This weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 6th Annual Walk to REbeL. REbeL Peer Education is a non-profit based out of Overland Park, KS who’s mission is to “change the definition of health and beauty for every body.” They do this through pushing all of us – old or young, man or woman, straight or LGBT, or any other way we may identify – to love ourselves and rebel against the unrealistic standards the media rains down upon us.
I stumbled upon REbeL last spring when I was working as a cashier at Whole Foods Market. Throughout the past year I have volunteered with them a handful of times and every time I do I get as fired-up and passionate about their cause as when I first heard of them. I never thought that promoting positive body imaging would be something that I cared so deeply about, but I do. Maybe in part because I know that as a teenager I never felt like I was skinny enough or pretty enough. There was always someone in my class who looked better than me. Or maybe it is because I wonder if I would have been a part of a group like this in high school, if parts of my story would have turned out differently. It isn’t that I want to rewrite any of it because it has made me into the person I am today, but it wasn’t always the easiest path to wander down. No matter the reason, REbeL is something that I promote 110%.
It is fascinating to me how quickly we all are to put ourselves down. We call ourselves names that we would never dream of calling anyone else. Never in a million years would I tell my best friend that she had thighs like a 2-by-4, yet that is how I routinely describe my legs. And it’s almost as if society expects this from us. It is like this scene from Mean Girls. You know the one. Where Lindsey Lohan has just become part of the popular group and they are all in Regina George’s bedroom listing everything about them that is wrong. When Cadie doesn’t immediately join in they turn and stare at her until she comes up with something wrong about herself too. And BAM just like that! It happens. Or you are driving to work and jammin’ to the radio. You hear an ad come on telling you that if you can’t get rid of those last 5 pounds, then call this number and they will remove it for you. Then, and only then, can you get your Ideal Image. Or you log on to Facebook to see the sweet pictures your friend posted from your weekend adventure, but all you see are your cankles and how great her abs look. We are constantly finding ways we don’t measure up while simultaneously being bombarding from all angles with the same message – you aren’t good enough how you are.
I’d bet that if you stopped any adult walking down the street and asked them to list 5 things they wish they could change about themselves, almost everyone would instantly have an answer. I don’t like my thighs. My tummy is too big. I wish my boobs were bigger. I hate my gray hairs. I want whiter teeth. But then, ask those same people what 5 things they love about themselves and we all get squeamish. Even if there are things that we love, it is almost as if we feel like we can’t vocalize them. By saying, “I have killer calves and I love my body” we are committing an unspoken social taboo. But that is exactly what REbeL challenges all of us to do. We don’t need to look or act a certain way. We don’t have to accept what the media tells us to be. We are all fabulous just how we are. The cool thing is, if you tell yourself something enough times, it becomes true. There are parts of me that I may never think are perfect, but that doesn’t mean I need to put them down. The more I push-back and rebel against accepting an unrealistic standard as my own, the more peace I will find, we all will find.
So tonight before bed or tomorrow when you get up, stare at your reflection in the mirror and thank your body. Thank it for all of the places it has taken you, all of the things it has let you experience and all of the stories it has let you tell. Stare at your reflection and find the positive. Make a list and repeat it every day. I challenge you to find what you rebel against and what you love about you!
Things I rebel against:
- The media telling me what I need to look like to be thin
- Negative body talk
- Advertisements showing me how much happier I’d be if I lost weight
- Judging other people and their body
- Labeling food as “good” or “bad” — and feeling like I need to exercise because I enjoyed a piece of cake
Things I love about me:
- My teeth – I have all of them and they are perfect
- My monkey toes
- My freckles
- My determination
- My legs (between you and me, I don’t love my legs. Like I said above, I refer to them as 2-by-4’s and tree trunks. They jiggle in all the wrong places and they never look like I imagine, but I’m working on it. Each time I find myself starting to say something negative about them, I stop. I don’t even finish my thought. Instead I replace it with, “I love my legs and all of the places they let me go.” It has only been a few months, but I can already tell a difference. And I know that one day I will get there).
To learn more about REbeL and the great work they do, or to find out how you can become involved with them, click here.