This past Friday, I attended a viewing party for a documentary titled Embrace. The film follows Taryn Brumfitt, a body image activist, who posted a powerful Facebook post of a reverse before and after photo of herself. The before photo was of Taryn on stage at a body building competition, and the after photo was of her completely nude (though strategically covered), sitting on a stool, and noticeably heavier and less fit than her before photo. Taryn’s photo attracted both positive and negative comments, and from those comments, she was inspired to set out on a journey that took her around the world to speak with people about body image.
Not even five minutes into the film, I was already tearing up and discreetly wiping tears from my eyes — it struck a cord with me.
But I was not the only one.
At various points in the movie, women around me nodded their head in agreement or spoke aloud about how they could relate to the experiences the women in the film had. The subject matter was so relatable that we spent two hours talking about our own experiences, thoughts, and feelings after the movie finished.
I was both surprised and saddened as the women in the room described verbal, emotional, and physical abuse they have endured regarding their bodies. Some spoke of the various diets they have been on in an endless battle to reach what society has deemed the ideal body shape. Others spoke of how they had to finally quit striving for the “perfect” body, throw out their bathroom scale, and start focusing on their health instead of their dress size — these women are my heros.
One thing Taryn spoke about in her movie really hit me hard in the gut and has been turning the gears in my head ever since. She talked about how she feared that her negative body image would influence her young daughter, Mikaela. Taryn did not want her daughter growing up loathing her body and worrying about needing to be a certain body shape for society to accept her.
It was then that I felt a very heavy weight placed on me. I realized that I am my daughter’s very first teacher and role model. She looks up to me, already emulates me (the good and the bad), and thinks the world of me. I’m careful not to talk down about myself around her, and we talk about eating the right foods to stay healthy, and if we talk about her height and weight, it’s always positive. Even by doing all that, I feel like I need to do more — not just for me, but for her as well.
I have very low self-esteem, my diet and exercise habits aren’t the greatest, and I dislike my body as well (I’m trying really hard to not say “hate”). I didn’t add anything to the discussion after the movie and listened to everyone else instead because I felt if I opened my mouth to share my experience with my own body image, I would immediately start crying. Now, I feel this huge obligation to better myself and change my thinking about myself or have my daughter develop the same negative thoughts about her own body. I can’t have that.
I really don’t want her to feel that kind of pain.