Are Illness & Disability the New Fat Shaming?
Body Positivity for the Spiritual Field
The Body Positive Movement
Women everyday, are told that they are ‘not enough.’ They are not beautiful enough, skinny enough, not…..enough. The amount of beauty standards, treatments and ingredients to being an ‘acceptable’ woman these days is entirely mind boggling. With dealing with our families, having a career, keeping a social life and a spouse happy, as well as maintaining a ‘sexy’ size 2 figure, who can even keep up?
As women, we’ve grown tired of other people defining what is ‘acceptable’ in our bodies. As a result, the Body Positivity movement was born, and women everywhere have finally thrown out the measuring tape altogether.
Women are taking back their curves, loving their bodies, and in turn, taking back their self esteem. We no longer allow ads, TV shows, other women, other men, magazines, or anyone or anything else external to define our bodies. No matter what our genetically predetermined size as a woman is, Body Positive says we are all beautiful and and we are all worthy - just as we are.
The Body Positivity Movement,
& Illness and disability in the New Age spirituality field
What I want to talk to you about today though, is how just as we recognized the problem of Fat Shaming was impacting our health through eating disorders, mental illness, and low self esteem in women,
we need to look at how Illness Shaming is impacting our self esteem, mental health, and ability to to experience love in the world as people with illness or disability.
In society and in New Age spirituality, just as in women's Body Shaming, we are told, that if we experience an illness or something seen as unpleasant in our Body, that we are ‘not enough.’ We must scrutinize our habits, our diets, and our spirituality to ‘root out’ what we ‘did wrong.’ We must not rest, or experience any happiness in our lives, or stop 'improving' ourselves, until we are CURED.
We are told, work is GOD.
If someone can’t work, they ‘are a leech on society, laying around and waiting for other people to support them.’ They must ‘want attention,’ and ‘enjoy’ being sick.
Illness & Disability, as an 'immoral,' 'choice'
Illness and disability are seen as morally wrong in our society, and in New Age spirituality. As if, illness and disabilities are a choice one makes. This, is Ableism.
And I would know, because I was once unknowingly holding Ableist views. I defined my worth as a human being by my ability to work and produce things. And how many of us do this? The first question that most people ask upon meeting someone is, ‘What do you do?’ It seems, the obsession with work is in our DNA.
Now, I want to be clear that I didn’t judge others if they were sick or couldn’t work, oh no. My harshest judgements were of myself. Was I doing enough, active enough, volunteering enough? Was I interesting enough, talented enough, fashionable enough, educated enough? Was I enough? My self image and self worth was defined by what I contributed to society, as if x amount of widgets would ensure that I was a ‘good’ person. I was defined by my ‘Do-ing,’ as are most of us.
However, when I lost my ability to work and earn my own living - I hated myself. I thought I was the worst kind of failure and I didn’t know how I’d go on. I, had internalized Ableism.
If I didn’t work anymore, then who TF was I? Someone who laid around? Someone depressed?
Someone terrible, I thought. That must be for sure the one thing I know, is that I am terrible. I unconsciously had associated my ability to work with my being a good person. So when I lost that ability, I also viewed myself as morally decrepit. I felt, like literal pond scum.
Years later, I found out, that the association of illness & disability as ‘morally wrong,’ as if it’s a choice, IS Ableism.
I define Ableism as the belief that a person with an illness or disability is always inferior to someone healthy (rather than simply ‘different’). Ableism is also the assumption that a person with an illness or disability has made some sort of ‘error’ in their life.
Are Illness & Disability the new 'fat shaming?'
In the New Age spirituality field, where we are sold health, vitality, and enlightenment - an Illness or disability is seen as abject failure.
‘Proof’ that we are flawed.
'Proof' - that we don’t know how to use the Law of Attraction.
An illness or disability in the New Age spirituality field is Shamed more than anywhere else because of our obsession with wellness and enlightenment. If we are truly spiritual, the common logic goes, then we wouldn’t ever experience suffering. We can control everything in the world by our Mindset and, the world is fair. Unjust things don’t happen to ‘good’ people. Or so the sayings and unconscious beliefs we hold go.
Ableism, my friends, is alive and well, in the New Age spirituality field. Societies’ & New Agers total inability to accept our disabilities and their focus on finding something to ‘blame’ IS Ableism. It IS New Age Illness Shaming. It IS spiritual bypass.
Yet, just as some women are born with a size 14 frame that no diet will ever make a size 2, some of us are born with bodies that will never meet societies’ standards of ‘health’ or ‘ability.’
Spiritual people are so deeply triggered by Illness & Disabilty
Spiritual people are so deeply triggered by illness & disability. Admit it, you probably freaked out a little when you saw the pills. Am I right?
You would think that illness and disability in someone else, wouldn’t be a big deal. After all, it’s not you with the illness. You are just hearing about it.
However, in mine and other people’s experience, illness & disability is SO deeply triggering to spiritual people. We have to remember though, that every religion has differing views on illness, disability, and ‘why bad things happen to good people.’ By definition, all religions don’t agree on all things.
It becomes a matter of spiritual people understanding that they probably will never agree on why illness or disability happens.
Maturity is required - to accept each others differences in abilities with respect.
As people with illness, everywhere we go, we are told ‘what is wrong with us.’ People let us know what to eat, how to exercise, how much sleep to get, and what supplements we ‘should’ take so that we can be ‘cured.’ We didn’t ask for this plethora of suggestions, yet just like your pushy Aunt Sue who says you’ll never snag a man with your size 14 frame, average people all over insist that we couldn’t possibly be happy having an illness. These people insist, that we must not rest or enjoy small talk about anything else, if we don’t have the ‘health’ or ‘ability’ that they do. We, according to them, are so deeply flawed.
Ill health can make you question everything
When you have a serious illness or disability, reaching this elusive ‘health’ and ‘ability’ can be a futile effort that results in questioning one’s own sanity, character, and questioning one’s own worth as a person. Afterall, according to society’s standards, we must not like or accept ourselves until this ‘disease’ is eradicated from our being, and we have the same abilities as everyone else.
And if our ‘disease’ won’t go away? What shall we do then? Society’s answer is that we are lazy, we are uneducated, we don’t have ‘enough’ faith, we ‘want’ to ‘lay around,’ and ‘have other people’ ‘take care of us.' Or, we've 'attracted our illness' because we are 'negative' and 'low vibrating' in 'consciousness.'
Because, if one’s ‘disease’ cannot be cured, then the flaw must rest in one’s character, according to Ableism. The flaw is NOT in say, environmental toxins, genetics, or simply fate. If we are ill or lack ability, society & New Age spirituality says - it’s our fault.
But the thing is, no matter how many supplements we take, how much exercise we get, or how ‘healthy’ we eat - our illness is still there. Our ‘inability’ to do things that others take for granted, it’s still there.
Human illness has been an issue for thousands of years. If it were as simple as taking a supplement, no one would suffer with ill health or inability ever. The fact is, it’s simply not that simple.
Why do spiritual people, want us to hate ourselves?
Sure, we’d all love to have won the genetic lottery and be Olympians with pristine health, but that’s just not happening, is it. So we need to get real about our health, our level of ‘ability,’ and societies’ unrealistic standards of human ability.
Just like Body Positive threw out societies’ ‘standards’ of women’s bodies to harness our self love, we need to throw out societies’ ‘standards’ of health and ‘ability’ to harness our self love and wholeness as people. This same radical self love must be applied to our illnesses and disabilities because they are a part of us.
We cannot love ourselves, while simultaneously hating ourselves. We don’t get to simply throw out the parts of our bodies that we don’t like. Our illnesses and disabilities, are part of the very fabric of our being, and in some cases, our ‘disease’ is in every single cell of our body.
We cannot hate every cell of our own being - literally. These societal standards have just got to go. Hating ourselves and other people hating us, for things that we cannot change, is not acceptable.
As people with illness or disabilities, we must love and accept the cells in our bodies that aren’t functioning ‘correctly.’ We must love our wonky immune systems, our organ’s eccentricities, and our highly unique joints and bones because they are all a part of us. They may be the part of us, that is like athlete’s foot, or pink eye, but just like fat rolls, we’re gonna love ‘em anyway. Because to do any less, harms us as human beings. To do any less than loving every single part of our Illness or disability, erodes our self love, our right to exist, and our right to thrive in the world as equal individuals and equal human beings.
To demand any less, than requiring that people like ‘Aunt Sue’ keep their ideas about our bodies, to themselves, is harmful.
We must claim every inch of our health and our disabilities and claim our wholeness as people, whether we ever ‘heal,’ are ‘cured,’ or have the ‘ability’ to work like others. For the simple fact, that we are worthy as humans, and lovely just the way we are.
Big big love,
PS. Get our FREE, cheat sheet download with bullet points for exactly how to be Body Positive in regards to illness & disability in the New Age spirituality field.
Bullet point Do's & Don'ts for spiritual practitioners.
For people with illness, use this book & bullet point guidelines to educate others. You don't want to miss it!
Body Positivity for the Spiritual Field