I've spent most of my life trying to resolve weight issues stemming from a societal and cultural perspective that was handed down to me. Recently, I had an eye-opening conversation over a cup of coffee with friend who shared her own struggle with self-acceptance and body image.
We assume, as women, that it's just normal to joke about how “fat” we are, and to berate ourselves in front of the mirror. Allowing a scale to determine our worth as individual begins with what we are told at a young age.
“You just don't have the figure for that.”
“If you lose 10 pounds, I'll give you $100.”
“Suck it in.”
We live in a society that prizes and idolizes the “perfect figure." Our mothers and grandmothers slaved away at it, worried about the size of their waists and thighs. From an early age, we've overheard influential women in our lives bemoaning their food habits and how they refuse to put on a bathing suit because they “just don't look good in one."
Our mothers, who heard it from their mothers, taught us to struggle with, be ashamed of and constantly look for flaws in not only our own bodies, but also with our friends and other women around us. We have been conditioned to compare.
We watch a television show or a movie, and we secretly criticize the actresses with the automatic internal monologue: “She's too skinny! Why doesn't she eat anything?” Sound familiar?
A few weeks ago, I came across an article from TODAY Show host Jenna Bush Hager, who came across her 10-year-old self's diary entry listing her New Year's resolutions. Her top resolution was to lose 4 pounds.
That really hit home for me. I have an old diary from fifth grade, where I listed that my primary goal for the new year was to lose weight so that I could “finally wear ribbed turtlenecks.” Ignoring that obviously outdated fashion staple, I remember eagerly receiving my favorite kid catalogues in the mail and becoming discouraged when I saw the rail-thin child models they used to feature their clothing lines.
It's disheartening to me that my weight and figure (and learning to critique the same in others) has been a cause of concern for at least 15 years of my life.
There is such a difference between wanting to be healthy and wanting to be someone else. I have spent too many years trying to look like the ideal, all the while pretending I wasn't doing that very thing. I have pulled off jeans or a shirt too many times, criticizing my body for not being photoshopped perfection.
It's time we really made an effort to stop being so focused on the perfect figure as the ultimate goal. It's time we raised a generation of women who see themselves with confidence who aren't afraid to live healthy, happy and whole. These women will be able to teach the world around them the same mindset.
I hope to have a daughter of my own some day, and to teach her to be positive about her body, mind and spirit. I hope she rarely hears me complain about my own body, celebrating the miracle and strength of it. I want her to thrive, fight, love and give life. I want her to be the difference in a world saturated and obsessed with “perfect" and to embrace and fall in love with flaws.
That has to start with me, today. I have to make little efforts to catch myself having negative thoughts toward myself, give compliments that aren't appearance-driven and become best friends with the creative and confident woman I see in the mirror every day. I have the power to be my loudest critic and most devoted cheerleader.