection of morality (controversial a statement as that might be these days). We should not feel bad about ourselves for being human and mortal, but we can, if we want, try to develop coping skills and talk about issues and try to prepare for and accept the fact that one day we’re going to die.
I don’t mean to be morbid, it does not detract from life to talk about death, but it does detract from life, I believe, to live in fear of it, and sickness, and to buy into delusion and prejudice. “If only I had done what I was told… by the people who were trying to exploit my insecurities for money…? Wait a minute!”
They dress it up as empowerment, but it is not empowering to bury your head in the sand, to do what you’re told in the name of personal development, to believe that you need to be changed, to be made thinner, better, to escape the threat of disease.
I figure, knowing that we are mortal and trying to accept our bodies ‘warts and all’ means we can become free to live our own lives, and there is much hope and peace in that. Freedom. You don’t need to be thin or fat – it’s a whole other thing. You don’t need to be chained to their wheel.