Sexy Self Expression: The Struggle Is Real.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine who made some comments about the fact that my Facebook has seemed “sexual” lately. He insinuated that this new look might potentially be damaging to my coaching practice, and reflected to me that I am so much more than just a pretty girl. Make no mistake, the way he said this was as kind as can be. He even asked for permission to give me feedback before he said it.
Nevertheless, his comments triggered me deeply: they poured salt on a very old wound of feeling misunderstood. I explained to my friend that my posts are literally the opposite of a cry for validation, and never in a million years would I intentionally propagate the harmful norms that society uses to keep women small, powerless and homogenized. “I am rebranding my website, building my book for modeling and, for the first time in my ENTIRE life, fully in a deeply loving relationship with my body. The shoot in which those photos were taken was a ritualistic act of courage… Of stepping into my womanhood and roaring about it!” I told him.
Even in the act of explaining this I could feel my defensiveness. The truth is that I am a pretty fervent detester of the way in which society pushes intelligent women to seek validation through their physicality alone. If you’ve ever spent more than ten minutes with me you’ve inevitably heard my spiel about capitalist culture and how it drives people to hate themselves for the sake of boosting our economy (I know there’s at least ten of you nodding your heads right now, I literally talk about this ALL the time).
To me, posting photos in which I am celebrating my body is actually an act of REBELLION. Rebellion against a system that tells us that women cannot be strong, bold, smart, respectable AND sexy all at once; rebellion against my many years of negativity and body-image dysmorphia; rebellion against a culture that would have us believe that it is anything less than DOPE for women to love, rejoice-in and take full ownership of everything they are, breasts, vaginas and all.
That said, the conversation got me thinking. Why did I so desperately need to show this friend that I wasn’t one of those girls? Why did I so badly need to prove my innocence? I mean, if I HAD posted those photos with the intention of being validated for my physical appearance, why would that be so shameful? My need to prove that my actions came from a morally-justified place signified that I too was resisting something and housing judgment.
I sat in meditation with my feelings and the insight I was looking for came to me: in a society that tells us we are not good enough and bombards us with fabricated images of perfection, isn’t it pretty understandable that people would turn to social media in the hopes of feeling seen and desirable? Everyone deserves to feel beautiful. Everyone deserves to be validated for their worthiness. Why should it be more acceptable to hear it from your family or partner than from an online community? And what if you don’t have family or a partner?
My friend touched upon something in me that, as a woman, brought up a lot of shame: he projected that my posts came from a place of lack or neediness – which they didn’t – but correctly touched upon my the need to be seen and recognized for all of my gifts: to be more than just “a coach,” to be a beautiful woman and a sexual creature and not limited to a single check in any one box. I have written in the past about the way our culture rewards women for being in their masculine, for being “doers” and “go-getters.” This leaves a gaping hole for us as feminine beings whose hearts crave recognition (hello selfie culture!). Of course normal, well-adjusted women are posting photos to get likes, they are adapting to a new way of having their needs met.
In retrospect, I am grateful for that uncomfortable moment because it provided me with an important opportunity to see how I had been drinking that haterade that so many of us on social media are addicted to. I had been judging my sisters who are merely seeking love and attention – resisting the idea that I might have something in common with them when of course I do. ANYTIME we reject a quality in others it is because it is something we do not want to look at within ourselves, self-hate turned outwards.
When we truly get down to the humanity of it all, everything makes sense. Most of us have been on a hell of a journey when it comes to being at peace with the way we look. Most of us have been taken for a ride when it comes to feeling truly loved and validated. Everyone deserves to have their needs met… Everyone deserves to feel seen and appreciated. If we need to point a finger, let’s point it at the broken system that sends people down the rabbit hole of “not enough,” rather than at each other.
When put in this context, I truly cannot look down upon anyone for wanting to feel acknowledged and recognized for their value on social media. In fact, I just want to go on a “liking” rampage and validate the crap out of them. And to that end, never justify anything I do on social media to anyone, ever again. As per usual… compassion is the answer. If someone’s photos trigger you, check yourself. You can be sure there is a lesson waiting to be learned.