A few days ago, I had a moment with a dress. Every now and then, I like to go thrift shopping for new clothes, and in this instance I wanted something nice to wear for a pretty important job interview. I saw this dress, the used version of the H&M green sheath (picture of the exact dress above) and immediately pounced! It would be perfect with my black tights and a nice jacket or cardigan. It was also exactly my size! I know from previous shopping experience that I usually wear a 32 or 34 at H&M. When you find something awesome in your size at a thrift store, it often feels meant to be. I went to go try it on, and let’s just say, things did not go well 😦
I hate trying on clothes. Usually, very specific circumstances are required for things to go well: I must not have eaten immediately beforehand, I must not be bloated, I must not feel ‘fat’ that day, etc. These are weird concerns, given that if I buy any clothes at all, they will need to fit after I eat meals and under all other conditions. (Also, ‘fat’ is not a feeling!) Anyway, I pulled the dress on and zipped it up, and for a moment…it fit! Yippee! Then I started to frown. It fit if I stood perfectly still and straight, tensed up my stomach muscles, and pulled the hem down firmly with my hands by my sides. But as soon as I started to move, I noticed there was way too much fabric where my boobs should be, the shoulders were too big for my stick arms, and my stomach strained unappealingly against the seam across the middle. Above (right) is my artistic and accurate portrayal of me in the dress ( I wish I would have taken a picture to validate my drawing). I also wrote some additional comments concerning how I view my appearance. Which, as you might glean, is not favorably….I know that I am not fat. But as soon as I realized the dress was not going to work out, particularly because of my midsection aka “gut”, that was the first thing to pop into my head. “I’m fat.” Followed by other nonsensical conclusions like: I’m ugly, I need to lose weight, I’m disgusting, this is why I don’t deserve nice clothes….etc. I found the above quote very disturbing, but accurate. I love my body when I am running, I love what it can do for me and I am so grateful to have big thighs and calves to power me up hills and through marathons! But for the rest of the day, I am not so kind to myself. I eat because I have to. (Duh.) I’ve experienced the shitty-ness of an eating disorder and know that I never want to do that again. But I don’t treat myself, because as a woman, you are not “supposed” to. Have you ever seen a candid picture of a woman eating and thought it looked okay?
My daily wardrobe consists of a sweatshirt or other large shirt, sports bra, and leggings. I don’t wear formfitting clothes because I can’t stand having fabric straining across my flesh. I don’t have a curvy hourglass, feminine shape so I hide my body so that I and others don’t see what it really look like. I feel like I don’t look how I should as a woman….and so I am not allowed to try to be pretty. Does that make any sense? (No, I know.) But I do know that I am not the only one who feels bad about how they look for reasons that don’t make any sense! If only that made me feel better!
The Thin Ideal:
“The concept of the idyllically slim female body. The common perception of this ideal is that of a slender, feminine physique with a small waist and little body fat. The size of the thin ideal is decreasing while the rate of female obesity is simultaneously increasing, making this iconic body difficult to maintain. This creates a gap between the actual appearance of an average woman’s body and it’s expected appearance which, depending on the extent to which the ideal is internalized, may have serious physiological effects.” (Wikipedia)
I wish I were enlightened enough to not buy into the concept of the thin ideal, and to not be affected by socially defined ideas of attractiveness. Logically, I know that body weight and size does not define whether I am smart or funny or happy but I cannot stop the negative, self-deprecating feelings that bubble up when I see a pretty (and thin) woman walking down the street, or posing in an ad…or when I try on a dress that’s too small. (Perversely enough, if the dress were too big I would have been proud of myself!)
But maybe it’s not all my fault. The idea that my body is not good enough unless I am thin enough (while still maintaining a feminine figure) has been subconsciously ingrained in me since before I even knew what eating disorders or body dysmorphia were. I was playing with Barbies before I realized how freakish they were…girly childhood icons like Bratz dolls and Strawberry Shortcake seem to be modeled based on lollipops. Disney princesses, even my favorites like Pocahontas and Mulan (the daring, adventurous ones!) have long flowing hair and waists you could span with your hands. No wonder many young girls today think they are too fat…and grow up to be women who dislike their appearance. Negative body image becomes so internalized as to not even be questioned. Assumptions like “I’m ugly” suddenly hold hands with “I’m fat”.
None of it is true. It’s a number. The number on the scale doesn’t tell me that I have powerful muscles from running hard. It just tells me a number, relative to an elephant I am light, compared to a squirrel I am heavy. But somehow I let that number tell me whether I am a good or bad person, happy or sad, pretty or not. WTF? I am a smart girl, but how can I be so controlled by the “other” (society) who I feel is always watching and judging me? I wish I had answers or explanations, but the closest I can offer to you would be this:
Girls learn how to feel about their appearance from playing with dolls, watching pretty actresses, observing their mothers/female role models. Going on a first diet is almost a rite of passage along with puberty, or forced upon children (even babies) by concerned, but mostly misinformed doctors (doctors know nothing about nutrition). In adulthood woman struggle to fit in ridiculous clothes and feel bad when they can’t. They go on their millionth diet and despair when they fail. By this time, the novelty of being a woman has worn off…
The diet industry chugs along, the pharmaceutical industry, the surgical/medical industry (plastic surgery and gastric bypass), cosmetics, clothes….all of it siphons women’s energy. Imagine how much more powerful we could be if we didn’t waste half our thoughts and half our money despairing about how we look?
I don’t mean to generalize, and I wish I were as emancipated as the women out there who are free from this trap. I just think that a lot of women out there can relate to my experience, just one of a million times when I didn’t feel good enough. This just illustrates that even if you are skinny, you can still hate your body. I am skinny but not magically happy and successful. I still don’t fit into the dress that I am supposed to.
As a side note, below is a new Weight Watchers commercial that I absolutely HATE. I hate this commercial so much. It’s completely capitalizing on the New Year’s diet phenomenon by snuggling in close to you with it’s relatability while simultaneously undermining your confidence in yourself. It’s telling you “it’s okay to eat to soothe yourself, it’s okay to keep eating junk, we know you can’t stop yourself so don’t even try…” The consumer takes that message in, and Weight Watchers (or whatever diet) takes your money. I even hate that I am linking it in my post, but I want your opinion as well…am I being too harsh about this “lighthearted” ad? I know it’s supposed to be funny, but I don’t think there’s anything funny about the way the consumer’s feelings are being used. Let me know your thoughts ❤ You don’t need a diet, you are unique and fully capable of being your best self! Let real people help you, not a commercial or corporate entity.