Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Body Talk: The Art of Being Wildly Uncomfortable

Remember how I said in my last post that I by no means have all the answers? True statement. I am a work in progress. A dear friend reached out to me after reading said post. She knows a lot of my struggles surrounding body image and shame. She has walked alongside me and has been my cheerleader as I’ve worked through some hard stuff. She noticed something in my wording, in the way I chose to talk about the “playing doctor” incident that occurred between me and the neighbor girls. She was struck by the fact that I called our behavior “wildly inappropriate” and she said that it made her heart hurt for me. And so I owe you an editor’s note.

This word choice is evidence of my past. If you were to ask me point blank if I actually believed it wrong for kids to practice curiosity and explore their bodies, I would say “Absolutely not!”  Yet, I still fight former ideologies and they will at times sneak their way into my words without my awareness. Instead of referring to our body curiosity as developmentally normal, as I now know it to be, I wrote, without a second thought, that our behavior was “wildly inappropriate.”  It is an ever-present struggle to fight against the messaging of our youth.

Don’t mishear me. Certainly, I am not trying to say we should be encouraging body exploration as a playdate activity. What I AM trying to say is that body curiosity in and of itself is not wrong and bad. And we need to be extra careful that we don’t portray it as so. Yes, we should be proactively talking to our kids from the get-go about what is and is not appropriate behavior surrounding their bodies and it’s interactions with others (such as only exploring their own bodies and doing so in the privacy of their own room or the bathroom), but to shame them for being curious? This is the practice I would like to eradicate.

Rather than referring to my first explorative childhood experience as “wildly inappropriate” (as I did in my first published draft of my last blog post), I have since changed the wording to reflect what I actually believe: childhood body exploration is NOT wildly inappropriate. It does, however, make many of us as the adults, “wildly uncomfortable.”  So that’s why we need to ponder this more.

If even reading this post brings up feelings of “wild discomfort,” it could be a sign that this is an area where work is needed. Take it slow. Give yourself lots of grace because this is a process. But I would encourage you to rehearse and prepare your response for that inevitable day (trust me, it WILL come!) when your child does something that, were they a grown adult, might be considered an “indecent exposure.” If we are to set our kids up for loving and accepting their bodies as created by God, this is absolutely an area we must give adequate focus.  

But we need to take care of our own stuff, our own body baggage first. If we are to raise our kids to love and appreciate and value their bodies the way they are, we need to first address any negative messaging and any misconceptions from our own upbringings. And doing so will most likely not be comfortable. But I’m learning that being uncomfortable isn’t wrong or bad. It just is. Sometimes we need to sit in that discomfort for a while, and think and talk about hard things. We need to process our discomfort, examine where it stems from and why we are feeling it. I, for one, hate this process but you know what? IT’S OKAY. I’ve learned that I can be in uncomfortable places AND still be okay. It’s not rocket science but it takes some of us 32 to years to get there.

My hope as I raise my kids is to be calm in the uncomfortable. I want to be open. Maybe discomfort is simply our body’s way of alerting us of an opportunity for growth. I kind of like that, don’t you?

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posted by kelsie