Where to start… Body Dysmorphia (Mistaken and debilitating thinking that you are seriously ugly/fat/any kind of hideous) – That feels seriously medical and severe. I happen to harbour thoughts that the majority of women exist somewhere on the dysmorphic scale. Few are as bad as the worst cases but the majority of women think they are ugly or deformed in some way and do not see and appreciate their unique beauty. Very few are exempt. I am happily in recovery.
My initial compulsion to write this post came out of a sudden absolute awareness that the majority of women are entirely unrepresented in modern media. And I mean entirely. Where are the size 12-14 women? There is virtually no exposure to the most average sizes of women anywhere in the media. So, if we are to believe that what we repeatedly think makes us who we are, and what we are repeatedly exposed to forms our values and informs our habitual thoughts, opinions and actions then surely we are really up against it?
Women in the media and how they affect our self-confidence
In the media, we are constantly bombarded with the images of how we ‘should’ look.
These images are as follows: Super skinny (the clothes-racks, models and actresses who have amazingly just lost weight), the marathon super sporty (who are pure muscle), and finally super size ladies. I want to say here that I am extremely happy that super size has gained a place in modern media – it is healthy and necessary to increase visible diversity. What we are exposed to reflects the world we live in. I would also like to say that from a health point of view it makes no sense to aim for super size (in the way that we are taught to aim for super skinny or super fit).
What concerns me here is the total lack of women size 12-14. They are simply not on the radar. And do you know what that does to our malleable lady brains? It means that when we look in mirror and see a “normal” size 12/14 we think “oh dear, little bit on the larger size” – i.e. not good enough. This means that the 12/14 women who are the majority (women who probably live a healthy balanced life between family, work and pleasure and don’t watch the anxious diet clock too stringently) will consider themselves if not abnormal then slightly wrong and not good enough. That is a tragedy.
Get a greater representation of women on the map!
Women have a hard enough time gaining equality without bashing themselves over the heads with extra low self-worth. We must aim to celebrate greater diversity.
Women may not judge each other so harshly, but we definitely judge ourselves. I am a size 10 who always wishes she was a size 8. The first reason (I claim) I want to be skinny is because it helps my career – sadly, this is true. I was most skinny when I was very unhappy and suffering from 3am panic attacks. All the weight dropped off me, I was skin and bone. My friends were worried and I was delighted – finally I have conquered the beast. Because - as far as I can see - it isn’t really about size, it is about control.
Often we are concerned about our looks, if I put on too much weight, then I am not “in control” of myself and therefore not powerful and therefore weak and therefore not worth reckoning with. Because of the relentless exposure we are subjected to – thin equals power – thin equals success. Of course, this is compounded all day long - inside, outside, on paper, on screens everywhere – so we believe it. And we judge ourselves and our neighbours according to this hideous truth - “to be thin” is power and thus success; women are therefore always failing.
Much sadder still is that to have control is, of course, a complete illusion. It took me years to work out that only by accepting chaos and my ultimate lack of control, would I feel in control – and that knowing everything would not stop the world from surprising me. That working around the concepts of “Who Knows” and “Never Mind” and “Whatever Happens I can Handle it” has freed me up from my previous anxieties and I now feel at peace with the world.
Thankfully, this has helped my body dysmorphia disorder. Unless you are skin and bone there will always be some fat on your body to be scapegoated and moulded into malfunction. Well, thankfully, my attention is less on those matters these days and more on what I am doing, what I want to do, what I want to achieve and of course on mindfulness - seeing and being with the endless beauty of the world. Presence.
So – hey! Does it really matter that I am not a size 8? No. It doesn’t. What matters is that I am happy and healthy along with self-love, gratitude and mindfulness – being here now. Along with a constant celebration of diversity and difference.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!