21 April

Have you fallen into a different body image trap?

You might have seen Finn Furious’ awesome infographic showing how participating in a sport (roller derby, yeah!) has boosted our league members’ confidence.

It is very easy to credit something external to you as ‘curing’ you of body image issues, but as Bunnie Suicide writes as part of our series on body positivity and the #HarlotHappyBody campaign, it’s not as simple as that…

“I’d always played sports, from a very young age, but got told early on that I was ‘too chunky for ballet, why not try jazz or tap?’ I was never the best at anything physical, and was politely encouraged to concentrate on sports more suitable for my ‘shape’ than the ones I was actually interested in. I wanted to by a gymnast, I wanted to be a dancer, I wanted to play centre-back in hockey (you do the most running) but I was encouraged by my school PE teacher to go in goal for hockey and to try discus and shotput rather than track athletics.

At university, I played in goal for the lacrosse A team and that meant I got free weekly weightlifting and plyometric training, something which has really set me up for derby in later years. During this time I was probably training about 20 hours per week, I weighed about 11 stone (I’m 5’2”). At a routine check up I was told by a scarily thin female doctor that “that last ½ stone will just drop off, I’m sure.” I WAS LIVID! I was (at the time) the fittest I had ever been in my life and somehow I STILL wasn’t good enough.

By the time I had fallen in love with roller derby, I hadn’t played any sport for a few years. I now weighed 13 stone and none of it was muscle. I started my first few months of training wearing leggings covered by baggy shorts, with a long sleeved top with a baggy t-shirt over this. You can chart how my attitude towards my body changed by the progression of what I wore to training.

I felt that my self-esteem and body confidence issues had been cured by this wonderful sport and community in which every kind of body shape is celebrated! However, time off skates has made me question a few things about how roller derby inspires body confidence.

What I found myself doing was instead of judging my self-worth on how my body looked, I found my confidence was now linked to how my body performed.  I started to find my self-worth came from how good I was in terms of fitness and on-skates ability. It turns out, this is no more healthy than paying attention to what the media thinks women should look like.

Since I have been off-skates I have found myself struggling with body image once again. It’s a sign that roller derby hasn’t ‘cured’ my self-esteem difficulties, but then why would I think that anything outside of me has control or influence over how I value myself?

There is a strong message in the roller derby community that everyone and anyone can play if they work hard enough because no one person will judge another by their size or shape, which is an amazing message! But a message doesn’t magically change in how you view and value yourself, you do.

I have found that being involved in a community where body image is discussed openly has helped me to pick apart how and why I judge my own self-worth, it isn’t a cure, but it is a catalyst and if you, like me, have trouble separating body image and self-worth, please know that talking, reading and thinking can help you make those steps to being at peace/content/confident.

I am still heavily involved with my league e.g. I NSO, I watch training, give feedback and manage line ups at our bouts. Of course I still flit between feeling angry that my muscles are no longer visible… that I’ve lost my ‘derby butt’ and I can feel my body becoming ‘softer’ and less muscular which in turn makes me angry at myself for falling into the trap of ‘body image = self worth’.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, make sure that you don’t fall into the trap that I have, don’t change one unhealthy attitude towards your body and self-worth in to another.”

Written by Bunnie Suicide

Editor’s Note:

Don’t forget to check out Finn’s blogs about how to improve your body confidence, our #HarlotHappyBody campaign and the survey/infographic that showed the world that roller derby is a great environment to help improve your body image and confidence.

In February we announced that we are supporting Eating Disorder Service, Freed Beeches by raising awareness about body positivity. Check out our  press release to see how we are helping.