Today I am asking you to admit a mistake.
My students know that the 2 most important things to me are kindness and mistakes.
I create art that challenges traditional ideas of beauty and acceptable body types. My art explores bodies that are not commonly pictured dancing, doing yoga, and loving themselves. My message is “your body, your business”. I receive predominantly positive feedback with a few challenges thrown in to make life more interesting.
I take my time to respond to people who question my message or say something hurtful like when a stranger on Instagram wrote “maybe you should lay off the pizza”. I choose to respond to these people with kindness and compassion. Thank them for validating my work. And wish them kindness in their hearts.
Last week I made a mistake. I was reacting to some feedback I had gotten that was making me frustrated. I was trying to explain that my art and my words have absolutely nothing to do with physical “health”. My message is that we need to treat each other, AND OURSELVES, with kindness and compassion. Unfortunately in the moment, I was feeling mad, and hurt. Fortunately I am human and I know that I will make mistakes.
Neuroscience research has shown that there is more brain activity when people make mistakes compared to people solving problems or answering questions and getting them right. This tells us that mistakes are what makes rich learning possible.
Tonight, someone questioned me about part of that Instagram post. I hadn’t thought about it at all. The moment she brought it up, I didn’t even need her to explain.
I did exactly what my art and advocacy addresses NOT doing.
I suggested that certain people not eat certain things.
I can’t be a spokesperson for a message of “your body your choice” if I am suggesting certain people NOT make their own choices.
I body and food shamed people.
I suggested a challenge to eat something your brain tells you is “bad”. Then I qualified that by writing:
“SAFELY! If you have a medical condition with food restrictions then please do not use any of the restricted foods! If you have celiac disease, don’t eat gluten. If you have a heart condition, don’t go get a giant cheese burger.”
The message in my art does not need a disclaimer. Especially a disclaimer that tells someone what they are not “supposed to” eat. Or tells the world that people with heart conditions can’t eat cheeseburgers.
Cheeseburgers are none of my business.
Nothing you eat or don’t eat is any of my business.
My nephew once said to me “I don’t have to explain anything to you about my reasons for what I like or don’t like to eat.” Brilliant boy.
My “challenges” in my art are simply suggestions for ways to love your body. If you have celiac disease it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS what you eat. If you have any form of heart disease or heart condition IT IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS! I wrote that because I had been getting feedback from people about how my message implies it is “bad” to make “healthy” choices. So I reacted emotionally, to appease people, by trying to write a disclaimer that would placate my haters.
That’s not me.
That’s not my message.
I want to apologize sincerely for misspeaking. For shaming. It was not right. It is not part of my message. It was not kind or compassionate.
I am deeply grateful to the woman who brought it up with me for several reasons:
* I learned. And as my students would say, my brain grew
* It means people are seeing a d reading my work, and hearing me
* I have the opportunity to write this apology
* I strongly believe that the best learning happens in moments of discomfort
* I was able to challenge my own thoughts around food and bodies and shame
* I felt a moment of honesty and vulnerability that allowed me to go into that place and come out more aware
* Words have power. Words matter. My words are being read.
So … I apologize to anyone who may have felt shamed by that comment. I made a mistake. I learned. I grew. And maybe someone reading this will ask themselves their own questions.
Your body, your business.
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