You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems
This quote from Atomic Habits has been floating around a lot lately and I’ve been thinking a lot about the systems we live in and live by. This post is a collection of my thoughts and self-reflections over the last few weeks. My thoughts are still fluid and changing the more I learn and understand.
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Here we go…
In the larger world, I believe that we exist as a collective. There are certain systems that we have collectively agreed upon and our society keeps responding to those systems.
According to my beliefs of the collective, each person’s beliefs and actions play a role in what happens in the greater community/society. Therefore, when stuff happens at a systemic level that we don’t agree with, instead of getting up on our moral high horses, shaming all who think differently than us, shouting from the rooftops of all social media platforms, and wiping our hands clean for we have done our individual duty of telling everyone that we are right and liberal and against this…
We should actually be asking ourselves…
As part of the collective, what is my role in this? Am I supporting the systems that allowed this to happen? And if so, how?
The overturning of Roe v. Wade was an extreme case that was allowed to happen, I believe, because the collective generally buys into the system of bodily control.
For the first few weeks after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, my Facebook and Instagram feeds were filled with posts by people horrified that the government could put such control on bodies. My body, my choice!
And yet, many of those people, horrified at this level of bodily control that could be applied by the government, wholeheartedly participate in the system of bodily control at a different level.
Many of the people posting their anger at Roe v Wade have made some kind of comment to me about pole dance, mostly along the lines of “do you really have to wear such small clothing? I guess for grip, right?” (partly, but mostly because I like to and choose to) or people who judge when it gets “too sexy” or harshly judge people who choose to be SWs.
Is it still my body, my choice then?
And does “my choice” deserve respect when my choice falls outside of your comfort zone?
While this example has perhaps seemingly less extreme impact, it’s still the same system of bodily control. Be honest with yourself - are you upholding this system through your actions?
I admit, I am.
It’s confronting to become aware of and to admit, but it's the truth and if we choose not to confront ourselves honestly, will we ever actually change ourselves and move forward as a society.
And, let’s be honest - many of us are upholding this system. We are part of this society, so the majority of us have to be - otherwise, we’d be living by another system. It’s the system we were raised in and the system by which we learned how to participate and behave in society.
The system of bodily control is integrated into so much of our lives.
It is the system of fitness culture and diet culture.
Do you exercise or diet to control your body? Answer yourself honestly.
Can you trust your body to choose its nourishment and movement or do you believe that you need to control it by counting calories in and calories out? Or other dietary actions that are essentially the same thing, but rebranded to seem less diet-y. Do you restrict your food?
Moreso, do you think the body you achieve through controlling it has more worth than the body you would be in naturally without exercise and diet control?
A lot of us truly believe it’s about health. I did for a really long time. That’s what science and medicine say. But both scientists and healthcare professionals were raised within, exist within and uphold this system too.
And what is health really? Some would say another system of control. A system that works to control, in part by assigning morality - “good” people keep themselves healthy, “bad” people don’t. Good people are better than bad people. Shame bad people.
The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” It is literally unachievable for many people based solely on the systems that we live by. If the system prevents you from achieving health, does that really make you a morally bad person? And if you happen to be privileged enough to maintain relatively good health, does that make you a morally good person? If you are a morally good “healthy” person, does that give you the right to shame people you see as unhealthy?
I know a lot of these questions are uncomfortable. As a lifelong health and fitness enthusiast, Dr. of Kinesiology, fitness and pole dance instructor, performer, etc…I’ve had a LOT of these thoughts myself. My research has been based in systems of body control. I’ve promoted dieting and exercise for body control. I’ve been an EXTREMELY active contributor to this system.
And I am choosing to no longer be.
I am actively working to bring awareness to my thoughts and actions and to change the way I participate in this system, both personally and in business. This system keeps us all restricted. It does not work.
It’s a long process, but I dream of a world where we all can thrive, and I know it can’t happen within this system. So the process is worth it.
I'm updating this post to add that the majority of my "my body, my choice" Facebook friends were relatively quiet as legislation across the US stripped Trans people of their rights. Perhaps it was fatigue. If you truly want to live in a world where YOUR body is YOUR choice, then we need to advocate for a world where EVERYBODY'S body is THEIR choice. It can't be bound to your comfort zone.
Also, a fun fact for everyone who commented on the overturning of Roe v Wade as "eerily Handmaid's Tale-esque" - I read the Handmaid's Tale in highschool and learned some of Margaret Atwood's process for writing the book. Essentially, she studied the American Puritans and other theocracies (political power by religious leaders), listened to statements that were being spoken by leaders at that time (she started writing it in 1981), and considered where it could lead. She notes that there is nothing new about the dystopia that she created except, of course, the time and place. Here's a quote from Atwood about the book: "It is an imagined account of what happens when not uncommon pronouncements about women are taken to their logical conclusions. History proves that what we have been in the past, we can be again."
I write this for awareness. It's easy to be so busy or overwhelmed or to just feel that there is nothing that we can do. You may see that these restrictions to our bodily sovereignty are shitty, but happening over there, and what can I do about it?
I'd suggest that if you care, you join me in questioning your participation in these systems and start making shifts in yourself. There is so much chaos happening in the world as systems that don't serve the whole are struggling to maintain power. So let's start building within ourselves and our small communities what we would like the world to be. It makes for a clear win because, whether or not the change we want to see happens in the world, at least we get to live according to our own loves and values. And if outdated systems do begin to crumble, hey, maybe we'll have a response and solution?? Who knows...
All I know is, oppressive systems are oppressive to everyone. White, heterosexual men may have the greatest privileges, but even they are far from being FREE. I know my privileges are also very great and I hope I can use them to support some equitable, non-hierarchical good in the world, or at least in myself and my communities. Consciously moving toward freedom.