• Melissa Shannon

💃🏼 Ladiesss: The "why" to my body confidence

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

We interact with our “friends” more through social media than IRL. Hands down (on the keyboard), social media is a fantastic way to stay connected. There’s a possibility of experiencing connection and I believe that a strong connection can be made. However, in order to achieve this relationship virtually, you have to authentically open up to others. I know it’s hard. Some personality types are awfully uncomfortable with even sharing privately and particularly uncomfortable through social media.

Well my friends, get ready for this! My personality is an ENFJ (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judgement). Focusing on “extraversion”, I identify as a sociable person. I like to share. Anyone shocked? 😋 Sharing fulfills my believe in platonic yet intimate connection! It creates space for discovering individuals in micro-communities who have similar experiences. It is incredibly relieving and powerful to not feel alone! Sure, if you want to call this interaction a dopamine hit, go ahead. Except, I’m not referring to dopamine from social media addictions that crave attention to measure worth. My reference is one radiating encouragement and positivity! It’s what keeps me sharing.

For instance, I put a great deal of research and experimentation into my fitness lifestyle. Watching my muscle definition transform as a result of my efforts from healthy eating habits and regular exercise is super reassuring. My body also feels strong and says “Yes. Let’s. Keep. Going!” So, I like to photograph my physique and create #fitspo content. I not only use IG’s personalization tools in my stories, but I also use story enhancing apps like Canva, Storyluxe, and Adobe Spark Post. I looooove curating my content. At first, I’m creating the best version of the image post production until I am impressed with the composition and design. Then, I continue to share these fitspo images on three social media platforms – Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. As I’ve been crafting my social media aesthetic for a few years, the positive response from my IG community regarding my designs AND my physique has been incredibly encouraging! It has truly strengthened my body confidence. How many people can say that!

It’s a bummer that most people can’t say that. I think that a great deal of people are insecure with their appearance for a multitude of reasons or even if they are pleased with their appearance, not everyone wants to post photos focusing on their own physique. Posting novelties brings this worry of judgment from those IRL “friends” and other followers. There’s an unfortunate concern that sharing your own body positive images will be perceived as douchey, narcissistic, slutty, and egotistical.

Our insecurities are deeply connected to fear of judgment. Yes ladies, I understand the fear of judgment….I grew up in the South. Before pinpointing this region’s specifics, people judge everywhere – but the heat of southern judgment is certainly hot from Hell. Thankfully the southern culture is seeing a shift towards more positive acceptance across generations. Still, judgment can be felt when you step onto your health and wellness path. Others will notice your shift and make comments regarding the higher cost of select health products and lack of convenience in food preparation. Whereas sticking with traditional southern meals is familiar, cheaper, and “easier”. Frankly though, there’s just TOO much tradition at the table. 🙅🏼‍♀️

That word “tradition” was the most challenging word to defeat on my wellness journey. It’s entangled in all of this recent historical sentiment when served at dinners, weddings, and especially during the holidays. As I entered my mid 20’s, I became interested in changing my diet. I wanted to eat for nutrition, not for convenience. However when eating for nutrition, a lot of people didn’t understand that having self control and limiting certain foods was essential. Cheat meals were not part of my mentality. I felt the most unsettled during meal times around family and colleagues because of the comments, the comments, the comments. Saying “no” to food offerings from those not on the same wellness path was uncomfortable because they’d take offense from it. There was always an extraordinary amount of comfort food to choose from, but because I was no longer eating these items, it instantly separated me from the rest. Remarks were frequently verbalized without a second thought like: “Melissa, go on. Don’t you want some fries? What about some mac and cheese? How about red beans and rice? Go on, grab a biscuit! C’mon, eat something! You could use some meat on your bones.” Some remarks came across as passive aggressive, like that last one, but realistically, I believe they meant no harm. That’s just how people talk and that’s historically how you make others feel welcome – by feeding them. Yet, it’s that tradition in eating these comfort foods that’s hard for people to let go. Comfort foods have been priced lower for generations and still considered “more affordable”. Yet, it’s ultimately costing something else: one’s health. If you can believe it, I regularly ate: (a) boxed mashed potatoes with butter, (b) any green vegetables covered cheese and rice, (c) all of the rolls and biscuits with butter, and (d) ranch dressing all over my iceberg lettuce “salad”. Fast food and items available for convenience were my “food”. I didn’t know any other way to eat.

Once I made my shift towards my healthier self, I was suddenly different for not wanting sweet tea, bread, or fried food covered in cheese any longer. I was different because now I was active with yoga, at-home workouts, and acro yoga (with persons who were not my husband). When my differences were called out, I felt provoked and defensive. I made attempts to positively explain myself only to then feel weird or wrong. As a young woman then in my late 20’s, to feel wrong for not wanting to consume comfort foods and for having body confidence from NOT eating those foods and being active was degrading. It stunted my comfortability with being myself to others IRL.

Yet, I was comfortable expressing myself and my confidence publicly on IG. I used it as this outlet to express how proud I was of myself for my efforts. The response from my followers was so supportive! Nevertheless, I was still shamed IRL for publicly expressing pride in making conscious health focused choices. It felt like a fight between me and others that (real talk) my confidence unintentionally prompted other’s insecurities about themselves. I think this lead to judgmental comments directed at me. No bullshit. I was skinny-shamed every couple of weeks. Whether the shaming was intentional and passive aggressive or subconsciously unaware due to cultural norms, I found that it seemed to stem from this tension in discomfort from body comparability. It felt as if I were being told, “Since you’re skinny and I’m not, then it makes me feel bad about myself because you’re healthier than I am.” This meant my voice was taken away if I verbalized one ounce of my own body struggles. For example, when I’d share my difficulties shopping for pants, I was discredited instantly as if everything should fit me. In actuality though, pants are the most challenging item for me. I’m roughly 5’2 – short torso, short legs – and range from 119-125 lbs. MOST pants that fit my thighs are too loose at my waist and too long for my legs. If they fit in the waist, then I can guarantee they are so fucking tight on my thighs and squeezing my calves. If I find any that fit, they don’t fit well for long. It’s frustrating! I was also discredited when I said “I feel like I ate too much”. I can’t tell you how many times the response from the room was “But you’re so skinny. You can eat whatever you want.”

Friends, let me share with you that “skinny” is not a complimentary word. Even if it’s your dream to be called “skinny”, look here at the synonyms. Scrawny? Bony? Like a rail? Skeletal? Undernourished? Yikes! None of those words are descriptions that sound healthy. We should shift the mindset from the dream of being called “skinny” to the dream of being complimented on working towards a healthier self.

Telling me:

  1. “Wow, you look great. What are you doing?” – THAT is a compliment.

  2. “Damn, you are looking so fit!” – THAT is also a compliment.

  3. “Omg, you are so skinny…do you even eat?” (As if that’s a joke) – Sorry not sorry – that is NOT a compliment.

Not only have I heard from people I knew, but also complete strangers that I eat ” like a bird” or a “rabbit” when I would eat a salad and mixed nuts for lunch. I even had a woman tell me how skinny she thought I was before our name introductions! It was our first day working together for crying out loud. As we were about to shake hands and introduce ourselves, before I could say my name she told me “Omg you’re skinny too! You’re all so thin here!” Uhhhhm what? How do I even acknowledge that gaslighting statement without somehow offending her in return. How do these remarks not affect one’s mental health! It never made me feel great. I was so hurt from the double standard. I would never tell someone upon meeting them “Omg you’re fat too!” Ladies, that’s not supportive language. It’s rude. It’s rude to comment on someone’s shape.. If I mentioned feeling bloated at work, I had female coworkers say: “C’mon. ::snickering:: YOU? Give me a break, I’m the one who should feel bloated.”Like, yes, I am also a woman who has periods and as a fellow human, my body gets bloated from eating. From so many uncalled for comments towards me like this, my discomfort with judgment certainly grew where I became paranoid to be myself in front of others.

Even though I was paranoid from judgmental comments from colleagues, customers from where I worked, acquaintances, or family members, I was still encouraged by my social media community to be me! I found my voice when I talked about my confidence and shared my workouts. I posted images reflecting body positivity and my fitness progression through personal physique photos. I didn’t go on (too many) rants, but this is the other half of how Melissten To Your Body was formed. I made myself believe that I was comfortable being me and then started a blog about my health and wellness journey. (Here’s my first blog post telling you why I started my journey.) Turns out: my content was seen as motivational! Phew!

As I write this, now in my early 30’s, and relive those interactions, I recognize that at the time, I was pissed off. I won’t hide that, but now, I’m not as annoyed. I wish I could encourage them. We all have our own shit to handle. It’s when we support each other – female to female – that I don’t feel the world is against me. I’ve come across women who truly support every cell in my being and it’s not only saved me, but it’s renewed me. That’s what I wish to impart on you my readers, my followers, my friends: Support other’s interests even if they aren’t like your own. Encouragement is undoubtedly powerful and if it’s a value that you thrive on as I do, give it to others as best you can! ✨

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