Many women carry around great shame about their bodies and the belief that if they were thinner or had more willpower, everything in their lives would be better.
Lately, I have been fortunate enough to be counseling several adolescent girls. Of course all of them spend a lot of time thinking about how they look (they are teenagers), but listening to the way these girls talk about their bodies has me thinking a lot about shame and how critical many women are about their own bodies.
When I listen to the conversations of women around me I hear a lot of complaining; their butts are too big or too small, their arms sag, or their waists aren’t small enough. They complain about wrinkles and freckles, and hair that is too curly or straight or not the right color. Then there is the big one: almost every woman believes she is too fat.
Recently I was introduced to the “thinspiration” websites. I really got sucked in by some of these blogs and manifestos. I was horrified and fascinated. “Thin is more important than healthy.” “Without food I am perfect.” “I want to be light as a feather, barely there.”
Of course these girls are extreme in their views and do not represent most women. I know, however, that many women carry around great shame about their bodies and the belief that if they were thinner or had more willpower, everything in their lives would be better. Every time I go to the grocery store I am confronted by rows and rows of magazines that tout diets, perfect abs, must-have clothes all sold by thin young women who have been airbrushed to perfection. “FIX YOURSELF” the headlines scream. “You are not good enough.” Millions of women buy these magazines because they want something that will make them feel better. We believe that if we find the right diet, the right workout, the right cream we will begin magically feeling less shame about ourselves.
How much energy (time, money, thoughts) are you spending on diets, workouts, clothes, makeup, surgery, etcetera, etcetera? Here is the reality: you cannot buy or diet or exercise your way to self-love and self-acceptance. There is no point at which you will say, “This is it. I am perfect and I can love myself now.” It is an illusion slipping ever farther from your grasp. This is the truth that is hard to face.
Is it possible to begin accepting yourself exactly as you are? What if you said, “I am thin enough, I am tall enough, I am young enough, I am toned enough, I am beautiful enough. I am enough.”
Here is a secret: only when we truly accept and love ourselves the way we are can we begin to change. But there is no cheating. You can’t pretend here. There is no change until you truly accept.
Here are some small steps to help you begin the change:
Self-acceptance is not easy, but you deserve it. If you find it too hard to do on your own, therapy can help. A therapist can offer you a safe, non-shaming place to talk about all those feelings and tools to begin making changes to your life.