A Woman’s Body Image

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been very busy with my “day job.” Feeling bad about that, I had every intention to come in today and write a post about how I’ve gone from a size 14 to a 12 – yay! – but still haven’t lost any pounds. (Weird, huh?)

But as I was driving back from dropping my kids off at school, Focus On The Family was on the radio. I missed most of the program today, but as I tuned in Dr. Dobson was talking to an author apparently about lies we tell ourselves. And something he said really got to me.

The author (I’ll look up who it was later, right now I want to get my thought out) was talking abot how we lie to ourselves or are lied to by the culture and that the biggest lie we believe is that “I don’t matter.” He specifically talked about women, and how everything around us (media, advertising, etc) tells us we have to look a certain way to matter.

One of the examples he used really knocked the wind out of my sails. He said something along the lines of, we’re told that I should be a size 2, and if I’m a 12 I don’t matter.

Well, here I am, I’ve been all proud of myself for over a week that I went shopping and bought all size 12s off the rack, and some of them were even a little loose on me. Here I am feeling like I’m finally “normal” and this guy, meaning only to boost my self image, has just inadvertently told me I still suck cuz I’m still fat and I’m probably never going to meet that ideal.

As women, we just can’t win.

He was absolutely right about the way we’re made to feel that if we don’t look like Angelina Jolie we’re worthless. I mean, take a look at Britney Spears for example. One year ago, she was acting like a mental case and gave a performance on MTV that was just awful. But what did everyone really spew bile and venom over? The fact that she’d gotten “fat” when the truth was she still had a body most normal women in America will never achieve.

Today, she’s stopped acting weird, but she hasn’t actually DONE anything new. The album she collected awards for the other night (I could be wrong here, I don’t actually follow her other than what I read on TMZ) is the same one she was there promoting in the horrible performance last year.

But everyone’s buzzing about a “comeback.” And what’s the number one reason? She’s lost the weight. All 10 or so extra pounds of it, and now she’s “hot” again, so we can accept her and not vilify her. She’s worthy again because she’s gotten herself back into barbie-doll shape.

If I am completely honest (and of course I’ve promised that I would be) the whole reason I had gastric bypass surgery was because I felt like being fat made me unworthy. I didn’t really care about my health, the fact that I’d feel better physically was like a side benefit, an afterthought. I wanted to fit – not just into a certain size, but into the mold that you have to fit into to matter.

I’ve heard people talk disparagingly about having this surgery for “vanity” reasons, and I suppose I’d fall into that category. But it’s not as frivilous as that sounds. I didn’t take my life in my hands just so men would look at me.

As women, we navigate a world that judges our worth based on our looks. How ridiculous is that? What on earth does what we look like have to do with who we are as a person? With our character, with the impact for good or evil that we have on the world around us?

So here I am, 115 pounds later, and while there’s been a massive upheaval in my life and everything has changed, really nothing has. I still don’t fit the mold. I’m still the same person, and I have just as much intrinsic worth as I did at 294 pounds.

It seems I’ve lost enough to get out of the category where I’m looked on as repulsive, but I’ll probably never get to the category where I’m looked on as hot or desireable or “in.”

Instead, I’m in this weird purgatory of a place where I feel pretty good with clothes on, feel “OK” about myself as I get ready to walk out the door. But then I see that, well, a 12 is still a “large” and real beauty doesn’t really kick in till you’re at least down to an 8 or better, and you know my skin still isn’t perfect and my hair is still pretty thin, and then I come home and take the clothes off and see that underneath the nice clothes lurkes the same body with all the same bulges and rolls as it ever had, the circumference around them is all that has changed. Of course, now there’s also the wrinkles of loose skin to make the picture even more ugly.

So what do we do? As someone who’s worked in the advertising industry, I understand exaclty why the ads feature the unattainable ideal woman. I have no clue how that could ever change.

But somehow, and if you have any ideas on how to do this please tell me, we’ve got to find a way to separate ourselves from the overall attitude around us, and look at ourselves through a different prism. We’re never going to change the way the culture defines worth and beauty, but we can change the way we define ourselves. Can’t we?

I certainly hope so.

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