How much of your self-esteem is tied up in how thin you are?
Reading a piece on Jezebel today titled I Used to Be a Skinny Person, by Kate of the Eat the Damn Cake blog (she doesn’t need to tell me twice), I was reminded once again, as I am on an all-too-regular basis, of how much of my self esteem, and that of other women, is tied up in what we weigh.
As a feminist I’m all too aware of how women’s self esteem and self worth is affected by airbrushed images, magazine covers, ads and suggestive television programmes. I know that I am not my weight; I know enough about food and health to know I am a healthy weight. And yet, there is always that insidious voice in my head telling me that I’m just not thin enough – and I know that I am not the only woman who hears it.
Where does this come from? When I was a child, I thought gaining weight was a good thing. In a Famous Five book, I read about George being praised by her parents for her post-holiday rosy and plump cheeks. The message there was clear – in post-war Britain, weight meant food, and food meant survival.
Somewhere along the line, when I discovered Judy Blume books and my friends’ copies of magazines like MG and Bliss, I realised that my weight mattered. That no matter how much food I had available to me, I should try and shun some of it. I never saw one young woman who looked like me when I turned on the television or browsed fashion magazines. Now that I know how over-used photoshopping is, I realise that their cellulite and stretch marks and blotchy skin were erased with the click of mouse. But back then, I thought that was reality. I thought I was the one who didn’t look normal.
With the advent of ‘size zero’ in past few years, a new message became clear – women need to be smaller; thinner; leaner. If we get thin enough, perhaps we won’t even exist, and then we’ll be powerless, physically and mentally.
As each year goes on, I get better at silencing that little voice and realise my body is not something that needs to look a certain way. But I wonder if it is truly possible to be 100% happy in your appearance.
As Kate points out in her post, it’s not just our own voice that we need to silence – it’s the voice of others:
“When I tried on wedding dresses, the saleswoman kept saying, “That is SO slimming!” And “Look how tiny your waist looks in that!””
When do we stop believing we’re not good enough? Is being worried about weight a luxury, one afforded only to those of us who have more food than we need, or those of us who have the time to look in the mirror and frown at our hips – or does it go far, far deeper than that?
Have you reached a point where you are completely happy with how you look?