Sometimes we can get easily suckered into living someone else’s life rather than the one we wish to live. It can be from societal and parental brainwashing as we grow up as well as from other sources. Quite often, though, the myths we live were created by ourselves.
Body image myths
This is such a powerful one for so many, including myself. Magazines, TV, movies, etc., have portrayed an unrealistic version of “the perfect body.” The weight-loss industry is a $60 billion business in the US, and its tentacles are reaching into more and more countries.
Fat shaming is one of the few non-PC activities still widely accepted. If you’re overweight, it’s obviously because you’re too damn lazy, just eat crap, and need to get your wide posterior off the couch. It’s OK for an employer to discriminate against you simply because of your girth. As a scuba instructor, I constantly see ads requiring candidates to have a specific type of physique.
And it isn’t just weight. There is beautiful people privilege as well, as highlighted in an interesting study showing how attractive people are more successful.
As kids we’re often taught how beauty is on the inside and how it’s subjective. However, that lesson quickly goes out the window by the time we hit middle school.
For years decades, I’ve fought this within myself. I am still living this myth that I’m not attractive. Sure, I have lots of gorgeous qualities, but you have to actually stop and talk to me to find those. And even then would it be enough for most people in romantic terms? My cobwebs will back me up.
Ever since watching the must-see What the Bleep Do We Know!, I’ve tried to change the internal tapes that say I’m unattractive simply because I feel like I’m pre-hippo. Unfortunately, I’ve had too much real-life experience to easily completely overwrite this stupid message.
But I’m still fighting against it.
My body-image issues are partly why you used to always see me hiding behind someone else in photos. I’ve made enough progress that I don’t care that you’ll see my moobs, my extra supply of chin, and that you can see the rolls of extra cushioning when you gaze at my shirt now. Until a couple of years ago, you never would’ve seen a photo of me shirtless.
When we’re in beach towns, I’m always envious of the guys who can walk around without their shirt on. I’ll do it on the beach, on the boat, or at the swimming pool, but that’s the only time. Usually I’ll even drape a towel over my torso to at least hide my bodacious breasts when we walk back to our room.
I’m working on improving this, but damn it’s a hard one to override!
Labels are for boxes.
What even started this whole musing post was posts I’ve seen on Reddit recently. I have so many people, mostly teenagers, wrestling with severe confusion. “I really like girls, but I find myself being curious about what it would be like with being a guy. Does that make me bi?!”
It seems to be more of a problem among young males, which is no surprise given how society treats any type of sexuality that isn’t strictly hetero. If you’re gay, you’re weak, a sissy boy, a fairy.
My answer to many of them is something I think we all could incorporate into our lives: Labels are for boxes.
So many of us are so focused on labels. It’s crazy!
How about we just love the people we fall in love with and don’t worry about all the other stupid nonsense? Aren’t relationships tricky enough without us adding in a bunch of other crap?
I think of this especially when I read the news. Uganda currently is dealing with a bill that would make being gay punishable by life imprisonment and would require people to report gays or be prosecuted. This from a country that has a 7% HIV/AIDS rate among people 15 and older. It affects more women than men, and it is causing a drastic rise in the rate of children being orphaned. How about you focus on that one? Or work on getting more access to fresh water?
I’m not sure what my country’s fascination is with what happens in my bedroom either. Why should anyone else care who someone else shares their bed, or backseat, with as long as they’re both/all consenting adults? The divorce rate in the US is around 53%. Sounds like people should be focused on their own bedroom.
Our puritanical approaches to sexuality is causing harm by an increase in HIV infection, among other things. The US has the highest teenage pregnancy rate of any developed nation. Maybe if we spent less time telling people who they should and should not fall in love with, we would have the ability to focus on teaching teens and others about safer sex practices.
Traveler vs. Tourist Myths
I see this one occurring every so often still. There is this primadonna assumption that a traveler is better than a tourist. So let me help you figure this one out. Do you travel? (Even if your travel is limited to the state you live in, answer this yes).
If you answered yes, you’re a traveler. Problem solved.
There are different types of travel, and none of them are better than any other. As far as I’m concerned, the important thing is you’re traveling. Whether that be in your own state, your country, long term, slow, fast, resort style, backpacker, I hope people travel more. When we see new places, it changes our perspective and alters us in a positive way.
Not everyone can handle the type of travel we’ve been doing for the last 3 years. And I wouldn’t want everyone to! Do what works for you. Live YOUR dreams, not mine, your parents’ or anyone else’s.
Sure, I think you get more from travel when you can stay in an area long enough to really absorb it, but not everyone has that luxury. Some people have 5 days and want to see all they can. I totally get that!
However, don’t rely on “can’t travel” as an excuse because really that’s total bulls**t for most of the people reading this blog. If something is important enough, we’ll work hard to find the means to achieve it.
Just don’t be a touron, okay?
Which of your personal and/or societal myths would you like to change?
Talon this is a fantastic post body image is a huge issue and you show it impacts people at all stages of their lives. Age does make you realise that you need to accept yourself for who you are not who you could be but it is hard I too slip into the body shaming too often.
Your second point about labelling is also an issue that frustrates me why do people have to be this or that why is it anyone’s business anyway…can’t we just be humans and love and care for each other.
Yes, can’t we all just be humans!
So many great points here. Totally agree with the ‘labels are for boxes’ view, not just with regards to sexuality, but with everything. People seem to love categorising other people, when really we’re all unique individuals, with unique thoughts and feelings and ways of dealing with things.
Yep, so much easier to just put people in neat, clean boxes rather than getting to know them as individuals, etc.
The notion of judging someone’s preferred ode of travel and disparagingly labeling it is just silly. Travel is personal and is the last thing that needs a label! Nice discussion, btw.
Couldn’t agree more!
No More Boxes! Ever!!! Ok seriously, in the business I work in, image is everything. I fight this kind of labeling and stereotyping every day. It’s hard!
Very hard indeed!
Yes, I hate it when people look down on tourists or equate the word with “tourist” with “idiot.” I don’t believe there is much of a distinction between tourists and travelers, and tourists are extremely important to the economy.
I don’t either. There are just different styles of travel, and none of them are superior to any other. Sure, some may offer different experiences than others, but there is no “better” way of traveling.
Amen. Why does it take us until middle-age to accept and love ourselves? With a pre-teen girl in the house, I have to be very careful of the things I say- both to her and myself. We try to enforce that she is encouraged to love whomever she wants – male/female black/white/other. We just want her to find love in her own way- first within herself and then with others.
I’m STILL working on it! And you’re so right about being careful what you say. I’ve made comments in the past that I didn’t realize would have an effect on my son (who is rail thin) and began noticing from his speech that he was starting to have an unhealthy body image. It’s taken me a while to try to counter that.
Agree on all counts; I think I know only 3 or 4 women total who don’t have at least a little bit of a body image issue. That’s got to be cultural in some ways I imagine. The traveler/tourist thing is also a huge pain in the neck, we should all just get over it. I think the “travelers” who look down on people who take vacations have issues.
Definitely agree with you about the people who have issues with vacation travel. Travel is travel, and ALL travel helps open and exercise minds and perspective.
I agree the body-image issues seem to be quite cultural. Every culture seems to have its own thing, too. For example, the prevalence of belief that having whiter skin is more attractive in SE Asia.
As I get older, I see more and more how pointless all of this is, and am working towards getting it out of my life. And, as a teacher, I see it happening in my classroom and am up to my ears in it, especially with those entering their teen years.
We agree with you 100%. Love the traveler vs tourist section. These days, our travel’s mainly around the Canary Islands. But we still feel we’re broadening our minds when we discover a new place. And we’re still finding new spots on our home island of Gran Canaria.
Talon, this is a beautifully written and honest post. I agree 100% with all of it but could never find the right way to express it. So glad you know you moobs and all;)
I love this…so many people put themselves into boxes, and don’t let themselves out. People need to live life that way life works for them. And, it’s too bad that people don’t let themselves explore their sexuality because they are afraid of a label that will come with it.
Talking about body image always hits home for me. I grew up being “the fat kid” and the years of bullying and teasing because of it really sticks with you. Even though I’m no longer big and would easily be considered small-medium size, it still trips me out that people now see me as pretty. I mean, I lost weight so I could climb a mountain and not getting winded after 1 flight of stairs, not to be considered attractive. It’s nice to hear that but it still feels weird. It’s a concept I have trouble wrapping my head around.
As for everything else, I do what makes me happy. If it fits into some kind of label/category, cool I’ll use that when people ask about it. If it doesn’t, I’ll just take 5 minutes of your time to explain it. Hah
I can’t get past the word, “moob” I have never heard that one before. Beyond that though, another good rant and definitely on topic. Kind of sad though that body image and sexuality are still such points of distraction. Do you think as a society we’ll ever get beyond it?
HAHA! Yep, man boob = moob.
I have hope we will, but I’m afraid it’s rather thin.
Absolutely!! “Do what works for you”. I’m SO tired of the traveler/ tourist thing and I cannot believe that some people are still writing/talking/blogging about them being travelers and not the other.
I know. It really surprises me when I see the discussion rear up again.
LOVE this. So agree, especially about body image and what people think they should look like. It drives me crazy, especially as the mom to a tween who sees that stuff every single day.
So hard with teens!
Another great read Talon.
Statement for the day: Lose Those Labels!
Amen. Agreed on all account…except that in my personal life, I find labels regarding sexuality useful sometimes, if used by people who know what they are/like/want and own it. Indeed, it’s confusing to people who are still trying to figure that out. Of course, there’s also the myth that you have to have a well-paid, stable job to be successful and a valuable member of society: also bullshit, in my opinion.
Sometimes labels are definitely handy. For me the big thing is to not live the label. Be yourself and live your life is what’s important.