Body Talk: On Insecurity & Swimsuit Season
This week I saw a pretty interesting article circling the internet: How 1,000 Women Feel & Talk About Other People's Bodies and Their Own and it spurred me to really grapple with my own feelings about my body and what a tumultuous time it is to be a woman.
It's no secret that today's women are hyper-critical of our bodies and the bodies of others. We're living in a media war zone that vilifies too much weight lost (gasp... She's so skinny. She's unhealthy. She must have disordered eating.) and too much weight gained (Is she pregnant? Are you sure she's not pregnant!? She's really let herself go...). We're constantly scrolling, always comparing and rarely saying to our reflections, "You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are perfect just the way you are." It seems like there's just no winning for us or for our psyches when it comes to body talk.
For the third year in a row Refinery 29 conducted a survey of 1,000 women and their feelings about bodies. While the site totes the survey as a rousing success because less women than they thought are catty toward the bodies of others (insert major eye roll here), I was a little struck by the numbers. According to Refinery 29, '1 in 4 women are expressing strong body negativity' and 26% 'loathe their bodies'. I would go as far as to wager that the number is not entirely accurate (because who really opens up to a reporter about self-image qualms?) but even if it is, 26% of women hating their bodies is 26% too many. It's so sad that we've been conditioned to obsess about our bodies to the point of loathing. Women who were interviewed billed bathing suit shopping, trying on clothes in fitting rooms and group photos as the most stressful body situations (I feel you!) and a whopping 70% of women said that social media has a major impact on how they see their bodies (again, I feel you ladies).
I often find myself fixating on my imperfections and I'm painfully aware that it's one of my worst habits (especially when I know that I am shaping a young girl and helping her build a relationship to her own body). Being honest about insecurities is such a difficult task but it's so important to hear from the women around you so I'm aiming to be as raw as possible in this post. As I get older (and since my body has done the insurmountable task of creating a little person, a fact I frequently have to remind myself of), I've found myself more and more critical of myself and my own body. I often find myself picking apart my flaws and fixating on all of the ways I am not the same as I was when I was MUCH younger and leaner. I've noticed that most of the women around me do the same. It's normal, right? It shouldn't be. I have to admit that in this season of swimsuit shopping and looming beach vacations, I've let the thought of bathing suits get me way down. I've obsessed about carbs and water intake. I've fallen prey to a multi-billion dollar fashion industry that glorifies the waif. It's so easy to get stuck in the cycle of negativity, isn't it?
I'm very aware of the example I'm setting for my daughter and make a really strong effort to remind her of all the ways that her body is amazing. "You are so strong. You are so capable. I'm so glad your legs do cool things like help you jump and play." I once read that the best way to talk to your daughter about her body was not to talk to her about her body at all so try my hardest not to praise her for being pretty (although she's a beautiful little girl). Instead I tell her how smart and brave she is. When I meet someone's daughter or one of Lorelai's friends from school I resist the urge to go for the obvious platitude, "I like your dress" and instead opt for "What's your favorite book? Where's the best place you've ever been?" Why don't I do this for myself? Why don't we all do this for ourselves? I was saddened but not surprised to read in the R29 article that 65% of women said that someone made a comment about their body before they reached the age of 14.
Why is it that we place such a high value on the appearance of women? We are teaching our girls that all they are good for is being conventionally attractive and everything outside of that spectrum is less than.
While this blog post may have been less of a well-defined narrative and more a messy stream of consciousness, I want you to know a few things. Firstly, I see you and I value you no matter your shape or how you look in swim wear. Second, you are so much more than your body and all of the things that society, the internet, women's magazines and Instagram have led you to believe. You are strong. You are brave. Your legs are so cool because they let you do fun things like jump and power walk through the aisles of Target (just me?). You're not alone in your insecurities because I feel them too but I also know that they are unfounded, for all of us. Love your body. Be kind to your body.