Body image- Definition: What it should be: I have feet and arms and legs (or maybe not) okay well I can see my own body. COOL I AM A FUNCTIONAL HUMANOID.
What it often ends up being: omg I feel so fatttt I’d better be really unhealthy in my habits so I can pretend to be confident in my own skin, even if that fat is from natural weight gain from something like puberty.
I have had my own struggles with body image; I’d be lying if I said otherwise. I am, after all, a teenage girl in the US, and there’s only so much that anyone can do to escape that influence. I do worry about my weight from time to time, but I have very consciously kept myself from obsessing. I do watch what I eat, and how much I work out, but part of that is because I am an athlete. My family eats exceptionally healthily– lots of veggies, very little meat, but still plenty of protein. I drink green smoothies for breakfast, and I think I have become addicted to (unsweetened) herbal teas. I avoid carbs until somewhere around lunchtime, and I can’t stand eating too much greasy food.
None of the above is a result of self-consciousness about my weight. It’s because I run 3-7 miles on any given day, and I put a lot of energy into doing well at that. Some days, I might also be diving (competitive springboard), or pole vaulting. Sometimes I’ll do weight work or Pilates. Or I’ll go for a bike ride with my dad. Whatever.
My point is, I’m not unhealthy and I know it.
But I also know that I am not and probably will never be the skinniest person in the room, or the best at any of my athletic activities. And so the self-consciousness begins to creep in.
I have gone on long tirades against the media for perpetrating negative body image. I have shaken my head at the people who suffer from eating disorders (a group that has occasionally included my friends), and I have blamed the world for putting these people in such a position that they would harm themselves to try and look better than they already do, not realizing that they were beautiful the way they were. But the truth is, it’s not the media or society that made them the way they are. Not entirely.
Yes, the media doesn’t help the situation. It may even make it worse. Commercials and movies and TV shows featuring super skinny actors and actresses, ads in which people are photoshopped to be more muscular or to have smaller waists and longer necks. But people choose to buy into this. The ideal we should want is a body type with muscle and natural fat right where it is supposed to be, not a skin and bones representation of what we used to look like.
I get angry with myself when I realize that I am worrying about my weight, because I am terrified that I could one day end up with an eating disorder, or dangerously underweight. But then I realize that the whole problem with these problems in the first place is that they force us to be angry with ourselves for our own inadequacies– and if that’s the case, then what am I doing but perpetrating the issue further?
It really disturbs me on a core level that this is a way of life for us. Anyone can be as healthy as possible, in full knowledge that they are healthy, and still succumb to the pressure to achieve a “perfect” ideal that is actually physically impossible. Some people cannot slim down that much. Some people cannot spot-reduce fat (actually no one can, but that’s a different issue). And most people can care way too much about how they look in any specific piece of clothing. And we all just go along with that, like it’s normal life. And for most of us, that’s what it is. And I take issue with that.
We are who we are. And who we are should be happy, healthy, kind people. My thoughts on that can be found back in a post I wrote this past spring. But the way society is geared, and the way we think, that becomes as impossible as the body ideal we are trying to achieve.
My problem with body image isn’t just that everyone else’s is so negative. It’s the idea that everyone has a body image in mind that needs more than the necessities of life to feel functional. It’s the idea that if you’re worried about yours, then it must be negative, and therefore anything the term entails must be negative by association. I have a body image, and it usually does not conform to the negative side of it all, and I’m okay with that. But the only word for what I think about is body image, forcing negativity into the equation via stigma, whether I want it there or not.
I refuse to let myself become a subdued, struggling person just because of what I look like. I may not be the skinniest person I know, or the most muscly, or even the prettiest. But I am me, and no one else is that. I am healthy, I am working to be kind, and I always strive to maintain happiness. Because that’s what life is: a work in progress. And we all miss out on so much while pretending that appearances are all that matter, so why bother?
We are who we are, and it’s time to delight in that, because inside all of us is potential to be something beyond our wildest dreams. We just have to let go of the concerns that want to choke and starve us, and live those dreams in full.