Betty and I have been working hard to create a community surrounding the Dream Chasers and Change Makers podcast. I have been doing research on how to engage more social media users who would be interested in brave and vulnerable content. One thing I have learned, from social media guru, Jenna Kutcher, is that users like to know the faces behind the pages they are interacting with. That translates to: we need to post pictures of ourselves!
In my past taking photos was something I loved to do. It was my self-care before I even knew that buzzword. It may sound superficial, but for me it was therapeutic. When my life felt out of control, and I was anxiety ridden and depressed, when I had the energy, getting glammed and having my photo taken just felt really freaking good. If I couldn’t get a handle on how I felt, at least I could control how I looked. Pictures were a way for me to encapsulate this. Actually, my dear friend, who has since passed away, Kevin, would sometimes say to me, “Do you want me to take your picture?” when I was feeling down. He knew me so well.
In the past few years, for the most part, this has not been the case. I tend to shy away from the camera. My body has grown and aged some. When my picture is taken I get pangs of fear and think horrible thoughts, that I would never say about anyone else, like, “Oh God, I hope I don’t look disgusting in that picture.”
It’s funny because, as a clinical social worker (in training!) I tell my clients all the time, to try and speak to themselves the way they would a friend and in this situation I am totally not taking my own advice. Realizing this, and then learning that a way to start a community online is to show people who you are I decided I was going to have to get my picture taken.
I recently spent a couple days in in New York City. I brought a couple cute outfits with me and decided I was going to fake it until I make it and pose in cool looking places all over the village. I was feeling very self conscious and worrying about what passerbys may think, like, “What does this girl think, she’s a model?” I really wanted these pictures to come out nice, so I threw caution to the wind and posed my little heart out.
I was doing a pose where I was looking over my shoulder (what a professional, I know) and this tiny little girl, maybe three years old passes by perched on her dad’s shoulders. She has this fleece hat Velcro-ed around her cherub face and she squeals, “Daddy look! She is SO pretty!”
My heart melted into a puddle, obviously. It reminded me that all the little kids and babies riding on their dads’ shoulders are not born hating their bodies. WE teach them that. Every time we say how unhappy with our bodies whether it’s because parts are too big or too small, not firm enough, too wrinkly, we normalize shaming bodies. We are teaching children to look at their little bodies and the bodies of other children and comparing and judging and eventually hating.
These past few months I have been reading and learning about diet culture, and how as kids we were indoctrinated into this belief system about what a body must look like in order to be beautiful and healthy. That’s why I was an eight year old looking at my thighs underneath the bubbles in my bathtub praying to God to make them thinner. I stepped away from learning about these things because it was a lot of information and honestly very overwhelming to take in. One thing that has been good for me is following people on social media that have all different kinds of bodies, and not necessarily body positivity pages exclusively, just all types of people living their lives with purpose in the skin they’re in.
Unlearning what I learned about bodies is a journey, and that little moment on the street was truly a gift from the universe. Joy is beautiful. A free spirit is beautiful. I am so pretty, and in the words of my three year old niece, “Because I said so.”
By Alé Cardinalle | LMSW Candidate 2019