My dear friend Stereo over at uncletypewriter touched on a subject that struck deep with me. She was writing about Body Dysmorphia, the mental state where your mental image of yourself and the actuality of your appearance don’t line up. She handled the subject very gracefully, and I highly recommend reading what she wrote. She planted the seeds in my brain about the idea of who we are and how we appear to ourselves versus how we appear to others. Then, Mary over at a small loss (btw, can I just mention how much I love that they both have their blogs’ titles all lower case. It makes me happy.) talked about loving her legs and she pushed the turning wheels in my head down a steep hill.
What is it about loving ourselves the way we are that is so hard?
Mary writes about falling in love with her legs for the first time, Stereo writes about buying into the perpetuated myths that all women are supposed to hate their bodies. I fall somewhere in between on the spectrum. I’ve never been a tiny girl, but I’ve also never been a big girl. The largest size I’ve ever fit into is a 12 and the smallest as an adult is the 8 that I currently sit at. I’ve written before here and here that I learned to lie about my weight when I was 13.
But I’ve come a long way in terms of loving myself, haven’t I?
In many ways, yes. I don’t even get on the scale anymore. I track my measurements and the way my clothes fit. That’s it. Because once I started weight lifting my weight creeped up, no matter what I did. I like my curvy body well enough most days, and even love it some days. I have “skinny” days where I feel absolutely stunning and I have “fat” days where I rue the fact that I don’t own a single baggy t-shirt.
But, and this is a big but, I think I’m just deflecting my own self-dislike. Self-hate is too strong of a word, but dislike, it’s pretty much perfect. It’s something I see in me, and in many girls around me. We compare, we judge, and our esteem either goes up or down based on the people around us.
I notice it most when I’m up on base – I compare myself to every girl at the gym. I want to know where I fit on the spectrum – I’m never one of the “larger” girls but, I have to rank myself among the “smaller” girls. And then come the snide thoughts in my head…
She’s so lucky to be that skinny, I bet she eats all she wants and never has to worry about anything…
She came to the gym wearing that? With straightened hair and her earrings still in? She clearly doesn’t care if she’s healthy or not…
Oh come on, at least turn the difficulty on the elliptical up, at that rate it’s no wonder you don’t see any results…
It’s all part and parcel – I’m judging them based on their looks, I’m putting them down in my head to make me feel better about myself. I’m deflecting the feelings of not being good enough onto these other women in the hopes that I won’t notice that I’m not happy with myself.
It doesn’t work.
Society tells us that we should all be teeny-tiny, tanned, big-perky-boobed, with flawless hair and skin. Especially as women, this is difficult. B’s friend Sparky is on the heftier side and is so stuck-up in his choice of women that they have to be “perfect” even though he’s far from it. Guys can always be the lovable fat guy (see every movie ever for proof) but girl’s it doesn’t work out that way. Even in the raunchy-girl-com Bridesmaids, the heavier girl is more pathetic than funny. In real life? It seems that if you’re bigger than a 0 then you get ignored, shoved to the side, not-dated. Anyone remember Devil Wears Prada? The part where they joke about 2 being the new 4 and 0 being the new 2. And Anne Hathaway states that she’s a six, which the guy responds is the new 14.
I refuse to buy into this message.
Even though I’ve been guilty. Even though I feel like I’m not skinny enough. Even though I find self-worth in being fitter/thinner/better than other women. It has to stop. I have to stop. I am a beautiful woman for so many reasons – physical is only a tiny part of the equation.
I am funny, smart, crazy, and bubbly. I’m a loyal friend, a great wife, a talented musician, and dedicated teacher. I’m always up for anything, there for anybody who needs me, and ready to do anything, anytime, anywhere. I have so many great qualities that don’t at all depend on the physical.
So why do I draw my self-worth from my physical image?
I’m trying not to anymore. It’s why I don’t step on a scale. Because I could have weeks of “skinny” days and great exercise and break down into tears if the number on the scale wasn’t what I thought it should be. It would get me down for days. It’s in the steps after that where I need more work. I don’t want to deflect this lack of self-worth anymore. I don’t want to be out and comparing myself to every girl around. I don’t want to be celebrating the “victories” of being skinnier than most and putting down the ones who are thinner than me.
I want to be happy in my own skin. I want to be enough for myself. I want to be satisfied just the way I am.
I’m not entirely sure how to get there, but it’s something I’m going to be working towards. I want to remember that I’m perfect the way I am, that I’m an amazing person, and that I don’t get my value from a number – whether it’s on a scale or measuring tape or shirt label – it’s still just a number and I am so much more.