“My knees are so fat! I have thunder thighs! I don’t even have a forehead, I have a five-head. Don’t even get me started on my waistline!”
This is the kind of conversation I overhear anytime I am in a fitting room when I am out shopping. This is even the same conversation I hear when my smart, sassy, and confident friends and I are out.
Every so often, I like to pull out old albums and go through pictures of my friends and I from our childhood. I can’t help but cringe at the awkward poses, interesting hairstyles, and unfortunate outfit choices. We all have an understanding that these pictures are NEVER to see the light of day. While those pictures probably aren’t going to get us modeling assignments any time soon, there is something to be said about them.
We were unashamed. Of our clothes. Of our bodies. Of ourselves.
Before we can take a picture now, we call each other ahead of time to make sure we all “dress-up”, we look for the perfect lighting and background, and before the picture is clicked the phrase “cheese” is replaced by the words “suck in your stomachs!” And we’ll repeat this procedure a few more times until we all express our half-hearted approval of the pictures, or until someone yells out “Use snapchat’s ‘flawless’ filter!”
What changed along the years?
I was at church yesterday when I ran into someone who I have known since I was a little girl. They only spoke two lines to me, but I haven’t been able to get them out of my head. They made a comment that I had gained weight. And I know what you are thinking. So what? Just ignore it. What’s the big deal?
There are flaws that you have and hope no one else takes notice of. But when someone vocalizes that flaw, it becomes magnified in your mind. I know in the last few years I have put on some weight. Believe me, I know! And I mean it when I say I am not happy about it. I’ve always had a small frame and been a “skinny” girl. But in the last few years, life happened and I gained some weight. And over a year now I have been trying to lose it. Unsuccessful, but still trying. Every Sunday I’m super pumped to start a new workout plan that I found online. Every Monday morning I guilt myself into doing the workout and every Tuesday I quit because I’m too sore from Monday’s workout. Everyone talks about this “runner’s high” that they experience. I’m still searching for it. I go grocery shopping and buy all kinds of things I saw online in an article saying “10 superfoods to include in your diet to lose weight.” After 3 days of “dieting”, those things find permanent homes in my kitchen pantry.
While most of body shaming campaigns focus on the female population, it’s not just women who fixate on their flaws. Men’s idealized image is that “perfect model type body.” You know the one: Ryan Reynolds meets Chris Hemsworth, muscular, infinity-pack abs, and hairless skin type. It’s a standard that most of the world’s male population struggle to achieve, yet it’s the standard that we as a society define as “sexy” or “attractive.”
We’ve all been there, at one point or another. Even if it was a brief, fleeting moment, we’ve bullied ourselves and focused on our flaws versus the things that make us beautiful. In fact, we spend most of our time trying to conceal our flaws. How many hours in a day do we spend applying makeup, doing our hair, shaving, and primping to fit into what society sees as “beautiful?” How much of that time could be put to better use? This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I wake up almost 45 minutes earlier than I have to every morning for work or school, not to make breakfast or take my time in the morning. No. It’s to make sure my hair and makeup hide my flaws perfectly. It’s so that I can try on 10 different outfits and finally pick one that I don’t feel “fat” in. Lately, it’s just been weighing on my mind so much that I’ve started to resent myself for it. That’s 45 minutes of my day that I could spend sleeping in, eating breakfast, or spending time with people I care about. While there is nothing wrong with putting effort into looking your best each day, don’t forget to take steps to also feel your best also.
Being in the medical field, I know there are a whole host of things that cause a person to gain weight. Everything from hormone imbalances to genes to depression. Some people simply can’t help it. With the media constantly throwing images at us for the “ideal body” we begin to lose sight of what of is truly important; health. Your outward appearance is an indicator of your internal health. And by health I am not just referring to your cholesterol and HbA1C levels. I am talking about the health of your body, mind, and spirit. So what you see on the outside of a person is a reflection of what is going on internally.
The incident at church happened over 24 hours ago and I’m still thinking about it. That’s an indication of my mental health. That person didn’t know that I was already feeling pretty low because that morning I had tried on 3 different outfits which didn’t fit, before I settled on the one I ended up wearing. That in my head I was basically bullying myself about how I looked. Summer used to be my favorite season up until a year ago. Now I count down the weeks until “cardigan season” returns so I can cover up my flabby arms. More than what was said to me, the thing that affected me most, was realizing that how I saw myself was how the world was beginning to see me.
This realization isn’t going to make me want to jump on a treadmill and run 10 miles or make me head to a grocery store and buy a week’s supply of salad. But I am vowing to do whatever it takes to change how I feel about myself. How I see myself, how I think, and how I talk to myself.
So, why not challenge ourselves to embrace our flaws? If society defines what attractiveness is, why not make real attempts to change that definition? Create a new one that focuses on individual beauty versus the idealized body image.
Let’s start with the 10-minute challenge. It’s really simple. All you have to do is set a timer for about 10 minutes (or 15, for those of us who are not morning people), which will be all the time you have to get ready in the mornings. This includes hair and makeup (but not showering, hygiene is important!). At the end of the timer, whatever you look like…is how you look for the entire day (insert gasps and shocked faces here). Take a picture, post it or send it to your friends with the hashtag #10minutechallenge. And we’ll do the same! By doing the #10minutechallenge I’m going to be saving 35 minutes each day. I’m making a commitment to use that time wisely. Use your saved time to work towards your goal of total body health. It can be taking the time to cook yourself a wholesome meal, squeezing in a quick workout, or spending a few moments to meditate or journal.
It’s not going to be easy, but its time to start embracing our natural features, instead of trying to hide it. It’s time we stop focusing so much on body shaming others, and ourselves, and start focusing on accepting one another. It’s time to re-define beauty.