I’ve spent the last few months testing the waters with subsurface topics that are relatively safe from judgement and argument but today I feel I’m ready to plunge back in to the nitty gritty writing that requires a certain level of vulnerability. I’ve written a list of topics that I feel passionate about and hope to explore during the next few months. Topics that include same sex relationships, sex talks with kids, Why You Shouldn’t Have Four Boys, Secular Humanism, Being Vegetarian, Using Children in Politics, Gun Control, Who Am I?, Ken Ham in schools, Little League Pledge, Boy Scouts, The Harm in Media, etc etc. There will still be humor, family blurbs, and positive posts mixed in but I’m a freethinking mama and freethinking mamas think non-stop. And all that thinking needs an outlet. Thinking With Vitality is my outlet. Hope you’ll join me,starting today, as I share with you my journey toward acceptance. Happy Reading!
I have this love/hate affair with my body. Some days I love it. Other days I hate it. Some days I look in the mirror and think “looking good, Amy, looking good” only to see a picture of myself later that day and feel like I might just be the ugliest person known to mankind. Now I know that’s not an accurate “truth” but for that moment in time, it’s my truth. I’ve always had this twisted view of my appearance. This view that tells me I’m not worth anything unless I am thin. A view that tells me I don’t deserve to be loved until I have loved myself. How will I know if I have loved myself? Easy…the scale will read, XYZ, and my pants will read size ___. Only then will I be worth loving. Only then. I don’t allow myself any grace. For example, I had a back injury in June of last year that resulted in surgery in October. Of course I had to quit running marathons (another craziness that I think I need to run marathons to be thin and healthy) to allow my body the time it needed to heal but I did not allow myself any amount of grace when it came to the weight gain I have experienced post injury. Instead I have beat myself up on a daily basis for not being thin enough, for not looking like a true distance runner, for looking like the stereotype mom who sits at home eating bon bons, for having to give away my skinny jeans, for not being able to get back to the pre-surgery weight. But here’s the kicker, if I had never had the injury and I was still running marathons I would still only see myself through fat glasses. I thought I was fat (and ugly) in this picture:
And now when I look back I was not fat in either of these pictures. Or in the hundreds of others that I chose to delete or avoid. I was healthy and in fantastic shape. In fact this has been my pattern for the last two decades (maybe three). Hate myself for being fat only to discover later that I was not fat in any sense of the word and I often find myself wishing I had appreciated that moment. I have felt sorry for my husband for having to be married to the chubby wife with acne. I have felt sad for my boys that their mom isn’t ideal. All of those beautiful moments marred by the fact that I was consumed with my weight. I was ashamed when I saw the pictures. Ashamed of the fat woman staring back at me. Ashamed to be me.
I have seen this pattern playing a large role in my life again. Creeping to the surface every single day. Every Single Day I think about my weight.
I’ve become absolutely obsessed with ways I can get thinner. My self talk has become insanely negative. Just in the last week I was in Target and saw these beautiful dresses. I decided they were worth trying on as summer is approaching and there’s nothing like a breezy,floral dress to make one feel beautiful. Once in the dressing room, I tried on the dresses, only to find myself in tears and having concluded that I am no longer human. I am indeed a whale. Fast forward a few days and I was in downtown getting my hair done. There were all these great clothing shops and I was dying to go in and find something that would flatter my figure but instead of going in to the shops I honestly felt that I was not worthy of shopping in those stores. That since my body couldn’t do the clothing justice I didn’t deserve setting foot inside. And with that I concluded that I would just get on the bus and go home instead. Not thin. Not worthy.
These thoughts have never translated to an eating disorder for me. I guess I’m fortunate in that sense. But I question how I can be so delusional when it comes to a healthy body image. Why is it that I can allow a number on a scale and a number on the tag of my pants to consume me? Why is it that I can let those numbers define me? Why is it that I am unable to see reality? Why do I reserve all judgement for myself and not hold others to the same standard that I hold myself? And why is it that almost every woman I have ever known struggles with the same exact issues as me?
I wish I had all the answers but I don’t. I do have a few ideas as to why women feel they never measure up but it’s certainly not an end-all list of reasons why. I think our upbringing plays a vital role in our self talk and our view of self. I think the way our parents view themselves also plays in to our view of ourselves. If mothers of daughters are constantly criticizing themselves for being too fat, too wrinkly, too whatever, daughters are listening. And if that daughter sees herself as part of you then she probably translates you not being happy with yourself as something that is also wrong with her. If you are thin and constantly dieting or exercising to be thinner then she will also see the need to live up to your expectations of self. If dad is constantly commenting on the sexy women on television she probably starts to define what sexy and pretty are. If you tell her she’s getting chubby, needs to wash her face more to get rid of acne, is too hairy, her teeth are crooked or yellow (or if even you are saying these things about yourself) she is getting the message loud and clear that she is not good enough. Even if you tell her how pretty she is all the time and the focus becomes external she will quickly learn that her external features are what define her. If you comment on the physical features of other people your child will internalize that too.
Outside the home (and in the home) media plays a huge role in our ability to self accept. A few weeks ago I was mindlessly watching an episode of Kim and Kourtney Take Miami (*gasp*) and Kourtney, who had just had a baby a few months prior, was complaining about her weight and how depressed it was making her. The producers showed her stepping on the scale in her bathroom and the scale read an astoundingly small 115 pounds, to which she cried that she usually weighs 95 pounds and her husband likes her better when she’s not so large. I sat there with my jaw on the floor thinking what a horrible message that just sent to all of her young viewers. All the viewers that can never live up to that ideal. And here she is calling herself fat and unworthy of a bikini photo shoot (in which she’ll be photoshopped to perfection anyhow). When I was discussing this with my BFF she says,
I know, Crazy! Kourtney does look a little chubby on television, even though I know she’s not. Can you imagine what our fat asses would look like on t.v.!
This is the reason I got rid of my Women’s Health subscription and refuse to buy any smut magazines. These magazines and advertisements are full of body images and standards that I (and millions of other women)cannot possibly live up to. They do nothing more than stir up a hatred of ourselves. They fill us with a drive to be something we are not meant to be. They teach us that our men don’t want us unless we are big breasted (with breasts that are sky high), thin waisted, firm assed, clear skinned, smooth haired and hairless where it matters. They teach us that we aren’t truly a woman unless we meet these unrealistic standards of “perfection”. And they teach us nothing about what it means to be a truly beautiful human being. Everything is external. Everything can purchased. Everything is achievable in 10 easy steps. And if you can’t achieve beauty when it’s made super simple for you then you aren’t a woman worth anything. That’s the message. The media even does this with our women in power. They criticize Hillary Clinton when she starts to look older, they make fun of women running for office if they are ugly, Oprah rules the headlines if she gains weight. It’s an endless battle to win a game that serves no purpose and has no end goal. The only winners are those who never join the game in the first place. Those who have learned the true art of self acceptance.
I’m ready to step off the all-consuming physical perfection game. I can’t win it and I’m not enjoying the
ride.I want to start seeing me for me. To remove the glasses that are keeping me blind. I want to appreciate the wrinkles, the gray hairs, the saggy elbows, the weight fluctuations. Me. I want to appreciate me. Not just me in the physical form, but me. Amy. The me that loves others, judges little, is an amazing mom, is creative, inspires, makes a great friend, is a wonderful spouse, is passionate, is genuine, is smart and is enlightened enough to know that this body is doing me a lot of good. It may not be perfect by society’s standards but it’s perfect enough for me. It breathes when it’s supposed to. It runs for miles. It pumps blood to all the right places. It heals when it is sick. And it sustains the me that I am learning to fully love. The me that will always be here even when the scale peaks, the pimples flare, gravity wins, or some other great calamity comes to scar my outward appearance. The me that remains no matter what. I’m ready to see me, Flaws and All. Because that’s what makes me perfectly me. And perfectly beautiful.
- How women REALLY see their bodies: We asked four women to pick their shape from a chart of body types used by psychologists with fascinating results… (thisismoney.co.uk)
- The Dangers Caused by the Misrepresentation of Women in the Fashion Industry (maraschinomelly.wordpress.com)
- Chunky yet funky (jadeandsuch.wordpress.com)
- Body Image: Or, I don’t think anyone’s as unattractive as I think I am. (theteathinker.wordpress.com)
- Beauty and Body Image in the Media (advertisingeffects.wordpress.com)