Thursday, July 11, 2013

Suprised that I feel like

I'm not gonna lie, I'm really surprised that I feel like I should share this. I don't quite know how to present it, so I'm hoping it's not too disjointed. This post will probably end up touching on a lot of different topics that I've mentioned before on my blog and on Facebook.

I've had a few realizations and paradigm shifts in the last while that have really changed the way I view my body, myself and the topic of modesty. If you've seen my posts on facebook and the links I've shared, my opinions on modesty are obviously strong. I've decided to describe at least part of the reason why, and I'm not gonna hold back.

When I was a teenager I wore lots of baggy clothing. Part of the reason why is that it was lazily comfortable. Another reason is that I was ashamed of my body. I felt awkward (I mean, what teenager doesn't). But my breasts weren't small and they weren't huge, but I didn't like them b/c maybe attention could be drawn to them. They were sexual and we were supposed to cover that up. With this comes the whole hogwash of "Sisters help the brothers," and all of that nonsense. My body was daily betraying me, so I wore shirts two sizes too big. I didn't understand how to be feminine and I thought that if I were too feminine it'd be sinful anyway.

When I went on my mission at age 21 it was the first time that I got a wardrobe that was more form fitting. It's kinda hard to get away from that as a missionary that's supposed to look representable. No more XL t-shirts and baggy jeans and khakis.

If you've read my blog since last September, you know that my mission trainer molested me. Part of her grooming involved making fun of my breasts, focusing on them. She was a woman, so it didn't compute that it could be a "bad" thing. She'd reword hymns in Portuguese to make fun of them. She'd tell me that Brazilian men wouldn't be interested in them b/c they were all about the butt. She was fascinated by them and it was one of her main focuses in the abuse.

The reason why I explained all of that is that it'll make sense when I say that if I hated my breasts and body before my mission, it was nothing compared to after. If only I'd had a smaller chest, she wouldn't have been interested. It was my fault. My stupid breasts. Without being fully aware of what I was doing and certainly not understanding why, I started physically harming my breasts. I don't know when it started. It was sometime in the middle of the last decade I think. But I have some scars. sometimes what I did wouldn't leave scars b/c I never went very deep, but sometimes scars were inevitable. I even have scars from where my sensitive skin reacted to the bandaids that I was using to help the wounds heal.

I have scars in a couple of other places where she would commonly molest me, as well, and I particularly hated those parts of my body, too. None of this is visible no matter what clothing I wear. But the hatred and disgust for these parts of my body didn't hold a candle to the animus that I felt for my breasts.

I had been taught proper shame for my body by society, school and religion. Well--not the proper way my religion should be taught, but the cultural way things were passed on.

Years ago I had a roommate that told me that I should wear V-necks. At first I was terrified b/c what if I showed off too much? Terrible things had already happened. But she was like, "You'll look great in them!" I trusted her. I now have a multitude of V-necks because I gained confidence in my body thru her confidence in my body.

Obviously things really tanked a couple of Novembers ago when I realized what had happened to me. My utterly disgusting, revolting body, breasts. Being a feminine woman is part of my problem. I shouldn't be. I should hide myself.

Scottie gave me a blessing two Christmases ago that I call my second patriarchal blessing. In it I was told to glory in my womanhood, to essentially not be afraid of it and I was like, I don't get that at all. o_O

I do now. The more I've healed emotionally, the more I've healed physically. Sometimes I dress more feminine now b/c I like it. It's part of me. Sometimes I wear cargo shorts and a t-shirt and a ball cap b/c that's me, too. I wear makeup. I experiment with it. I am utterly NOT ashamed of my d├ęcolletage. I wear clothes that emphasize my cleavage and other attributes of my body.

So what changed? I love my body. My body isn't something to be ashamed of. It isn't something I should cover for the sake of others. It isn't the reason why I was molested.

Yesterday on facebook a good friend asked me what my personal definition of modesty was. I thought for a sec and this is what I wrote:

How would I personally define modesty? hmmm, well, first I need to say that it's taken me a while to really understand it and the biggest step was learning to love my body the way it is. I'm pretty normal body-wise and I'm actually really grateful for that. The second step in my understanding was to not be afraid or ashamed of being feminine. I know that this isn't a step for everyone, but it is/was for me. In this regard I realized that wearing clothing that accentuated my features wasn't immodest, but was simply flattering. Wearing clothing that emphasized my d├ęcolletage wasn't immodest. I was confusing a shame of my feminine body parts with modesty.
So I would say that I now understand modesty to be a person wearing clothes with no shame of their body. I naturally would cover my body with more fabric than someone else would, b/c that's me. But that doesn't make me more "modest."
 I think modesty at its strongest and most essential is about self appreciation and love.

I know that this post is long and I covered some rough stuff in my life. But these realizations are so important to me. Once I realized what I was doing to my breasts and body, attacking it, and why I was doing it, I began to heal. I haven't gouged my breasts or hurt them in any way in four or five months. It's the longest stretch, I think, since it started happening. I'm not saying that I'm magically cured, because things like this can be cyclical. But I feel better.

On Monday Therapist asked me about my body and I told her that I loved it, even with the scars. The scars now show me how far I've come.
I truly do love my body.


Jessica said...

Likety like like like.

Oh, and like.

rantipoler said...

I concur with Jessica.

M said...

This post evoked some pretty strong emotions for me. But mostly just love...lots and lots of it, and a healthy dose of pride in your trust in yourself. I'm glad you're letting us be a part of this journey, even if it's just as observers!

Vanessa Swenson said...

Thx, Em. You have been more than a mere "observer" in this.
I wouldn't be where I am today without the love and support that I feel thru the comments that you all leave on my blog and other communications.
And maybe I'm crying a bit right now.

Angela said...

as someone that I have known since childhood you should know that I too battle with my body. No it doesn't look like everyone else's or function the same way, but in my years I have learned to own it. Yeah it has good features but it has imperfections beyond measure. I think the hardest thing was looking past the imperfections and being ok with who I am. Now I rarely notice the few scars that I can see. Oddly enough even in the teenage years I have to commend you for hiding so much so well. I know a few girls that envied you. My motto now is if you have it show it (modestly of course). I love hearing your progress :)