Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Body Image (and my new obsession)

Let me tell you a really awful habit I have. Every day, when I get dressed, I always look in the mirror at my bare stomach.  My gaze always falls on my little nub of a tummy that sits in the middle of my body. Then I look down at my thighs and search for extra flab and cellulite, finally my eyes travel upward, towards my upper arms, where I observe to see if I've lost or gained any flab there. While I've tried helplessly NOT to do this, it's a completely subconscious behavior.

Why do I do this to myself? I actually think it's a mixture of reasons. First of all, when looking in a mirror, one usually will find their flaws first, before focusing on the positive. The stuff we like is already the way we want it, so it doesn't need to be improved upon or fixed. If we like the way our hair looks, we aren't going to mess with it, so we don't stare at it for too long. It's just a normal human reaction in some ways.

However, the other reason, I believe,  is owed purely to the fashion photography that beauty magazines keep pushing down our throats. In order to be considered "thin" we need to not have an ounce of body fat, when in reality, some body fat is essential to our survival. Also as women, we naturally will always have a little more fat on our hips, thighs and stomachs, because we carry the babies. We're kind of made to be like sexy pillows. 

There is one thing to be said about taking care of yourself and eating healthy, but obsession is another issue entirely, and it can be a scary one. We don't just obsess with our own bodies, we become obsessed with everyone else as well. It's almost as if we are searching for physical flaws that reflect our own, so that we know it's okay.

 And it is ok because as long as we're healthy and doing what's right for our own special body type, 5 or 10 pounds is not going to make or break us. 

Over this previous weekend my friend Heather and I were in American Eagle and I pointed out a poster hanging over a display of tanks and camis. You can see the poster here:
on page 17 of the catalog.

The image features girls and guys dressed in beach wear laying down. There are several super skinny models, but the one model in the middle is a tiny bit curvier. At the time I told Heather "Wow that's really refreshing to see someone who's not completely emaciated on an American Eagle Ad, front and center." But now that I think about it, it's sad that I defined this beautiful young woman as being a "bit curvier" because she's not AS stick thin as the rest of the models. She's still really skinny!! If I saw her on the street, I wouldn't think twice about calling her skinny either, but because of her placement on this particular ad, I recognized her as a plus sized model, which is ridiculous. 

Yes, it's refreshing that not all of the models look half-starved to death, but I also think it's really sad that the most normal body type displayed is this one girl. 

Just tonight the singer/song writer Lenka tweeted that countless people on Youtube posted comments on her new video telling her that her nose is weird. She then wrote "Um, I am aware of it, thanks to." 
Once again, this woman posted an adorable video of her latest song and is very successful in the music industry, but instead of people noticing whether the song is any good, they're criticizing her nose being weird. Which she says she is aware of, so this is probably something that has bothered her in the past. 

No one is perfect. Everyone has their weird noses, chubby thighs, and in my case a high pitched voice and a crooked mouth that makes me look like I snarl slightly when I sing sometimes. 
Who cares!? 
We're all different, that's what makes us beautiful. And what we find, ugly, weird, or downright awful about ourselves, others will sometimes find endearing and special. 

We can't keep playing this game with ourselves. Occasionally we come across a great ad campaign, but we can't depend on the media to apologize and make amends for the damage it's done over the years. They're out to make money, they want us to be obsessed. 

Instead let's be obsessed with helping people, and making others feel good about themselves, and putting some positive vibes out into our own communties. 

That's my new obsession. Maybe you could make it yours. 

I leave you with this old, but beautiful video that the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty did a while back: Evolution

1 comment:

The Common Critic said...

Beautifully written. We can all overcome our body hang-ups one day at a time and find a way to be happy with our whole bodies, just as they are.