And I’ll have fun with my clothes instead of hiding in them.
That’s how I ended this social media post the other day:
And I’ve been thinking about the idea of HIDING ever since.
It’s obvious that we use clothes to hide.
In fact, that’s the very definition of clothes, isn’t it?
Clothes – something that covers the body.
Wearing clothes literally means hiding something – but of course, “hiding” in one’s clothes takes on a whole new meaning when you consider what some of use really use clothes for:
We use color to disguise the prominence of body parts. We use patterns to disguise a “trouble” area. We use bras that flatten or push up to disguise our natural bust lines.
Our reasons for doing this seem obvious – to keep others from seeing, and judging, parts of our body with which we aren’t comfortable.
Except that I’m more interested in the implicit reason behind the obvious one – our discomfort with ourselves.
This is what’s been driving my thoughts about HIDING lately.
We use our clothes as a DISGUISE for covering the things about ourselves with which we are uncomfortable.
We use our clothes to AVOID feeling discomfort.
Obviously we think of discomfort as a bad thing – so we avoid it.
But discomfort in itself is not bad – it’s only an indication of preference, of personal predilection, not inherent goodness or badness.
You might find healthy behaviors to be uncomfortable. Maybe you hate vegetables, so eating them is distasteful. That’s discomfort.
But you might also find unhealthy behaviors uncomfortable. Drug addiction, for example, can’t possibly feel good.
And that’s also uncomfortable.
So discomfort, in itself, isn’t bad.
It isn’t something to avoid or fear – those feelings should be reserved for things that genuinely hurt.
And discomfort isn’t a scale on which to determine worthiness of a behavior or situation.
I have some discomfort when I think about doing ab work.
I dislike it.
I’ve apparently even said so during my sleep, meaning I must have had dreams about my distaste for it.
But that discomfort doesn’t mean that ab work is inherently bad for me. Nor does it mean that I should avoid doing abs.
It also doesn’t mean that I should disguise my discomfort by lying or pretending to like it.
Discomfort is just what it is – discomfort.
So let me take this one step further and say the thing I probably shouldn’t say:
Discomfort with ourselves – even discomfort with our bodies – is neither good nor bad.
It’s just discomfort.
And accepting that this discomfort exists does not mean that body-shaming and all the other external, cultural pressures to look a certain way are winning the fight. (In fact, I would argue that disguising that discomfort is exactly what gets us in the most trouble.)
NOTE: This is not to say that one’s “discomfort” with one’s body can’t become more problematic than the word “discomfort” implies. I am not talking about true body dysmorphic disorder, nor am I talking about the implications of self-perception that accompany eating disorders. I am talking about the range of “discomfort” that accompanies what we might call “normal” body image. We could potentially talk about whether it’s “normal” to feel “discomfort” at all with our bodies — but that is a separate post.
Accepting discomfort means just that – we admit that it’s there.
And once we accept its existence, we can stop HIDING from it.
And we can wear whatever we want DESPITE discomfort, if we want to, because clothes are no longer about simply covering our discomfort.
If someone learning to overcome her discomfort with vegetables has to suck it up and eat more vegetables, wouldn’t the same apply to other behaviors?
Go eat more vegetables.
Go wear the clothes that you wouldn’t normally.
Discomfort be damned.
Let your confidence be the death of discomfort.
And have fun — instead of hiding — in your clothes.