It’s my life’s dream and mission to help improve body image world wide. We can learn to see ourselves as being beautiful rather than anything less. To help me accomplish this, I’m asking you for topics and questions that you’d like to see addressed. Please feel free to email me at [email protected]. My friend and 8womendream.com alum, Rayne Wolfe says:
“I’ve spent a lot of years beating myself up over my weight. The funny thing is when I look back at photos of 20, 10, even 5 years back, I think I look cute. I look fine. I look like me regardless of what the scale says. I know this, and yet, when the camera comes out I’m beating myself up in my head behind my smile. WHY? Why this constant haranguing of myself? Good luck writing a column on that.”
Before I went too far in my body image whodunit thoughts, I wanted to check in with her to make sure that I was on the right track. Here is my message to her:
“Do you often compare yourself to others? To your friends… To celebrities? I think it’s something in our society that pushes us to seek to be younger than we are. So we are never happy with now. It’s only in retrospect that we can see we squandered the blessing of living in the moment.”
She confirmed that I was on track:
“You’re on base. It’s why I stopped subscribing to Vogue Magazine and now I get More Magazine, which is more empowering. I totally get it logically but struggle with it every day. Sometimes when I’m super hard on myself I pretend that I’m a famous actress (Charlize Theron!) and that all the extra weight is for a role. I think: this can come back off in 3 months so why beat myself up. The truth is if I ate better and used my gym membership it WOULD come off quickly. It’s so bad and tricky and really diminishes my quality of life every day.”
What Rayne is saying is very common. Many people struggle with it, so the body image problem I am addressing is quite complicated. I’m about to say some unpopular things. Comparing ourselves to stories about celebrities is comparing ourselves to a fantasy.
Celebrities live larger than life, but we are constantly trying to emulate their lifestyles. We rarely hear about a celebrity’s bad or mundane day.
At one point, celebrities were average people. And I’m sure at times they want to feel average again. But they have an army of people helping them be celebrities. There are personal trainers who push for the perfect body, chefs that prepare healthy and delicious meals, nannies to watch their children, and housekeepers to clean their homes.
For magazine cover shoots, high end clothing is tailored to the star’s body, hair and makeup artists to enhance each feature, and stylists to make sure every last thing in the photo is perfect. Professional photographers know how to pose and light the person to the most flattering advantage. After the shoot and before you see the images, they are edited, retouched and often times changed dramatically.
So we’re comparing ourselves to an ideal that is not a realistic possibility for YOU. Unless you’re an actor and part of the less than 1% who become famous.
Advertiser’s want you to feel bad enough about your body image that you’ll hope their product will fix you
The other monster feeding this insatiable body image beast is the advertising industry. Their sole purpose is to sell things. They hope to make you want to buy something from a place of inadequacy. Turn on the television and within moments you’ll see an ad telling you if only you buy this product, you’ll be thinner, more beautiful, your dreams will come true and you’ll be happier!
We see more ads a day than we see news stories or are exposed to education
We live in an age where advertising carries information in a way that dwarfs education and news. Interact with any child that watches television and you’ll see that products and shows are interchangeable. Walk a toddler through a store and they’ll happily recognize characters they’ve seen on TV.
Considering we will be bombarded by 5,000 advertisements a day, we must realize that we’re exposed to someone selling us something far more often than we’re exposed to someone trying to teach us something.
It comes down to YOU making the personal decision to be in charge of your own body image
Until the balance between education and advertising tips towards education, the key to body image happiness is in your hands. At first, every one of the 5,000 ads will be an exercise to stay in control of your feelings.
You face a personal spiritual journey that requires expending effort to stay in the moment. Some people find this with meditation, some find it with being their loved ones. Others find it in nature. Learn what activities (or restful practices) help bring an inner calm and peace to you. No matter how short it lasts, you can fan a flicker of a flame into a roaring fire with time and effort.
Sit down with your daughter and go through her favorite magazine. Ask her to show you a picture which she finds beautiful. Ask her to name three things that make the picture beautiful. Most of the time she’ll choose a celebrity. She’ll comment on skin, hair and fashion. Tell her that a lot of work went into making the woman/girl look like that. See the paragraph above about how many people help a celebrity stay employable. Here’s a link of celebrities before and after Photoshop. http://worldwideinterweb.com/item/954-a-sobering-gallery-of-celebrities-before-after-photoshop.html Go through the photos and ask if she can see that a lot more goes into each photo than most people realize.
Practice: Question magazines as you check out in the grocery store.
You will never be younger than you are this very moment.
There is no magic fix for learning to love your body. At this moment, no matter your age or size, you should love yourself. Like diet and exercise, you will continually be tested to maintain your resolve to appreciate what you’ve been blessed with. It’s not about what you don’t have or had in the past. It’s about living in the moment and being grateful.