I may not be able to say it better than Kate Winslet, but her comment is so true. And I get it. It’s not a guilt trip to my mom because she didn’t tell me how comfortable she was with her body. When I was a kid, every adult woman I knew was always trying to lose weight, usually for an event, almost never for their health. And most of them were miserable with the fact that they had to exercise or eat better. Getting skinny seemed like a wretched undertaking every woman strived for.
At no point in my life have I felt completely comfortable with my own body. I work with a lot of women and most of them have parts (or, sadly, wholes) of themselves they really don’t like, even if you and I would think they look fantastic. We often miss the fantastic in ourselves. And women don’t fish for compliments about their body. What would be the point? Most of use wouldn’t believe it anyway.
I think part of the problem is the barrage of pictures we see of what “beautiful” women are supposed to look like, but I also think we apply some pressure to ourselves—meaning one woman to another. If you actually admitted that you liked your body out loud to other people wouldn’t you kind of feel like a schmuck? You seem like a braggart. And I know I’ve had people actually irritated at me for trying to eat healthy or giving up sugar. They take it as a personal affront even though it has nothing to do with them. Being healthy can be seen as annoying, especially to someone who isn’t feeling good about themselves. We need to change this. When we see a friend making positive lifestyle changes, we need to let them inspire us and join with them instead of be offended.
So this is something I’m working on: Liking my own body, but also trying to make it less important and focusing on more important attributes than whether my body is perfect. Because the truth is, I don’t want to hang my hat on beauty. That’s not what I want people to like or admire me for, so why should I put so much importance on it? When I catch myself thinking about how I hate my legs or my arms being huge, I try to tell myself something good about myself that has nothing to do with my body—highlighting a good personality trait, not a physical trait. I think it’s helping (at least when I actually do it).
Also, what helped me was a New Yorker article that came out years ago, and I wish I could find. It showed the photograph of an emaciated model before it was airbrushed. In the airbrushing, they actually added fat and curves to her body. She looked disgusting prior to the airbrushing. It was an ah ha moment for me because I realized what we see in advertisements isn’t real. I knew this, of course, but I’d never quite seen it laid out in front of me. I would rather look like myself then that girl who was skin and bones who looked perfect in the final image but skeleton-like in real life. I wasn’t comparing myself with reality. I was comparing myself with something that didn’t exist.
We are women, and as we experience stories and live life our bodies changes. If we have kids our shape changes; if we have a surgery it may leave a scar; we get some cellulite (most of us have it); if we go through menopause our belly may pooch out a bit; our eyebrows are going to get thinner. We’ll have endless changes that don’t meet some ideal of perfection. If we base our value on how perfect we look, we may very well never be happy. We’ll always be like the women I watched as a kid—trudging along through some exercises routine that they hate trying to be something else. What I can say about most of the women that come to mind from my youth is that they were all smart, competent, capable, interesting women. I’m an advocate for exercise, but let’s make it for fun so we can be healthy and happy, not striving for a form of perfection that doesn’t exist.