This is a dirty little secret, isn’t it? Basically all of us do it – – judging others on their appearance, on whether they need to lose (or gain) weight, how his butt looks in jeans or how big her thighs and hips truly are.
I’m talking about body shaming. I’ll admit, I’ve done it. I’ve mentally judged, even ridiculed, others based on their bodies. As I’ve gotten more mature (I really don’t like “older”) I’m horrified by what I’ve thought. I don’t know what those people were going through at the time, had gone through or even what their genetics were. And who was I to judge?
I’ve been body shamed for practically my entire life. I was born premature and was textbook underweight well into my late twenties. In elementary school, we would have a quasi-annual exam by the school nurse and every single year without fail, my mother was told I was underweight, was asked if I ate regularly and told that she should be giving me malteds to drink so I could gain weight. Each time my mother would say of course I ate (seriously), I just didn’t eat huge amounts of food but I wasn’t being starved. I was small for my age and small boned – – I didn’t top five feet until I was fourteen and I didn’t hit a hundred pounds until I was seventeen.
To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself. – Simone de Beauvoir
As a teenage girl, I prayed for the flat stomach and perfectly full round breasts that teenage boys also prayed for. I didn’t get either. While I was still underweight and skinny, I didn’t have a model flat stomach (I was blessed with a thick waist) and I felt my breasts were seriously nonexistent. By the time I hit fourteen and a growth spurt of four to five inches (and all within a few months), my chest area did not change but my legs looked skinny. As teen boys sometimes do, I was teased for my gangly, gawky appearance, my lack of chest and my testy skin (another issue.) In a society where the media was telling us you needed to be blonde, with gorgeous tanned legs and perfect breasts, I was falling short and it impacted my self-esteem. Instead of realizing that my body was just fine as it was (and an incredible machine), and relishing my thick hair, sense of humor, musical ability and creative endeavors, I despaired. I wasn’t popular because I didn’t look right. I didn’t have a boyfriend because my breasts were too small and my skin wasn’t perfect.
It’s easy to shrug that off now but I carried that misinformation around with me for years. Even my ex-husband contributed to it by telling me that he loved me but wished my breasts were bigger. Shamed as I was, I went to see a cosmetic surgeon about enhancing what I considered to be my largest shortcomings. All in an effort to give myself acceptance and security.
In my late twenties, I began working out with a trainer and finally began to feel good about my physical appearance. It wasn’t just my body being in physically good shape, it was also the positive emotional state the exercise put me in.
Forward to my thirties and my metabolism began to shift and change. Whereas it had always been difficult for me to gain weight my entire life, now I was putting it on much easier and quicker. By my early forties, it was much harder for the weight to come off and a divorce did not help matters. My self esteem took a blow not only from the crumbling of my marriage but also by the weight gain I encountered from the stress of the relationship and changing hormones. My clothes began to feel tight and I didn’t like the way I looked. I judged myself, repeatedly, on what I saw in the mirror. A ten or fifteen pound weight gain became the root of every problem I had. If I was unhappy, it was because I had gained weight and didn’t look perfect. If I wasn’t dating someone, it was because of my body. If I felt lonely, it was because I was physically unattractive.
You know what? That’s all bullshit.
The more I like me, the less I want to pretend to be other people. – Jamie Lee Curtis
There is nothing wrong with my body, even with an extra fifteen pounds on it. There was nothing wrong with my body when I was barely more than a hundred pounds. This body is a badass machine that has accomplished many things in my forty-seven years. That my stomach will never be perfectly flat and my legs will probably always run on the skinny side is what makes me me. In coming to accept myself and my body for what it is, I’ve let go of years of prejudice and resentment against myself and find it’s a snap to not be judgmental of others’ appearance.
Does it really matter what we weigh or what size clothing we are in? None of us are perfect. Even those models and actresses we admire and aspire to be so badly speak of lacking esteem. The media needs to stop telling us that we need to be a “perfect” size six (or two or zero.) If you’re comfortable in your own skin, your size is perfect.
So ladies, embrace yourselves, quirks and all. And rock on.