Are YOU the elephant in the room?
September 6, 2012
By: Victoria Finan
For the past few nights, I’ve been having a recurring dream- or, to be more accurate, different dreams with a recurring theme. On Monday night I dreamt I was auditioning for a ballet. My plies and pointes were completely out of whack, but the dance teacher chose me for the show as ‘I need a fat fairy godmother’. On Tuesday night I dreamt I was at my favourite Chinese restaurant. Everyone was being served their crispy duck pancakes, but I was given a plate of lettuce. ‘No duck for you, darling’ said my Dream Mum, ‘You’ll never get thin if you eat it.’
So it doesn’t quite take a genius or a clairvoyant to work out what my subconscious is screaming at me- that my concerns about my body are reaching a point where they are becoming unhealthy. We all have our own hang ups- for me, it’s my stomach. For one of my impossibly beautiful and thin best friends, her skin is what keeps her lying awake at night. The point is, as women, we tend to spend far more time worrying about the effect our external features are having on the rest of the world than we do on improving our internal qualities. The question is why?
Nearly all of us have been there- a friend, or partner or, most often, your mother makes a passing negative comment about your appearance. ‘Oh darling, that top isn’t very flattering’ is one that came from my Mum’s lips just tonight. The feelings we get are all too familiar- first, that self-defensive anger that bubbles up in us that someone could dare insult us to our face, then the intense mortification and staring at yourself in the mirror to try to work out whether everyone really thinks that of us. Every compliment that you’ve ever received on how lovely and curvy you are, or that you have a bum to die for seems to pale into insignificance and all that rings out in your brain are the words you’ve just heard, coupled by your commentary ‘I’m fat, I’m ugly, no one will love me, no one could ever want someone like me and being called curvy isn’t even a compliment, what am I supposed to say, “Thanks, I grew them myself?!”’.
Negative thoughts can be personified by a small demon who lives inside your brain, who feeds off any nasty comments you might get and shits out the positive ones. As such, it’s an extremely hard cycle to break- ask a girl I went to school with, who now every time she tries a new dress on, remembers her ex boyfriend telling her five years ago that dresses ‘make her hips look the size of Paris’. Women tend to be naturally competitive with each other and we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others- the reason I dance at the very front in my Zumba class isn’t because I feel super confident in shaking my ass, it’s because I don’t want to depress myself by being able to see all the skinny ladies dancing behind me.
It is all too easy to blame the media for our image issues- we seem to have been fed this mantra that ‘skinniness equals happiness’ right from watching Disney Princess films. The fact is, as anyone who has lost a lot of weight through stress, depression or illness will tell you, suddenly becoming a size six won’t take the cares of the world from your shoulders. I tend not to blame the media for my body image issues- with my feminist heroes including ‘curvy’ girls like Beyonce and Lady Sybil from ‘Downton Abbey’, how could I accuse my favourite magazines of making me want to lose weight? No, the person I blame for my body image issues is myself- for allowing myself to wallow in my negativity rather than employing my mind in more constructive pursuits.
So now that I’ve meandered and pondered through body image and reached this conclusion, surely you’re all waiting for the epiphany- the moment that made me realize that having a stomach you could legitimately use as a waterbed isn’t the end of the world. Well, it hasn’t come yet, if it’s coming at all. What we can do though, as women, is fight our body image issues step by step, injecting ourselves with one piece of positivity at a time. For me, my resolution will be to stop weighing myself every day, with a hope to one day throw away my scales altogether. For you, it could be as simple as telling yourself one positive thing when you look into the mirror every morning. As my friend Carley says ‘the time you stop caring is the time you become awesome’. And to be frank, I’m not going to argue with her.
Image courtesy of fitlass.wordpress.com