“Arming” Ourselves Against Body Shaming

Why are arms such a sensitive spot for women? Of all the body parts, I hear more negative comments about the arms than any other area of the body. In fact, the word “hate” — as in, “I hate my arms” — is said rather than “I don’t like my arms.” For some reason, arms take the heat for what we hate about ourselves.

In my business, arms are a very integral part of the fit of clothing. The arm will always be an issue when it comes to choices and finding viable solutions for a wardrobe. This is because the armhole will ultimately be the measure of what size you take in an item. There will be a need to size up if the armhole is not deep enough for your arm and shoulder. But engineering aside, listening to another person describe what they don’t love about themselves sheds light on self-criticism and body shame, which is the real root of my message below.

I come to this topic with my own history of body shame. These ideas were planted at a young age, and it has taken a long time to weed out the unrealistic ideals I thought I had to meet. Every decade found new insecurities, making me feel as though I weren’t good enough. So much of my own struggle was due to how beauty and physical appearance were marketed to women. I’ll admit those fashion magazines did a number on my mind for a while. Having children, stress, menopause…all these impact this vessel we reside within. Did you pick up on that? The vessel we reside within.


Have you ever felt shame about your body?


When we allow ourselves to feel shame about our bodies — and nearly every woman I’ve met has had a face off with body shame — the vessel becomes its own prison. This phenomenon of how we see ourselves became apparent when I was working at Hysteria. Being able to look in the mirror alongside any number of women and realize we were seeing two completely different reflections was the light bulb moment for me. In those fitting room confessional moments, I discovered how many of us look at ourselves in relation to information from the past. We are comparing our current self to the memory of a past self. This means that we are not honoring or loving who we are in the present moment. This is why I became a stylist. While my job is to solve problems, my purpose is fulfilled when I help women live — and thrive — in the NOW. Every decision should be made to satisfy the NOW.

I am teaching myself to separate from the notion that I am my body. If nothing else, please remember that these bodies are not a measure of who we are. I’m getting a little deep here, but there’s a reason beyond finding clothing that fits well. I fantasize what a world would be without mirrors because it’s our own egos that develop our sense of shame.

If you’ve listened to or read any Brené Brown, you have heard that shame cannot survive with empathy. These places of self-criticism are often isolating by nature. Sharing our insecurities creates a sense of belonging. We must learn to stop letting shame and criticism have a hold over us and to break free from allowing our critical ideas about ourselves to have power. What I have come to understand is that we are the ones who put ourselves in this prison of shame…and that we are the only ones that can release ourselves from the hold.

I’m a Mind the Mat enthusiast. I’ve been a consistent member ever since I moved out of Old Town nearly four years ago. Next month I turn 53 and I attribute so much of how I feel to a commitment I made to myself to care for the vessel. Not only do I want to keep my mechanics finely tuned by doing the required maintenance, I also have realized the power of engaging my mind in telling my body how to move. Engaging the mind-body connection consistently has empowered me to attach a feeling of control, which is incredibly empowering. How we feel is so much more important than how we look. Getting older isn’t for sissies. I can say with candor that I rode out my 20s and 30s on very little exercise. Now I take classes with women half my age and feel inspired by everyone who shows up to push beyond their boundaries.

I started my commitment with Megan Brown’s HAWT Pilates Friday class — seriously, just one class a week in the beginning. Now I have incorporated Pilates Boot Camp and an occasional yoga class, as well. There is a spirit and feeling of accomplishment that helps shut out my critical voice. I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to a variety of workouts, but find MTM to be a place where I can dedicate myself to improving my body as well as my mind. The mind is a tricky thing. Seriously. The mind will tell us what we can and cannot do based on how we feel. I’ve learned to start deciphering that limiting voice in my head. Going deep again…

The voice that tells you “I can’t” comes from a place of limitations, shame, and fear. Learn to identify that voice and create a new mantra. Find a place where other people’s positive energy is contagious; it has the ability to carry you through your barriers with strong arms!

The laws of probability are in your favor if you show up and take action. All we have is NOW. How grateful I am to be feeling so strong and confident at the cusp of 53?! My service to Stylebook readers is to inspire your sartorial desires. In honor of my upcoming birthday next month, I asked Dr. Megan Brown to help me share some of her inspiration in an effort to give those who follow me and my Stylebook writing something that I have found profoundly valuable.


Megan and I discussing “arm hate.” Jump right to the 8-minute arm workout at the 5:30 mark.


I joined Megan in a prop-free video that gives your arms an overall workout that you can incorporate anywhere. There are great ways to alleviate neck pain and correct your posture by opening up your chest and pulling back the shoulders. Need some motivational music? I covered that, too! Click here for a playlist that starts with “Free Your Mind”!!

The messages behind the movements resonate beyond the class for me. We are in control. We can make the changes we want to see in our lives. We are designed to evolve. In the seasons of life, summertime is when you lay down seeds and take action. So I encourage you to take action and applaud any and all efforts.

So why arms? To be frank, it’s the most benign body part that gets the most hate. So I figured if we could stop hating on the arms, the rest would follow! I invite you to see what is possible when you engage in a commitment to well-being and tag a video clip or picture with #freeyourarmsandtherestwillfollow to be included in the Stories. There might even be a gift for those who tag! Follow along with me this summer and I’ll keep my motivational strong-arm story alive on Instagram  I’ll also post a whole slew of sleeveless and arm-baring items to keep you goal oriented.

I intend to incorporate more self-awareness in my business and in my messages. Styling is more than the practical side of putting a well-edited wardrobe together. It’s about building confidence and finding ways to express ourselves through sartorial choices, and sometimes outsourcing to someone who we trust simply because we don’t have the time or inclination to do it on our own. The work is never really done since we are always evolving. Our bodies and choices will always be changing. And wouldn’t we all benefit from a cheerleader in our corner to rally for us? I assure you I get as much as I give from my experiences with clients. Each of them becomes part of my story and enrich my experiences with how I understand the need to connect, support, and care for one another.


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Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

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