I attended the opening of a wonderful exhibition recently called ‘Fabulous Figures’ which was developed by the very talented Fallon Drewett of The Just Saying Project in Mackay as a follow up to one that she did last year called Fabulous Faces. Launched as part of Queensland Women’s Week, it displays a collection of images of 67 women of all ages from the region with the photos all taken by local female photographers.
Each photo has quotes from the person describing the relationship they had with their bodies both in the past and now and what has helped them shift their self-image. I found it to be insightful, moving, funny and inspiring and a powerful reminder of the extent to which women can get caught up in self-judgment in so many ways, particularly when it comes to our bodies.
It seems that we carry a lot of shame and embarrassment about our physical appearance and we often learn it while we are very young even though we may not be consciously aware of it at the time. Whatever comments are made about us or to us by those around us, particularly other girls and women even if they seem positive or only made as a joke, can lead to a distorted body image, negative self-concept and cause lasting emotional hurt that can be hard to shift.
We are also constantly bombarded by subliminal messages about the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ body and they cause us to criticise our own body and compare ourselves to others in a negative way. Even though we know most images of women are photo-shopped these days, it doesn’t stop us from judging ourselves and others and results in us feeling we are lacking in some way. And when we feel we aren’t slim/pretty/athletic/toned enough there are plenty of programs, products and ‘solutions’ available that claim to help but none of them fill the void of not being … enough.
For me, the message from the exhibition was one of accepting and embracing our bodies just as they are. Whatever the size, whatever scars the or physical deformities carried by our body they are ours and they tell our story in all of our beautifully human imperfection.
It’s time for every girl and woman to know and accept that their bodies are uniquely theirs and nothing to be ashamed of or compared and instead of treating them as the enemy and turning against them, see them as something to be celebrated, nourished, nurtured and cared for through all of their life transitions.
Every woman has a role to play in helping our young girls to be comfortable in their own skin and understanding that they are more than their external appearance so that they can emerge into their adult selves with their self-esteem intact.