Embed from Getty Images
Former First Lady Michelle Obama is the latest smart, thoughtful person to take up the difficult conversation around accepting and loving one’s body. Michelle was one of the special guests on Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour, joining her in Brooklyn. She spoke about how she wants Malia and Sasha to accept their bodies as they age and grow.
Obama first expressed her frustration over the societal expectation that women hide their age.
“We are so ridiculous as women,” she told Winfrey on Saturday. “. . . We don’t want to talk about our age, and then we want to act like we should look like we did when were 20, you know? When, I’m sorry, men you can look any kind of way. And it seems to be okay.” . . .
“I told my daughters, because as they’re getting older they start to judge themselves and it’s interesting when they talk about, ‘I can’t fit in my jeans that I had last year.’ I said, ‘But you’re a whole other year older. You’re now becoming a woman. You don’t have a child’s body,’ ” she recalled.
“That’s like saying at 20, I’m really upset that I couldn’t wear my favorite overalls anymore from when I was 10,” Obama continued. “That’s as ridiculous as it is at 56 to think that I should look like I did when I was 36, or for anyone to judge me like that, or to judge a woman like that.”
Michelle also spoke about her own struggle with body-acceptance, fueled by the terrible garbage that people said to her while President Obama was running for office:
“People called me all kinds of things when I was campaigning for Barack, like it was a competition,” she said. “They called me un-American, and this stuff sticks with you. Men talked about the size of my butt. There are people who were telling me I was angry. That stuff hurts, and it makes you sort of wonder, what are people seeing? That stuff is there. And look, I’m a black woman in America. And you know, we’re not always made to feel beautiful. So there’s still that baggage that we carry, and not everyone can relate to that. But yes, there is baggage that I carry just like anybody else.”
People also said horrific, racist things about Michelle when she was First Lady, too. She’s pointing that out while framing that garbage in terms of how it affected her self-esteem and ability to love and accept her body, which she said requires “work.” Now, she’s grateful, saying that her body is “‘all mine, and it’s a healthy body that works, every day,’” and that she “tri[es] hard not to judge it.”
I love her perspective about recognizing that your body will inevitably change over time, and it’s the only one you have so you should recognize what it does for you. That’s obvious, but she’s right: Women are criticized for aging. I had a birthday recently, and several people told me that I wasn’t allowed to be as young as I am and have a decent amount of grey hair. I was like, “Actually, yes, I can have grey hair. It’s my hair on my head, and it looks fine.” Accepting one’s body is still hard, of course, and everyone’s journey is different. (I also still love what Sarah Hyland said about not always embracing how your body looks.) My body has been changing drastically (compared to the way that it tends to change) over the past few months, for a bunch of different reasons. Some days, I’m in Michelle’s camp, and other days, I’m in Sarah’s, though I’m going to try to be more accepting than not. I’m looking forward to warmer weather so that I can get out and move more, that’s for sure.
View this post on Instagram
I loved spending my Saturday with @Oprah and all of the inspiring people who came out for #Oprahs2020VisionTour at Barclays Center. When we make wellness a priority, we’re better able to show up to all areas of our lives. For me, that means sticking to the basics: plenty of sleep, regular exercise, and full, healthy meals. What does wellness mean to you? #SelfcareSunday