Body Power

Photography by Jody Waardenburg

I remember how sharp the needle was as it pierced my nose and made it bleed. My eyes watered for a brief moment, and the dramatic moment of pain that made my skin feel like it was being completely separated was finally over.

“Congratulations,” says the piercer, “you’re done.”

That’s what I thought, too. It turns out something as simple as getting your nose pierced can become someone else’s business quite quickly. How? I was told by someone that the piercing made me look like a… Well, let’s just say it wasn’t a nice thing to be called.

What really confuses me is how the decisions I make about my body—which do not put my life or others’ lives in jeopardy in any way—can so easily become the topic of discussion and argument for other people. I was seventeen when I had my nose pierced and already subject to heavy criticism from the people around me about the way I look. I’m five feet and one and a half inches tall; I don’t exactly have much to work with here. And I’m alright with that.

Four years later, the discussion regarding what I choose to do with my body has come up again. I have received relentless attention for my decision to get a tattoo in the coming months—something I have been thinking about for a long time and holds considerable value and meaning to me. I ask this again: Why is it anyone’s business but my own? I’m told that getting a tattoo will ruin the way I look when I wear something nice or when I get older. What is it about my own decision to have artwork put on my body that degrades it or ‘ruins’ it? Do I suddenly become damaged, ugly, or lose value as a person because of what I choose to do with it? No. Should I yield my decisions about my body because of others’ conservative beliefs? No. Neither should you.

Another problem I have with the way people attempt to manipulate your own thoughts about your body concerns what they think you can or cannot do with it. When I began to play guitar at age fourteen, I will admit that I gave up for a while because my hands are so small. But I eventually got back into playing and became quite good. I even began to learn to play the keyboard; that is, until someone told me I would never be good enough at it because of the size of my hands and fingers.

We live in a world where people are constantly telling us what we should or should not do with our bodies—and worse, what we can and cannot do with them. A negative comment concerning something as simple as my hands made me look down at them for weeks and think they were everything I could ever hate about myself. Someone else claimed power over me and made me believe I had a reason to hate my hands and fingers because of their size. Now I hold pride in their size considering how far I have come with practicing music as a hobby. My fingers are very quick at typing on a computer and I love them for that. I would be a horrible writer if I couldn’t appreciate my hands. Now I realize they are one of my favourite things about my body.

Of course, I don’t fully accept my body. How can I? How can anyone, for that matter? We have people everywhere telling us their opinions, beliefs, and values concerning our bodies. If someone doesn’t believe in tattoos and piercings because they are ‘ruinous’ or ‘ugly’, does that mean we should all be trained to hate our scars? I could never hate my scars; half of them are the product of hilarious circumstances, and they certainly do not make me less of a person for having them. So why should I be taught to think I should feel guilty about tattoos and piercings? They are just as much a part of my body as the interior and exterior parts that constitute the person writing this right now.

The same thing goes for body size. Why is it anyone’s business but yours what you look like? At age twenty-one, I finally realize how problematic it is for people to make value judgements about my body as well as others’. Find the aspects of your body that you love, and love them even more. Find the aspects of your body that you hate, and try to love them, too. Of course, it’s hard to do that when we have so many people around us dictating what we should do with them. Your power lies within everything you are. All that matters is the way you feel about your body. After all, it’s the only one you’ve got.