Ever since I woke up from diet culture I’ve become hyper-aware of how we talk about our bodies – especially us women. Anytime I’m around a group of women who aren’t on the body acceptance or body positive path, I’m shocked at the amount of negative body talk that goes on. I suppose I have a somewhat short memory because not too long ago I felt the same way. I too, like many other women, felt that working to change (or maintain) my body was just a normal part of life, and made me a more valuable person. It wasn’t until I saw the damage I was doing to myself by buying into this mindset that I started to see how this wasn’t only affecting me, but the world.
Every time we scrutinize our bodies, we lower our self-esteem. For many women, this self-attack happens several times a day. Sometimes the violence is minimal - like a pin prick. Other times it's intense, like a blow to the stomach. But every time this happens, we make ourselves weaker.
It’s sad enough that we treat ourselves like this, but we reinforce it by talking this way with each other. It’s almost cliché that when women come together they commiserate about their perceived body flaws. I see this behavior as a desperate cry for connection and support. It's a way in which women can feel less lonely in what is often a private struggle. But instead of supporting each other, we dig ourselves deeper into body dissatisfaction - like a car stuck in mud spinning its wheels. For the most part, we don’t know any better. We see the body ideals portrayed in the media as fact, and desire to look that way. And because most people do it, we think it's normal.
For centuries women have been valued first and foremost for their appearance. At a time when women couldn’t own property, earn a living wage, or vote, marrying was essential for survival. Being attractive enough could literally be the difference between life or death. Although women today are self-reliant, the importance we give to appearance has remained the same. One of the final barriers that is preventing true equality for women, is for women is to stop placing the majority of their value and worth in their bodies.
We have a culture of women who (perhaps not consciously), constantly feel “not-good-enough”. Most attempts to change their bodies are coming from a place of self-criticism, not self-care. Half the population is spending their valuable time and energy fixing a problem that is made up. Half the population is participating in a lifestyle that diminishes their self-esteem. Half the population is not pursuing their interests or dreams because they don’t feel good enough, or are too tired from the demands of keeping their bodies in some “ideal” state.
It hurts to see that instead of talking about politics or business or the environment, women are talking about weight and wrinkles. What would happen in this world if instead of commiserating about our hips and thighs, we stopped the negative body talk? What if we instead reminded each other of our amazing qualities beyond our bodies?
The more that we can accept our bodies just as they are…
the more self-esteem we experience,
the more fully we participate in life, and
the better role models the next generation will have.
This positive change, is bound to save the world.