Body image seems to be a theme for me--professionally and personally-- lately. Here is why.
Last month, I registered for a half-day continuing education presentation on body image. As a therapist working with quite a few women of all ages, I knew I'd benefit from more training on this pervasive topic.
Then, a few days before the presentation, my engaged friend informed me that I'd need to be professionally measured so my bridesmaid dress could be ordered and fitted. I got on it right away and was surprised to learn that there is quite a difference between the size of my waist and the size of my hips. This may seem silly, but I hadn't ever had an objective measure of this. Having it in writing with exact numbers was... interesting. I love my body--it allows me to do amazing things, like experience the smell of rain during deep breaths of meditation and contemplation, or reach the top of a rock climb or a tall mountain peak. For the most part, I feel very grounded in and connected to this body of mine, regardless of my measurements. So, I reported these measurements to the bridal company, and forgot about it--for a couple of days, at least.
A day later was the presentation on body image, put on by the Center for Change (and the presentation was fantastic, by the way). I thought I was fairly informed about the ways in which our culture, the media, and advertising seem to make it hard for women (and men too) to feel good about our bodies. But this presentation blew my mind with tidbits like...
I fought back tears on several occasions during this presentation. How is it that so many capable, intelligent, compassionate, successful women are so unhappy with how they look? (As if that's the ultimate measure.) Why do we struggle so much to have self-compassion and self-acceptance? (I have a few ideas...)
Now to return to my bridesmaid dress adventure: A received a phone call, the day after the body image training, from the bridal company. The woman there informed me that my three measurements matched up with three different sizes, with a six dress-size spread. She said this with a sassy edge, and I almost felt shamed for having a body that doesn't fit into one dress size. The funny (and sad) thing is, my body is not strange. No body is. Yet so many of us, with perfectly healthy bodies, are having a hard time "fitting" into the body image ideal. Not only that, but another woman was delivering this message to me. It seems that women have internalized some ideas that are doing us harm.
At this point, I am feeling especially grateful to have developed a positive relationship with my body--and to have formed relationships with some others who feel similarly about their bodies. I also want to acknowledge that I've seen some progress! But... we have a long way to go. I recognize that this is a huge task, but I feel that it is critical that we tackle body image issues--together.
I don't want you, or me, to spend another minute of our lives wishing we looked differently when there are so many other meaningful, wonderful ways we could be spending our energy. Shame and self-hatred are not motivators. They keep us down. That's no way to be.
I don't have any answers here, but I have a few ideas.
What do you think? Personally, I plan on continuing to enjoy the way my body defies gravity while rock climbing and all of the other ways my body enhances my life. And I plan to wear my bridesmaid dress proudly.
In closing, I invite you to watch this video and imagine some of your own creative answers that are more like the ones towards the end. :)