Now that I know what is possible, I am doing my best to forget it
Something came to my attention this week. Something that has absolutely nothing to do with me. But it affected me. So I am writing about it today.
A woman named Caroline Berg Eriksen, who is a famous fitness blogger (and the wife of a famous athlete) in Norway, posted an underwear-clad selfie 4 days after giving birth. She looked totally physically fit.
This made some people very angry and frustrated. Some (only some) of those people were downright mean, calling Eriksen names.
The angry people made other people angry. These other people defended Eriksen.
If you want to go look at her picture you can, obviously. But I am certainly not going to link to it myself. And if you have body image disorders, like I do, I do not recommend it.
I do not like this world we live in now. Where unless we choose to actively avoid it, we are inundated with images and stories of the daily lives of people who fit a narrow standard of beauty. And sometimes we see these images and stories in spite of our active avoidance.
I do not go out and seek pictures of other women to be told that they are beautiful. To be told what beauty is. I am an active avoider.
And I do not like this world where we as a whole global society selectively share with one another glimpses of our wins, our joys, and our successes. While hiding or glossing over our less shining moments. Asking the rest of the world to compare their whole lives to our manicured and polished outsides. Our facades. Our half-truths.
I do not like this world where we are so afraid of being inadequate that we feel the need to express ourselves to the ENTIRE WORLD, but only the parts of us that we think are adequate.
I certainly did not go looking for this story. It is exactly the kind of thing I avoid. It came to me.
Do I think the women who disparaged Caroline Berg Eriksen are right? No. But do I think Caroline Berg Eriksen has done women in general a disservice? I do.
First, people have said that this is her job. She’s a fitness blogger. She has to look good. I do understand that. So on that note, can we stop pretending she’s not selling something? That she’s “just really proud of herself.” I’m sure she worked very hard. But I’m also sure that she won the genetic lottery in regards to the modern standard of beauty. And that she is making a lot of money from that. So you’ll excuse me for not pitying her.
I think that we already put too much emphasis on women’s looks, and bodies. Their size and shape. And this is coming from a woman who lost 150 lbs. And is happy about it. You will not hear me defending my “right” to be fat. But does it really need to be put out into the world that it is “possible” to be “hot” 4 days after giving birth?
I think that men will be judging the women in their lives differently “now that they know what is possible.”
And I think that young girls will be thinking differently about who they should be in the world, and what they should expect from themselves “now that they know what is possible.”
And I think that women who are having and soon to be having babies will judge themselves much more harshly “now that they know what is possible.”
I think that all women will be judging themselves more harshly “now that they know what is possible.”
I have heard it asked why women have to be so mean to other women. There is, to me, an unspoken, underlying context in this question. They are asking why the “jealous” women are writing nasty things about the “hot” woman. Why can’t they just be nice?!
But to some of us, maybe the less cultivated souls, the less enlightened, the less peaceful, Caroline Berg Eriksen has put a limit on our options. We can either hate her, or hate ourselves. If these are my only options, I will hate her in a heartbeat.
That is not where I stand today. And that is not who I want to be. I don’t want to be a person who hates. Anyone. I definitely strive to cultivate my soul. To be peaceful. But I think self-preservation, no matter how clumsy and inelegant, is always preferable to self-hatred.
No, I don’t hate her. I can see that she has to live in the same society that I do. She just lives in it in a different way. But that picture did make me feel inadequate. And it made me sad. It made me cry for myself.
And no I don’t hate myself. But I have years of actively learning to love myself. And of not seeking out pictures of “what is possible” so I can compare myself. I have years of practice knowing I am beautiful just the way I am. And I mean practice. It takes practice.
And I still forget sometimes.
Do I think she shouldn’t have posted that picture? Who am I to say? I don’t know. Isn’t life too complicated to answer that question?
I can say that her picture hurt me. And shamed me. And that the outcry that came from so-called jealous women all over the world shows me that it hurt and shamed them too.
I am grateful that when I remember it, there is relief in knowing that the possibility of perfection is off the table. There is freedom in the acceptance of being flawed. But sometimes, like when somebody posts a picture of themselves being seemingly impossibly flawless, it’s hard to remember.
No. I don’t hate Caroline Berg Eriksen. I don’t wish her ill. But I don’t like her, either. I won’t defend her. I don’t praise her. I don’t honor her. I do not thank her for showing me “what is possible.” It wasn’t a gift to me.