We've all had people weigh in on our bodies. When I was younger, I was told "you have such a pretty face for a heavier girl" or "I always wonder what you'd look like if you weren't so fat". At eleven years old, I was told by someone I adored and looked up to, "you could be so beautiful if you just lost all that weight. Such a shame."
Now I read almost daily "you look good now. You should stop or you'll start to look ugly" or "I like your body way better when you were heavier. Now you look so gross."
These are quotes. These aren't approximations or exaggerations. They also aren't unique to me. These are the same words I hear directed at my friends, my family members, my students, at strangers sitting across the room. That other people decide what makes you beautiful.
We've all had it. We've all had unwelcome, uninvited, unprompted comments on our bodies. Maybe yours came across the dinner table or at a wedding, not on social media. Maybe yours came in hushed tones from a concerned friend or in tones you wished were hushed from an oblivious relative. Maybe yours just came from the pages of the magazines telling you that you don't fit their idea of beautiful.
But let me ask a question. Have we ever been guilty of it? Have we ever taken the same words that burned our skin and applied them to someone else like ointment or bandage? Have we ever weighed in on the bodies of people we love, people we know, or people to which we have never spoken?
I am an advocate for health... both physical and mental. The two go hand in hand. Because I'm an advocate for health, I am an advocate for kindness. To others and to oneself. I'm an advocate for it being no one's right to tear away pieces of another person's self worth, casually discarding them as unwanted or unnecessary. I'm an advocate for never telling someone they'd be beautiful IF. Or they'll remain beautiful UNLESS.
I think what we're missing is that it's none of our business.
It's none of our business what someone looks like or eats like or acts like as long as it isn't harming us or others.
It's none of our business if someone is, "in our opinion", too fat.
It's none of our business if someone is, "in our opinion", too thin.
It's none of our business if someone is, "in our opinion", too muscular.
It's none of our business if someone is, "in our opinion", too flabby.
It's none of our business if someone is, "in our opinion", too lax.
It's none of our business if someone is, "in our opinion", too focused.
Too light. Too dark. Too short. Too tall. Too blonde. Too brunette. Too stupid. Too smart. Too talkative. Too quiet. Too shy. Too charismatic. Too anything...
Here's what we're missing.... The "in our opinion" part.
If we're telling someone they're "too" anything, we're missing it. We're being hypocrites. We're supporting them making their own rules, becoming who they want, bending society's expectations. Until they break our rules, stop becoming who we want, and start bending our expectations.
Until we feel threatened and become part of the problem.
Until who they are isn't, in our opinion, who they should be.
It's not our job to dictate others' choices. It's our job to check ourselves. To hear that voice and silence it. Because it rips self worth away like tattered and worn wallpaper. Because it scrapes at someone's deepest insecurities. Because it's none of our business.
We won't dare tell them that we support them getting healthy until their too healthy.
We won't dare tell them that we support them getting educated until their too educated.
We won't dare tell them that we support them getting cultured until their too cultured.
Because we're no longer missing something. We're no longer missing the "IN MY OPINION".
Because our opinion should never be more important in shaping who a person becomes than their own inner voice. But if we are not careful... if we are not kind... it will be.
And that, IN MY OPINION, is not okay.