Thinking Differently About Body Image


This is an actual statistic: 89% of women are unhappy with their bodies.

That’s more than a majority, that’s basically the whole freakin’ population.

There are a lot of reasons for this, which I don’t necessarily need to repeat. But to name a few: the beautiful models, actresses, singers, and reality TV stars that we see constantly in the media; the hype that follows diets and fitness crazes; our yoga teachers, all sporting rockin’ abs and gorgeous arms. The list goes on.

But what I don’t think many women realize is how wide spread this problem is, and how many women of all ages are affected by it.

We all have different parts of our bodies that we would like to change. For me, it’s my lower stomach. For my roommate, it’s her thighs. For my best friend, it’s her booty. Even though we see these problem areas on ourselves, other people probably don’t.

Whenever my roommate complains about her thighs, I always look at her stomach. I look at her flat belly and I’m envious, I think she’s crazy. For her, it’s probably the opposite. I complain about not seeing results at the gym, and she looks at my thin legs and thinks I’m being ridiculous.

It’s hard for other people to see the exact thing you’re insecure about, because they are too busy looking at the body part on you that they would like to change on themselves.

As a young woman, I’ve always assumed that this negativity towards my own body would diminish as I grew older. At some point, by the time your hair begins to grey, you stop worrying about all that silly stuff right?

I’m sure many of you are already saying this in your head, but no, no, that’s wrong.

The other day my mom, sister, and I went to visit my grandmother to take her out shopping. Now, my grandmother isn’t very spry. It’s hard to get her from place to place. She has bad vision, which makes walking extremely difficult, and she also has lost a lot of her short term memory capabilities. Shopping isn’t a typical activity for us, but my sister is getting married in the summer, and my grandmother wanted a new dress for the wedding.

As we all sat in the large dressing room, helping my grandmother try on some things, she looked in the mirror and said to us:

“My god! I really need to lose ten pounds. I am going to do that. I am going to lose ten pounds.” She said it multiple times as we tried on dresses.

My grandmother is 87-years-old.

My sister and I looked at each other, and I could tell we had the same thought in our minds: some things never change.

I know self-love has been preached many times before, and there’s a reason for that. Self-love is the surest way, that I know of, to find happiness. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think a major part of it is acceptance.

Again, this sounds like something we’ve heard before, but I don’t mean just accepting your body. I’m talking about learning to accept that maybe we won’t ever be 100% happy with the way we look. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the truth. Just like anything in life, there will always be things we want to change — in our homes, at our jobs, and yes, on our bodies.

But maybe if more women realize that having a negative body image or not loving the way a certain part of your body looks isn’t abnormal – that in fact, almost all of us wish something was a little different – then maybe we can begin to rise above the problem.

Being healthy, working towards goals, those are great things. But relentlessly trying to change something about yourself, and feeling guilty that a certain part of your body doesn’t look a certain way, well that doesn’t seem healthy at all.

My grandmother is 87-years-old, and she still thinks she could stand to lose ten pounds. Will that happen by the time the wedding rolls around? Honestly, probably not.

It’s easy to think that by the time you get to that age, you stop thinking those negative thoughts about your body. But the truth is, those thoughts will maybe never go away. So I think instead it’s time we embrace those thoughts, and realize that self criticism is just a part of being human, and we keep loving ourselves anyways.

Learning to love your thighs or your stomach, yes that’s a valuable thing, but it’s not that easy. But learning to accept your negative thoughts, and realizing that flaws and criticism are what makes us all human? Well, if we could accept that, imagine all the other ways we could allow that acceptance to positively affect our lives.

What if at that age, and at all other ages, we were able to look in the mirror and think to ourselves: well, I may not love these extra five pounds, but they’re here, and they’re working, and so I may as well be happy. Bad thoughts come and go; bodies change, and change, and keep changing, and that’s something that will never change.