You know what the number one New Year’s Resolution is?
You didn’t even have to Google it, did you.
You see, particularly as women we can easily become defined by our body size, shape, and weight. It can become consuming. I am not saying that we shouldn’t be healthy or aware of our bodies, but too much focus can draw us away from the goodness of who we are regardless of our size and shape.
In an article I read recently, I found the following:
How many women worldwide believe that they are beautiful?
Come on, take a guess.
Wow. That makes me feel…lousy!
If you read my article recently regarding Victoria’s Secret, you know how I feel about beauty. You know how deeply personal this is. But, I also know it isn’t just personal for me. It is something that is personal for many, many women.
You see, the research isn’t nice. The research tells us that less that 5% of women can attain the media ideal of thinness, that 80% of women over the age of 18 are unhappy with their body image, that 50% of commercials directed toward women mention physical attractiveness.
The research shows that the majority of models are 20% below ideal body weight.
And, what does the research tell us about our children?
Ahh. Now, this you may not want to know.
One study showed that 50% of 6 to 8 year olds want to be thinner. And that 65% of girls had developed ideas about dieting by age 5.
Guess where they developed those ideas?
You didn’t have to Google that either, did you.
Yep. Their mothers.
Hey. Let’s not get discouraged!
Ladies, I know the research. It can seem overwhelming, but I also know women.
I know we are stronger, smarter, and wiser than these numbers. We can rise up together and fight this battle on body image. And, even if we can’t change Victoria’s Secret, or the modeling industry, we can change what we believe.
And once we change that, we teach it to our children, who teach it to their children and suddenly the flap of a butterfly’s wing has created a tsunami of change.
So, where do we start? Right here.
1. Treat Your Body With Respect
We need to learn the power of one word: health. It isn’t about size, shape, or the number on the scale. Really, ladies, it isn’t. But, we can and should treat our bodies with kindness and respect.
Dress in a manner that shows respect to your body as a whole.
Refuse to compartmentalize.
Remember, your body is a gift.
2. Challenge the Media Portrayals of Women
We all know the truth about the media. The women that we see in magazine layouts, on tv advertisments, and in the VS magazines are not real. We all have heard the word photoshopped before.
We are smart enough to realize that the images of women we are constantly bombarded with are unrealistic and often unhealthy.
But, sadly, the research shows that knowing isn’t enough. Even when we know, it doesn’t stop our minds from comparing those bodies to our own. And ending up feeling that we fall extremely short.
The beauty industry knows the numbers. They know what they are doing. You see, the beauty industry makes hundreds of billions of dollars a year. One article from 2012 stated that the beauty industry made $426 billion dollars a year.
The industry knows that if you are watching a commercial and you see a discrepancy between what is being portrayed and yourself, you are more likely to purchase their product.
So, of course, they are going to use women that don’t look like you. Greater discrepency, greater revenue.
So, if knowing isn’t enough, what do we do?
Well, we stop looking. Don’t buy the beauty magazines, don’t watch the tv shows that portray unrealistic images of women (music videos and soap operas are some of the worst offenders). And, when you do see those images (because, frankly, how do we get away from them?), tell yourself:
These images are unrealistic and unhealthy. They are not what my body should look like. They do not define beauty.
Ladies, I have met with a lot of women. I have seen some of their deepest fears and insecurities. I have struggled with them myself, and lipstick, great jeans, surgery, and other “beauty tips” do not fill the holes of insecurity. You must learn to be comfortable with who you are – regardless of shape or size. Fat or thin, tall or short, blond or brunette. It does not matter. Which leads us right into #3.
3. Love the Body You are In
Don’t wait to love yourself until you are a certain size or weight. Don’t wait to love yourself until you fit into that dress or swimming suit. Love yourself now.
You may say, “Great advice, Elizabeth. But I have one question: HOW?”
Well, this takes some practice.
First, I would suggest that you take a look at how you are talking to yourself about your body.
What kind of language do you use with yourself? I will do a post about “body talk” in the future to address this more specifically. But, honestly, sometimes we say things to ourselves, about ourselves, that we would never say to another living human being. Women can be relentless with themselves.
How can you love yourself if you treat yourself with malice, disrespect, and unkindness? If you are negative about your body in your thoughts, in your speech, and in your behavior, change them. Find some good things you can say about yourself and practice them daily.
Second, evaluate your “ideal” body image?
This is the image you hold in your mind about what you think your body should look like? The closer this image is to the media ideal of thinness, the greater likelihood you will experience body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.
One recommendation: be realistic. I always wanted to be taller. But, both my mother and father are about 5’2″. I could go about my entire life hating my short legs and wishing for a taller physique, or I can accept that my genetic combination granted me with a 5’3″ frame and make the best of it! We cannot change our genes. But, we can find what we love about them. Because I am short, I get to wear heels whenever I want. And, I love to wear heels!!
Third, do not compartmentalize.
I mentioned this in #1, but let me be specific.
You are not your hips, or your butt. You are not only your stomach or your arms. You are not even your body alone. Stop looking at yourself with the eyes of compartmentalism and objectification.
We get angry when the media does it.
We hate it when men do it.
We need to stop doing it to ourselves and to one another.
I know these things aren’t easy to do. I know because I help women all the time who struggle with their own self-conception. I have struggled myself.
But I know one thing about my body. I have arms that get to draw those that I love close to me. I have legs that can take me to work, balance when I am trying to hold my daughter while I cook dinner, and climb a ladder when I have to clean away those dust bunnies. I have a stomach that stretched wide enough for two babies, and hips that carried all three of us through an entire pregnancy. And these things add up to a body.
I have a working body.
And that is a beautiful thing.
No too-wide hips, flabby arms, or fat butts about it.
Join me in this fight. I have another post scheduled with four more tips to help yourself develop greater satisfaction with your body, and another post on how to teach your daughter to love her own body.
If you have some questions or ideas for further posts on body image, feel free to share those with me and I will do my best to help! This is going to be an ongoing process, but I hope to have many more posts in this series!
And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out my post on Victoria’s Secret. You may laugh, you may cry, but my greatest hope is that you will find something there that touches your heart, and that something will lead you to love yourself just a little bit more.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
If you liked this, please share it! If I had one wish it would be that all women could feel beautiful. I hope you’ll join the cause!