“Step Away from the Mean Girls…and say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks. Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.
This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you’re too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
“Let me ask you something, in all the years that you have…undressed in front of a gentleman has he ever asked you to leave? Has he ever walked out and left? No? It’s because he doesn’t care! He’s in a room with a naked girl, he just won the lottery. I am so tired of saying no, waking up in the morning and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it. I have no interest in being obese, I’m just through with the guilt. So this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to finish this pizza, and then we are going to go watch the soccer game, and tomorrow we are going to go on a little date and buy ourselves some bigger jeans.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Excerpt from Eat Pray Love
What If Everything You Thought About Your Image Was Misfigured?
Have you ever thought that you were your own worst enemy? Well, apparently you are not alone. It is all too common for women to be their harshest critic.
In this first installment of my 3-part series, Stop Holding Yourself Hostage, we will look at how we entrap ourselves and others with our poor body image.
This topic was inspired by a Dove campaign where they took a sketch artist and had him draw 2 pictures – one where a woman described herself and one where someone who just met that woman described her. You can go to my blog and see the results. It was a real eye opener. (A shout to to my friend Lucy Wellmaker at the Women’s Resource Center who sent me the video – thanks Lucy you rock!)
So how widespread is this issue? Well, studies show that currently 80% of women are unhappy with their appearance. 80% is a lot of women! Plus, there are over 10 million women suffering from easting disorders. So why is this?
Of course one of the main reasons is that our concept of beauty is very skewed. Think of it as a perfect storm. As American women have had an increase in their weight our media models have had a sharp decrease. In 1975 the majority of models weighted about 8% less than the average population but now they weigh about 23% less.
And with the increased prevalence of media in our culture our youth are shifting their ideas about their future self from real people (i.e. wanting to look like their mom or a friend’s mom) to the unrealistic ideal of emaciated models. So girls have now made Angelina Jolie their grown up target rather than something that is realistic.
Your Role as Typhoid Mary of Body Image
If the concept of body image for women was quarantined to just the media it would be easier to dilute. However, there is a real-life amplifier and that is you. The tricky part is you are both infected and a carrier – often times unaware of either in your life.
So when you are looking in the mirror and the main thought you have is, “If only I could slice off a few inches from my thighs” or “I hate the way my arms look” know that you have been infected. But the piece you may not be aware of is that you spread your infection as soon as you engage with it.
So as you are judging yourself you are also contributing to the rushing stream of negative body image energy. It’s like sneezing and passing along an airborne disease. Your self-deprecating contribution to the “cloud” of negativity then jumps from you to your co-worker and then it gets brought home to her teenage daughter and so on and so on.
Researchers have coined the phrase “thin-heritance” and it shows a direct correlation between a mother’s view of her own body, her eating habits and the remarks she makes about her body and the self image of her child.
The Trickle Down Effect of Pain
You may feel discomfort about how you look but I beg you to consider the damage your self-image is causing our girls. I am shocked and saddened by the following statistics.
- According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 42% of first- to third-grade girls want to lose weight, and 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
- A study in Pediatrics reports that about 2/3 of girls in the 5th to 12th grades said that magazine images influence their vision of an ideal body, and about half of the girls said the images made them want to lose weight.
- By adolescence, studies show that girls are receiving an estimated 5,260 “attractiveness messages” per year from television commercials alone.
- And per Teen magazine, 35% of girls ages 6-12 have been on at least one diet, and 50-70% of normal-weight girls think they are fat.
Cure Yourself First and Others Will Follow
So in essence by freeing yourself from your hostage situation then you weaken the energy of this negative cycle and open up space for others to break free also.
“That sounds great but how would I do that?” Great question! Here are some practical ideas to get you from here to there.
Be Aware – This mindset is so prevalent in our life that it runs automatically. When you glance in a mirror and wince, stop and really look at yourself. Stand tall – even do the wonder Woman Power Stance with your hands on your hips and your feet set apart. Then counter that one negative with at least 3 things that are great about you.
Don’t Postpone Your Joy – Don’t use the idea that life would be different if only you lost 15 pounds, or your arms didn’t jiggle or you had less expression on your face. A friend of mine used to say, “You can get glad in the same clothes you got mad in” so I’m here to tell you, you can be happy with what is right now. And in fact the happier you are with what is the more likely you are to actually create change in your life. Ironic huh?
Release That Active Memory That Keeps You Stuck – We all have those moments that make us cringe when we recall them. Maybe it was the time you were teased as a child, maybe it was something unkind you overheard your mother saying about you or maybe it was just some mistake you made in your past. You can energetically disengage the negative emotion from the incident so you are free to recall it without any of the paralyzing effects. Once you are at a neutral spot then your life shifts. The relief this one energy healing technique brings often astounds my clients because it is so powerful.
So go easy on yourself. Really. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t drive yourself into the ground at every opportunity. Relax & breathe.
Dove Experiment Video
This is a fascinating article where women are shown what they think they look like compared to what they actually look like. Through the magic of computer-generated images this side-by-side comparison is really eye-opening!
How Women REALLY See Themselves
Next month we will continue this conversation on how you hold yourself hostage by downplaying your impact. Watch for it and please feel free to let me know your thoughts.