I have a friend who has a friend who is about to have a little cosmetic surgery in order to enhance her body. She has a certain body part(s) she's always struggled with and has decided to do something about it. Having never known anyone personally who has had any kind of cosmetic procedure I found it interesting to talk to her about her decision, the process she used when making her decision, her feelings about all of it, what her husband thinks, and the fears she's wrestling with. As much as I am all about acceptance I'm also not against doing the things we can do (within reason of course) and want to do in order to increase our self-acceptance. Sometimes the road to deeper acceptance includes action. Being happy with ourselves is not a passive process. I would always encourage a woman to love herself first and foremost but I also won't criticize her for deciding to have her stomach stapled or a boob job or a tummy tuck (hell, after becoming a mother I've thought about that one many times myself...if I only had the money).
During the course of our conversation I discovered two things that were very interesting:
1. I felt like she kept trying to justify her decision to me. I kept checking myself, hoping I wasn't giving off some kind of signal that implied I didn't approve. I was all for it if it would help her better accept her body. I was afraid my reactions were giving the wrong impression and that is why she continued to make excuses instead of just owning the fact that she isn't happy with her breast size and has decided to have them enlarged. I got the impression that although it was something she'd thought long and hard about, and although it was something she really wanted, she wasn't quite comfortable with letting that be reason enough. It was as if she was still trying to convince herself it was okay, that surgically altering her body to feel better about herself just for the simple purpose of feeling better about herself was okay.
Which brings me to the second thing I found interesting...
2. She wasn't worried about the procedure. She wasn't scared of any pain that might come with it. She wasn't anxious about the recovery process. What she was afraid of more than anything was other people's reactions...primarily other women's reactions. She was dreading going back to work and facing her co-workers because she knew they would talk about her behind her back. She knew there would be whispers and giggles and questions and stares and she hated the thought of dealing with all that. She was excited to finally deal with an issue that had bothered her since adolescence but she knew some of that excitement would be tainted with gossip. As I listened to her talk about this fear, the fear of being the woman talked about by other women, I couldn't help but wonder why we do this to each other...because we DO do this to each other. This woman was making a decision about her body that would better help her embrace herself. She was doing something that would hopefully lead to more positive feelings about her body. She has lived a long time not feeling sexy and now she was doing something about it. She was not only going to take a step towards acceptance, she was going to take a step towards sexy. And she knew other women were not going to like it.
Needless to say I've been thinking about this conversation for days now. Because I'm on a quest for sexy myself this played right into the questions that were already spinning in my head. What is it about being sexy? Why is it threatening? Why don't we like it when other women are trying to embrace that part of themselves? Why can't we allow other women to be sexy? Why do we talk about them if they are being sexy? Why do we struggle to give ourselves permission to be sexy? And why do we hold back when we realize that other people, especially other women, will not approve? Are we unable to give other women the right to be sexy because we can't give it to ourselves? Do we try to keep other women small so that we don't have to honor our own bigness?
I don't have the answer to these questions. They are still tumbling around in my head. I'm still thinking about them, unfolding them, trying to allow them to unearth some of my own feelings about sexiness and why being sexy is so difficult for me. I know part of embracing ones sexiness definitely includes getting a little bit more of an I-don't-care-what-you-think kind of attitude. It takes some tough skin to step into your sexiness. And I'm not quite there yet. In the meantime I'm going to let these questions shed some light on my own fears and resistance...and maybe also reveal to me why I too am guilty of not allowing another woman to have her sexiness.
So what do you think? Or better yet, have you experienced something similar and if so what was it like for you?