It’s time for a change when it comes to the way we (as humans, as adolescents, as adults, as kids, as Americans, as students, as celebrities, as writers, as men, as women, as blacks, as whites, as hispanics, as teachers, as parents, as doctors, as social media users…) CHANGE the way we talk about body image.
I’m so tired of reading about bashing skinny people. I’m tired of seeing posts that call perfectly healthy women fat. I’m tired of seeing models that emphasize that men need abs and women need an ass or an hour glass figure. Everywhere you look you get a slightly altered message about what’s good, what’s hot, what’s healthy– but here’s the reality: each of these seemingly different messages are really all the same. Underneath each message is the portrayal of “what you have can always be better.” AND THAT JUST ISN’T RIGHT.
I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I have been in eating disorder treatment in the past year, so I can say that I have both felt in myself and witnessed in others the distortion the media and society has been playing on our perceptions of body image.
First myth I want to exploit: I don’t care who you are- man, woman, teen, senior citizen, poor, middle class, educated– you most likely have experienced some sort of body image dissatisfaction at some point in your life (the myth being that only teenage girls experience body image problems). If you haven’t THAT’S AWESOME and keep doing what you’re doing. If you have, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong… it’s simply a common product of our society to feel this way.
SO HOW DO WE CHANGE THIS???
I mean I’m just one person and I know I’m far from holding all the power, but I know that change starts with individuals. Here are some of my thoughts of things that YOU (whoever you may be, happy or unhappy with your body.. doesn’t matter!) can do:
1) Remember that what we see on the covers of magazines is usually exaggerated and/or touched up.
- Think about all those tabloids you see about Jennifer Aniston being pregnant??? How many times have those headlines been accurate… (here’s a hint: Jennifer Aniston doesn’t have any children).
- The same goes for images…. not only are stories often fake or exaggerated, but so are pictures. Photographs are touched up with a computer to make models look ‘glamorous’ or ‘fit.’ Those pretty people on the magazines are still pretty in real life, but in a more realistic way. The magazine companies make them look unattainably beautiful or athletic or skinny or tan. It isn’t real life. And why try to be something that isn’t real?
2) Don’t put so much emphasis on the number.
- Now I know this is easier said than done cause with my OCD and history of anorexia, I personally struggle with this. But in the big picture, at your funeral, are your friends and family going to be talking about how skinny you were and what number the scale said when you stepped on it, or are they going to be recounting times you made them laugh or smile or were there for them?
3) SKINNY doesn’t equate beauty. Nor does “the perfect butt”. Or the “athletic body.” Or an hourglass figure. Or well defined muscles.
- This is something that takes time to accept and embrace for certain people such as myself, but I’m learning how true it is. Corny maybe, but beauty really is someone who’s confident and healthy.
- And what does confident and healthy look like??? Different on different people. Some people are naturally thin while others are naturally curvy. But genuine confidence usually looks the same– a smile, but also honesty about your inner and outer struggles. Self-appreciation without narcissism. Being comfortable in your own body and not negatively judging other’s for who they are. Taking compliments and handing them out when appropriate. Confident doesn’t mean you have to have your life together… it just means that you’re not afraid to admit when you are afraid or lost. And that you love yourself for who you are physically and mentally.
4) Negativity is contagious. But so is positivity and being realistic.
- I once thought that being positive meant smiling and saying you’re okay despite the pain. I now know that that isn’t the case. Being positive is admitting when you need help and feeling hopeful about receiving that help.
- Let’s stop talking about “that fat girl” or “that scrawny boy” or “that anorexic looking woman.” Instead, remember that everyone’s built differently. Now if you’re concerned someone you care about has a problem, then that’s different. You wouldn’t refer to them like that; instead you’d reach out to them. Otherwise, let’s not talk about our bodies so much. Like yes, we all HAVE them, but most of the time not much needs to be said about the subject.
5) Let’s talk about something else: the beauty of personalities or the beauty of nature or the beauty of artwork…. etc.
- The list goes on. So many things and people are beautiful. Let’s talk about his beautiful personality or her beautiful painting or the beautiful sunshine.
6) Last challenge: five people
- I challenge you to walk away from this and tomorrow tell five people they’re beautiful (don’t mention specific body parts… just say “you are beautiful”)
- 5 people: 1- yourself. 2- a family member. 3- a close friend. 4- a not as close friend. 5- a random person/people… via post-it note. Stick a note on a public bathroom mirror saying “you’re beautiful” and walk away. Who knows– you’ll most likely touch more than 5 people right there.
I KNOW THIS WAS SAPPY BUT I THINK IT’S SO SO IMPORTANT. START THE CONVERSATION; SPREAD THE LOVE… BEGINNING WITH NOT JUST THOSE AROUND YOU, BUT ALSO, YOURSELF. Next time you hear some people gossiping about someone’s size in a negative way, stop them. Say something. It doesn’t have to be a giant speech… just a few words: “Hey, that’s not cool,” or simply changing the subject if you are a part of the conversation. Or bringing up good qualities about that person. There are countless ways to combat this.
As for social media, be careful what you post. Remember that tweeting something like, “Ugh I’m fat,” won’t help you change the way you feel about yourself. In addition, it may end up harming someone else reading it. They may be larger than you and begin to compare themselves… Not to mention, posts like that put an unnatural emphasis on the body and gives certain bodies a very negative connotation that they aren’t deserving of.
ANYWAYS SORRY THIS POST JUST KEEPS GETTING LONGER AND LONGER BUT BE BODY POSITIVE and if you or someone you know is struggling with food, exercise, or body image, learn more and/or seek help at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
We’re all beautiful here.