Let’s talk about women and body image. ANY woman who has ever stepped foot in a dressing room to try on an article of clothing knows how quickly emotions change from excitement about a new shirt or pants, to disappointment when you find it doesn’t fit the way you imagined.
Then the criticism begins.
As women, we are often so quick to pick apart each section of our body. This quickly turns to hopelessness, self-loathing, and then a stop for comfort food on the way out of the mall…..because “why not, I’m fat anyway?”.
This vicious cycle continues each time we step foot in a store and it takes an incredible amount of insight and self-awareness to make some positive changes.
Our beauty standards come from the society we live in. Historically, being somewhat overweight was desirable because it translated to wealth – if you were lean, it meant you did not have food or money-whereas having extra pounds meant you could afford to feed yourself (and family as well).
However, in more recent years, the tides have changed dramatically. Having a lean or muscular body shows you have time to devote to yourself by working out. Similarly, having a tan shows you are able to go on vacation, afford a spray tan, or have the luxury of spending time outside (where the majority of work is now done inside).
To a more extreme level, we see the rise and social acceptance of cosmetic surgery to “fix” what we aren’t able to change through diet and exercise. This has a financial component to it as well as many would not be able to afford elective surgery or have to go into debt in order to get the surgery done.
I have no qualms with cosmetic surgery, I have gone under the knife myself. However, I do feel there needs to be a greater awareness when patients are seeking unattainable looks, or have repeatedly undergone surgery, as there are most likely underlying mental health concerns that should be addressed.
Social media has played a large role in adding to the pressure to not only be as perfect as your physical neighbor, but also to others who you have never met before who can use the perfect filter, to post the perfect picture, and not show all the work and effort that goes into that single post. Additionally, most of these photos are likely photoshopped and show unrealistic, unhealthy, and often unattainable beauty standards. In a nutshell, our society has become obsessed with being perfect or at least having the image of being perfect. We are constantly trying to keep up with one another, and in the process, we may not even realize how much we compare ourselves to someone else. Is it any wonder we have a hard time accepting any part of ourselves or our body?!
I would be doing an injustice to point out all the ways our body/self-image is affected in our everyday lives and not provide some skills to work against it.
- To address comparison, it’s ok to notice something someone else has or has achieved without bringing it back on ourselves. It’s ok to notice that someone has a nice body, nice hair, or cute clothes – but remember it doesn’t have anything to do with you. Simply notice they have something and stop yourself from saying “I wish I had that”.
- Start a gratitude journal specifically for your body. Each time you say something negative to yourself, challenge yourself to write down two things you appreciate about your body. “I hate my stomach” can be changed to “I’m grateful this belly grew our baby” or “I’m grateful my digestive system works well” – too often we get so consumed with our physical looks and forget that our body actually functions to keep us alive and healthy!
- Notice when you engage in negative self-talk and ask yourself if you would ever say that to your friend, your mom, your aunt….your daughter!? If you wouldn’t say it to someone you care about, why are you saying it to yourself?
If these skills work for you, I have one final challenge – wear the outfit you want to wear and go out in public! Challenge yourself to feel confident in it!
If you feel that your body image issues are deeper and these skills don’t seem to work for you (something to be discussed in a follow-up blog post), it may be a good idea to talk to a therapist or reach out to others who have been a positive role model for you. Know it’s always a work in progress, and that’s ok!
In a nutshell, our society has become obsessed with being perfect or at least having the image of being perfect. We are constantly trying to keep up with one another, and in the process, we may not even realize how much we compare ourselves to someone else. Is it any wonder we have a hard time accepting any part of ourselves or our body?!