I can’t __________, I’m _________!
Whatever your body is like, you’ve probably received some not-wisdom about what it can (or, more accurately, what it can’t) do. Here are a few I’ve been rethinking lately.
Myth: I can’t wear skinny jeans, I’m fat!
I bought skinny jeans and they are fabulous.
Myth: I can’t wear a maxi dress, I’m tall!
I bought a maxi dress and it is fabulous.
Myth: I can’t get a leading role in a play, I’m fatter and taller than boys!
This is an old one, from my high school years, when I was a theater nerd, which would probably surprise you if you knew me now. (My mother once told me that the most surprising thing about me to her was that I was involved in performing arts–theater, choir, solo singing, speech–because I was so shy and stage-frightened. Still am, mostly.) I was convinced all through high school that I would never get a lead role in a show because all the shows we did were love-story musicals, and I was physically much larger than all of the men in our theater program. Maybe I could play old people (actually, I did in two shows) or nuns (yep, hit that note too), but not the leading lady. I don’t know if I had the talent for it, but I assumed that was irrelevant. Fake it ’til you make it only works if you buy it yourself.
Myth: I can’t date boys, I’m too [tall/fat/loud/quiet/nerdy/ugly].
I can’t tell you how many boys I liked and assumed would never like me back because I was too ______. Or how many boys flirted with me, and I assumed they were just being friendly, because, you know, I was too ______, but later discovered they had other things on their minds. And it turns out being taller and fatter than my boyfriend is so, so far from the worst thing in the world.
Myth: I can’t exercise, I’m out of shape.
Yeah, this is just bogus. It turns out I really enjoy exercising when I’m not obsessed with how parts of my body were jiggling.
I realize now that, on top of all the actual prejudice in the world–and, probably, because of it–I spent a lot of time insisting that I had no business doing the things I wanted to do, because I was ________. It might be true that skinny jeans do not look awesome on me (full disclosure: it is absolutely false), or that I am not talented enough to play a leading role in a musical (this one is probably actually true). It is definitely the case that assumptions are made about me and my abilities based on what my body looks like. But I know that telling myself I was _______, so I can’t ________ did nothing to help me. It’s part of the insidiousness of this received “wisdom” about what our bodies are or could not possibly be capable of.
So, how about you? What were you too _________ to do?