My Body is My Own

June 29th, 2012

One of the things on my mind in the immediate is a lesson I’ve been learning for a long while now, or rather, unlearning the wrong lesson. My body is my own, to do with only that which I want to do. I’m nearly thirty-two years old, you would have thought I’d known this for quite a long time now. And I have gotten better about it. But I’ve also let myself be pressured. I think I’ve posted about this before, but in college, I sometimes viewed my body as a tool, a thing that didn’t really matter. It wasn’t who I was, it was just this outer shell, to use as necessary. I never got into anything terrible or dangerous with this attitude, I just often didn’t care enough to tell someone no, you can’t touch me.

The article I read the other day, went even further than that. It talked about not forcing a child to hug or kiss someone. Letting it be their own choice. The mother in this article had several reasons. One being that she wanted to teach her daughter that her body was her own, to do with only what she wanted. She didn’t want her to grow up feeling like her body was for pleasing others, especially those in authority. The other being because sometimes kids sense things about adults, sense things that make them uncomfortable, and she did not want to force her to hug someone that scared her. How many people do we give physical affection to, just because it’s expected of us? Are we confident enough to say no to someone with their arms out for a hug?

I know that I often struggle with this. I feel guilty if I don’t return a hug to someone offering it. There are certain people I don’t want to hug, so I do everything in my power to keep them from offering one. Either by my body language, keeping a distance, or outright ignoring them. Why don’t I just say no? It’s my body, why should I be more afraid of offending them, than my own feelings of comfort? Because that’s what I was trained to do, programmed from a young age to greet people with a hug.

So, how do I undo that training? First, by being conscious of it. That article made me painfully conscious of it. Second, by looking at myself. When do I behave this way? Why? With whom? Third, taking action. I spoke to hubby a bit about this, about not wanting to feel pressured. He has agreed to help. And I will be more active, and less passive in my offering or denying of physical affection. More conscious. Asking myself to be sure I want to be doing this, and enabling myself to say no, if I don’t.

It is an odd thing to think about. I don’t really have personal space anymore. I don’t mind people being close to me. I don’t understand when people passing a foot away say excuse me. I do excuse myself for doing similar at work, but that’s because I understand other people have personal space. So I don’t mind closeness, but it’s the affection that has me hooked.

My body is my own and I shouldn’t use it to make other people happy, if it doesn’t also please me.

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3 Responses to “My Body is My Own”

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  2. K says:

    It’s interesting how different this is culturally over here. I have always been a very physical person, I think, but most of my friends in the UK are significantly more reserved than I am and some few are open in letting people know they do not wish to be touched. I have developed the habit of asking permission before touching, unless I’m in an established relationship. While it felt odd to do so at first, the longer I have done it the more it just seems sensible to give people the opportunity to consent or to decline. The trick, I think, has been to learn not to take someone declining to be touched as an insult.

    • PervertedImp says:

      I think you’re right, that is the trick. Because it’s the offense we are/I am afraid of committing. Not wanting to insult people.

      I think I have at the very least become good at being conscious of what I’m doing lately. Consciously making the choice to hug someone or not, instead of just acting on social reflex.