There cannot be a Girl Talk Series without talking about body image, so let’s just get it over with. I’m 51 years old, and I still have teenage girl feelings about my body. The problem is that, as a teenager, I had much less to battle. I was 115 pounds, no wrinkles and had breasts that teenage boys seemed to like. Now, I’ve got body parts moving south, weight that just sometimes seems totally unrelated to what I eat, a face that’s starting to wrinkle up and dry out. The fact is, it’s just natural, but it’s so hard to cut myself a break.
I’m actually a great deal more accepting of my body now than I was when I was a teen. I had a high school boyfriend that always told me I was fat. It was not until about 10 years ago that I did the math and realized I was 115 pounds. What a jerk! I’ve learned through the years that the body I have in that moment will be the body I wish I had 10 years later. In hindsight, I look so much skinnier. It’s helped me enjoy photographs and cut myself some slack.
I’d say the biggest perfectionistic issue I’ve had over the years has been in regards to my weight. No matter what age or size I am, my weight is never right. Women say to me, “oh, good grief, you don’t have a weight problem.” I get what they are talking about, but the problem isn’t weight, it’s perfectionism. So, it really doesn’t matter how “big” the weight problem is…it has nothing to do with the scale. I talked with a very thin woman the other day whose daughter has struggled with eating disorders. She knows about body image issues and the pain it brings. For her, it becomes an issue that makes her feel different than other women because they think she doesn’t understand. Perfectionism is about the fear that I am not okay. I am not lovable. I am not desirable. I am not good enough.
Dove did an ad campaign several years ago where they featured real size women in their ads. I was stoked about it, so I went to their website. The pictures were awesome. It was the comments that disturbed me. Other women were ranting and raving about how horrible these women looked. They were saying brutal things about these real women that put themselves out there for the world to see. It made me sick.
I can blame the media and the culture all I want for poor images of women, and, don’t get me wrong, I hate it. The truth is that I have to do the work myself to get beyond that. Firstly, because the media and the culture are not going to change in my lifetime. That would be a losing battle. The most important thing is that I learn to be who I am without regard to what others think, and I HAVE to deal with my perfectionism. If the weight gets in order, it will crop up in another area. That’s the root cause.
Recently, I went to a large event with a girlfriend of mine where there were lots of men and scantily clad women of all shapes and sizes. We ended up leaving fairly quickly because it was just not all that fun. Our conversation went something like this later on.
Her: The whole time I was thinking that none of those men are interested in me. When I passed a window, I looked at my stomach and thought, “yeah, I can never suck that in.” I was thinking that I was smaller than a lot of those heavy women there, but I definitely felt like part of that group.
Me: Really?? You want to know what I was thinking? I was thinking that I looked really old, and none of those guys were interested in me. I was thinking that it was stupid to wear those yoga pants because they are too tight and my ass looks huge. I was also worried about this bulge on my upper thigh that I know just stands out and looks hideous. Well, hell’s bells– no wonder we left early!!
That was miserable for both of us.
I was taking a bath one night when i was about 45, and I had an experience I will never forget. I looked down at my body. I mean, I REALLY noticed my body. For some reason, at that moment, I realized how unkind I had been to my body. I had starved it, abused it with excessive exercise, said unsupportive things about it and, quite frankly, despised it. I started to cry. And I just began to feel so much compassion for myself. It was then that I started a practice to consciously be grateful for the things my body has miraculously done. It took the brunt of my addictions and got me through them. It has been a vehicle for me to live this really amazing life. It has healed itself when I was injured, been an instrument of love and great passion with the men I’ve loved, and has been with me through all of the moments of my life, good and bad….and has demanded very little. Nothing or no one in my life has ever been so supportive and forgiving and amazing as my own body.
At this stage in my life, I have become very conscious of the aging process. Aging is hard on the body. It starts to show its wear and tear. The problem is that we can spend a mountain of money to slow the impacts a bit. But, is it worth it? It’s still going to happen. We can slow it, but we can’t stop it, and do I really need to start hating my body again and wanting to change it? Or, is it a matter of just trying to look the best I can at any age? The jury is still out on this one. The perfectionism battle rages on. Til’ death do us part…..
Jamie Lee Curtis has long been a supporter of healthy body image and has put herself out there to make the point. Read this article from More magazine about some of her efforts.