Most of the time when I hear discussions about body anxiety, it’s about how the body looks. My problem is with how mine sounds.
My stomach growls constantly, regardless of how recently I’ve eaten. And my stomach likes to be an asshole and growl during the quietest, most awkward moments for me- namely, when I’m in a quiet classroom in very close proximity to other students. The inspiration for this post actually came during my Theories of Feminism class one fine Thursday evening where I, at one point, walked out of the room because I was on the verge of having a panic attack from this fit of incredibly loud, long, never-ending growls. I’m sure no one cared, I’m not even sure anyone heard, but I couldn’t control the urge to run. When I tell one of my friends about yet another embarrassing moment when unholy noises bellowed from my belly, they always say something alone the lines of “But it’s not like you can control it…it happens to everyone.” (I’ve also been told that my stomach makes some of the oddest noises they’ve ever heard, but moving on…)
The fact that I can’t control it is the worst part! There are bodily functions that are considered more embarrassing than this one, but a lot of them you can at the very least muffle. Not my stomach.
The second worst part is that I am fully aware that this is such a trivial problem but I can’t help getting horrible anxiety about it. I feel my whole face heat up and turn red, I can’t completely focus on the lecture anymore because I’m searching the classroom for eyes glaring at me and my embarrassing body. I hunch over in weird positions to try and quiet it and I grip my stomach tightly. I’m literally wrestling my own body to keep quiet. And in retrospect, that’s really…odd. What deems a bodily noise socially acceptable or unacceptable? Stomach growling is just the sound of muscle contractions moving food, air, gas or fluid in your stomach/intestines.
I think it being “unacceptable” stems from a larger issue: we live in a society that, for the most part, separates the body from the self. If I make a noise (i.e. talking, singing, whistling, etc.) I have a made a conscious decision to emit that sound and it comes from my self. However, if my body “decides” to emit a noise, as much as a body can decide to do something, it’s a third party decision. I didn’t get any input and I didn’t choose to let my stomach growl, so I’m not claiming it as my own. Have you ever or have you heard someone yelling at their own body? I mean, I called my stomach an asshole in the introduction.
So what’s my solution?
Well, in nearly all other respects I really, honestly cherish my body. I try to nourish it and I have a very conscious connection to it. I appreciate all of the interesting little things it does, when those interesting little things are silent. So now I will have to extend my way of thinking to the things my body does that are not silent. Easier said than done but here are just some thoughts out loud: ‘Kudos to my stomach for breaking my food down and occasionally actually letting me know that I’m hungry. I’m not a doctor but I feel like if my stomach muscles didn’t contract, I could possibly die or maybe have severe health problems, so I’m thankful to my body for sparing me from that.’
To those of you who sit by me in this or other classes, I’m sorry if my stomach growling bothers you. I probably notice it way more than you ever will and it’s just my body doing what it’s supposed to.
P.S. My stomach growled approximately 15 times in the making of this post.