It’s the time of the year where I usually try to write a post encouraging you to commit to loving your body this year. And I do want you to commit to that this year. Make 2014 be the year you find peace in beauty in who you are inside and out. Because you are beautiful.
But the thing I want to focus on this New Year post is listening and speaking mindfully here at SOAM and in your whole lives.
SOAM has always been a website that elicits emotion and sometimes controversy. Most of these debates are nothing new to SOAM, but I feel like the deeper issue is how we respond to thoughts and entries. This is true in all of womanhood, actually, not just pregnancy and birth, but also in motherhood, and in our careers, and in our friendships.
For example, (and I use this example not to pick on any one kind of entry but because this is the sort of entry that causes the quickest and hottest debates) every so often an entry will come around which is written by a mother whose body did not dramatically change, and whose body is conventionally beautiful. She will explain what she did to “get her body back” and she will encourage women to keep working hard with the probably-unintentional suggestion that hard work is all it takes. And I want to make it clear here that I think these women are awesome not only for their hard work, but also for their honest desire to inspire their fellow women. Those are both admirable and beautiful things.
The problem is not either of those things, but the act of forgetting that every woman is different and has a different life. Some women do all of the same suggested actions during their pregnancies and after and their bodies respond differently. To these women, reading that “just working hard” should give them a conventionally beautiful body erases their legitimate reality that it actually has not done so for them. Because there is so much that goes into how our bodies function. A complex combination of genetics and environmental factors that even scientists do not fully understand yet come together to create what we look like and who we are. We cannot forget that each of us are vastly different from each other.
And then there are the women who physically can’t do the same things due to health or physical limitations. Or due to time constraints or lack of support in general. And there are women who have other priorities. And there are women who just don’t want to try to have a particular body shape. And all of these women’s stories are just as valid and important. And all of these women deserve to be treated like a human, and all of these women are beautiful no matter what.
Those entries which are intended to be inspirational, but which wind up causing controversy instead, usually do so because we forget to listen to each other and we forget to speak carefully. You may notice that I am very careful in how I word things. I use phrases like “conventionally beautiful” because I know that many types of bodies are beautiful, not just the kinds we see most often in magazines. I never imply that a woman’s goal is to get her body “back” because bodies change all through life and motherhood is but one of those times. I try to avoid phrases that make people feel sensitive. And then I listen to what they have to say without feeling defensive about it. Honestly, it’s that kind of listening that has caused more personal growth in me than any one other thing.
The vast majority of SOAM is without a doubt very clearly supportive. We are an amazing community and a really unique one for lack of trolls in an online environment. I mean, I do approve every comment to help keep this place as loving as it is, but I so rarely have to delete any that most of that honor is on you guys just for being super awesome in general. And I love you guys for that. The only thing that I think could make SOAM a better place is if we all work hard to listen to each other and take care to find the right words when we are communicating.
Let’s make this a year where we focus on communication here at SOAM and in our lives. I may be biased, but I honestly thing the people here at SOAM are some of the best people online and I think it could be a beautiful thing to make this community even stronger by listening with open hearts.
Happy New Year you beautiful mamas!