Quit Overthinking. Post the Damn Photo.
Given the reaction of my nervous system, you’d have thought I was about to expose pentagon secrets. But in reality I was just going to post a photo of myself in a lace bra to a mere 1,000 people willing to follow me. A tasteful photo, with no real nudity, a photo I actually liked. And yet there I was, shaking in my sweatsuit, horribly nervous to post it because of a million opinions I was conjuring up - and none of them my own. They were the imagined and perceived opinions of others that I’d get for posting it. It was full blown group discussion where everyone I cared about and admired was present inside my head for a panel analysis of my total lack of deservingness.
What will people comment?
They’ll say something harsh like ‘put clothes on’, or worse: nothing, and instead sneer about it together behind your back.
What will my family and coworkers think of me trying to look sexy?
They’ll think A) you’re not. And B) it’s sad that you tried to be.
Will I get enough likes that I won’t look stupid? Beggars can’t be choosers.
Will I lose people’s respect? Will you lose your own respect if you coward out and don’t post it?
Instagram is inundated every single day with women showing more skin and giving less f*cks, yet here I was trembling over my opinion of other people’s opinion. (Read that twice). Because, simply, it was my opinion that their opinion of me was more important than my own. This is a cyclical problem that goes down to my roots.
So: yes, I would have lost my own respect for myself if I kept from posting a photo I actually liked on my own platform. With that, hitting ‘share’ was almost too easy. Though this is but a small act of defiance against the structure of external validation we live under; it matters. In fact, it matters a lot.
In it’s infinitely generous way, the universe was testing me here to see my own worthiness; my worthiness to feel sexy, my deservingness to share my body, my power to feel beautiful even if others don’t see me that way. I wasn’t deciding whether to post a picture, I was being offered the chance to reprioritize the validation of other people against that of my own internal validation through the joy of self expression. I not only posted it, I doubled-down with a caption that could confront the issue head-on.
I think I speak for a lot of women when I say: we WANT to feel sexy and beautiful and celebrate our bodies, and even show them off. Why wouldn’t we?? Women’s bodies are gorgeous. But it often feels impossible to do because of this dichotomy: though the ‘ideal’ woman is expected to be confident and sensual, to present oneself as such - or to even consider ourselves beautiful - is perceived as self indulgent, conceited or shallow. So we’re supposed to aspire for perfection and yet never acknowledge it in ourselves?? What a trap. I’m here to celebrate the hell out of any woman who shares herself as she WANTS to be seen - especially if it means letting herself feel and show her beauty in a way of her own choosing, while simultaneously giving a big 🖕🏻to the ridiculously illogical criticisms of modesty we all still face. #mybodymyrules #loveyourbody #celebratewomen
The caption got the obligatory comment (from a man) saying I was being contradictory and making implications that didn’t make sense to him. His comment wasn’t offensive but the irony of it was demonstrative. How could he understand the contradictions that women live under around sexuality, when often men are the ones responsible for enforcing the oppressive contradictions themselves?
For anyone to understand requires taking a long, hard honest look at society at large, as well as a long, hard look at oneself, and where we have misplaced our values. There are endless ways for others to express judgments of a person’s sexual prowess (a ‘like’ or lack thereof, a judgment or criticism in a comment especially one that refers to an ‘intentional destruction of traditional values’, and oh God: the glances…ladies know what I’m talking about). But there was only one way to act as the catalyst for change against the unreasonable expectations, and that is to challenge the expectations with our words and actions to the contrary, thus robbing them of their authoritative power.
We’ve come a long way, but every little action helps. The list is long of icons, celebrities, artists, politicians who’ve joined in the crusade to make it safe and accepted for women to celebrate their bodies, including in nudity. Women have fought for abortion rights against throngs of overly outspoken and controlling males, they’ve stood before thousands of people making intentionally provocative and sexually liberated art. For those of us with a smaller proverbial megaphone, it’s the smallest of feats but a feat none-the-less to post a mostly modest but openly sexually or flirtatious picture of myself on social media to fight in the battle within me for whose opinion is most important.
In the depths of myself still lives an unreasonable expectation to strike the impossible balance expected of women: to be both sexy, and yet moral and reserved. To be sensual, and yet demure. To be poised, graceful, striking, elegant, yet so humble I’d deflect or reject any compliments of such. We’ve been walking a tight rope too long now, but the first step off the rope and onto solid ground isn’t confronting the people who hold each end of the rope. It’s in first confronting the demons deep within who sentenced us to walk this rope in the first place. There are other paths, there are other voices to listen to, and there are other opinions - your own - that matter more than the barrage of voices you dream up in your head before you post.
How do we win? How can we celebrate and show off our bodies, our sexual power, and still earn the respect that only modesty and demureness can supply?? We don’t. We drop out of that game, and start playing one with a much better reward, that of working to earn your own respect first and foremost. Choose which experience is more important to you: earning their approval, or your own. And you go all in.
Trying to earn the validation and respect of others before you earn your own is a silly and pointless game. And as they say in dating but is incredibly relevant to all of life:
Play dumb games. Win dumb prizes.