17 September 2014

Thoughts on Body Image

I have been thinking a lot lately about the topic of body image.  Probably  because lately I have also been thinking a lot about my body.  Some thoughts that are mine are below, and I am not claiming to have the answer, or be perfect.  But I just felt like telling you - of course, that does not mean you even have to read any more of this, but if you do, please know that I do not mean to sound superior, OK?

For as long as I can remember, I have been out of the loop, so to speak, on this topic.  I was fortunate as a kid and then again as a teenager to never, ever have my mother say anything about whether I was fat, skinny, tall, short, whatever.  I also am not aware of her ever saying anything like that about my sisters either.  Don't get me wrong, it's not like she was above saying, "Wow, So-and-So looks like she gained weight," or similar, but it was not something she was always talking about.

Now of course, I was surrounded by other people and their parents who seemed obsessed with weight, appearance, boyfriends, etc.  And who longed to look like certain movie stars or models.  Mostly I thought they were kind of stupid.

It really and truly never, ever, occurred to me that I was *supposed* to look anything like women in fashion magazines.  Oh, I would wish I had some of the clothes or shoes, and often I wished I had the hair/hairstyle, but I can truly say that I never saw those women as having anything directly to do with me or how I looked.  And it's not like I was super well-adjusted - trust me, I had (and still have) PLENTY of my own issues!

As an adult, it's definitely been a good thing that I have never been obsessed with body image.  I've certainly been on the cusp of overweight on more than one occasion, and I've also wished plenty of times that I could fit into last year's slacks or jeans.  I've been dismayed when I couldn't, and had to buy new ones in a larger size.  However, I've lived through this without a feeling of shame or devastation.

This has served me well, after several major surgeries.  My body is now a series of scars that look like a road map for medical students who have wanted to practice doing surgery!  Things are messy, misshapen, not the same size, and even puffy.  I always tell The Tim that I have no plans to donate my body to science, since at this point, science already has most of it!

Though I'm not in any way sure that it was a conscious action on the part of my parents, I am grateful that my growing up focused on things other than appearance.  I've never thought I am ravishingly beautiful, but then again, I've never been convinced that I am ugly.  Likewise, I've never worried about being "fat" or what size my clothes happened to be - particularly in relationship to anyone else.

I wish more people could feel this way.  I am not convinced that it's fashion magazines and advertising that are completely to blame for our society's obsession with looks, weight, etc.  I think it was a problem long before Vogue put super-thin supermodels on the cover, or before Kate Moss and/or others were forced on us as the epitome of beautiful women.  For anyone feeling self-conscious about themselves already, or who thinks that what others say about them is the most important thing, I think life must be a series of miserable days, and I wish that they were able to move beyond it.  I'm sure that the barrage of images and messages about body image needing to be a certain way doesn't help.
I don't know that there is an easy answer.  I think that the fault lies within ourselves, and until *we* let it all go, we're gonna keep passing it on to the next generation.  That is what bothers me.  When I think of the mothers of my friends who would tell them not to eat dessert so they wouldn't get fat, or the girls at school who would call others fat, or ugly, or whatever, I am amazed that so many years later, it still happens.  All the time.

If you think of it, and ever find yourself doing it, please stop.  None of us need that kind of criticism and pressure.  We all need a break.

1 comment:

Marie said...

I wish I'd had your experience. I've been on and off diets my entire adult life. I've finally said, Screw it! I'm eating what I want. This culture of perceived perfection is just wrong, not to mention hazardous to the health and self-esteem of young women.