For years, magazines and movie screens have idolized women with perfect, impossible bodies. We know them well—tall, lean women with a soft six-pack, no hips, and full, flowing hair. I remember listening to women idolize tiny waists and toned calves, and for as long as I’ve been aware, my mom has never not been on a diet.
I grew up hating my body because it wasn’t Victoria’s Secret perfect—my thighs were thick, my nose was big, and no matter what I did to my hair it was never full or flowing. I started dieting at the ripe old age of 10, and spent every glance in the mirror wishing something (anything) would change. I can recall countless evenings spent eavesdropping on my mom and my grandma, who would sit in the kitchen and gossip late into the evening about everything and nothing. Inevitably, the issue of weight would come up, and they would discuss how much they wanted to lose and which family member had gained the most. I would take mental notes, and promise myself that I’d never be the one that they talked about with such distaste.
I battled and abused my body for years. I wanted to be that perfect combination of fit and tiny (I would have killed for the thigh-gap)—and it was a hard (impossible) battle. I didn’t feel like I could talk to anybody about my struggles because I felt it was expected that I should suffer for my body. Most of what I had read in magazines or seen on TV allowed starlets to detail how hard their diet/exercise routine was—why should I be the exception?
During a particularly rough battle with myself (my nasal anxieties rise again!) I experienced a single, awe-inspiring moment. I was talking to my best friend about my laundry list of flaws when she looked at me and said, “You’re beautiful. Why would you ever want to be somebody else when nobody in the world can be you?” From this single moment I derived two of the most important life lessons of my life.
1) I think that it is our duty as women to support each other in a new way. When my friends used to share their insecurities (I hate my feet/stomach/arms) I would counter with more negativity (Oh your arms are perfect—but my teeth are terrible!). Instead of doing this, we should offer support and open communication. If somebody is self-hating, consider asking them why they feel that way, lend an ear (and then truly listen!). Don’t add fuel the self-hate by being negative about yourself; instead, offer to be an outlet of support and positivity. Women so often put themselves under a microscope, straining to be somebody else’s definition of perfect. We need to take pride in ourselves and our individual traits that make us who we are.
2) In light of being an individual, we need to encourage ourselves to be our best. We need to be healthy—not harmful. Look at Venus and Serena Williams—their bodies are killer! They have tailored their bodies to be instruments that facilitate the success of their careers—and they are not aspiring to be anything other than their best. Or consider Jennifer Lawrence, who blatantly refuses to conform to Hollywood’s definition of “skinny” and instead embraces and defends her body. She surfs, shoots archery, and loves to eat—her body is at its best for her.
The pressure that we put on ourselves to be somebody else can be suffocating. Instead, we should embrace ourselves and support each other. We should focus on letting our bodies be healthy in whatever capacity that is—whether you can run an ultra-marathon or run around the yard chasing your kids. If we can be confident enough to take care of ourselves, we will have the “perfect” body because it will be ours, and it will be the best it can be.
Jennifer Lawrence: www.millyandgracegirls.com
Victoria’s Secret: www.fitneass.com