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Friday, March 25, 2011

Body Confessions: Think skinny girls have no image issues?

flickr photo credit Janelle Rodriguez

I came across a web site today,, while reading on Medicinal Marzipan. It's a place where you can anonymously confess how you feel about your body. The idea intrigued me, so I clicked over to see what people were saying. 

Let me warn you that you should read through this web site with a certain amount of caution. I read through 17 pages of it and felt like I needed a good cry to purge it out of my system. So much sadness, so much self-hatred. It was a little overwhelming. I can remember reading maybe 3 posts where people were confessing things they actually LOVE about themselves. As I said in my comment on MM's post, "I absolutely appreciate their vulnerability and honesty, but I’m with you on changing the convo. I’m sure it helps a lot of gals to know others out there are struggling with the same things, but they also need to hear from more of us who’ve been there and overcame it! Then maybe they’ll believe they can do it too." So if you decide to click over, pleeeeease do yourself and many others a favor by posting something you like or love about your body, even if you have to start small with toes like one poster did. 

A few confessions really stuck out to me, and I found myself a little surprised by them. We tend to think that anyone who's skinnier than we are (no matter what our weight, cuz there's always someone out there who's skinnier) must automatically have an awesome self-image, right? But not necessarily. We think, "Oh, if only I looked like SO-AND-SO, I'd never feel bad about myself!" Well, truth be told, yes, you probably would. Because how you perceive yourself is based so much more in your mind than how you actually look. I'm at a healthy-for-me weight now, but losing weight didn't automatically solve my body image issues. And just because I co-run a blog about confidence doesn't mean I feel confident 100% of the time...just a whole lot more than I used to. :)

I tweeted a while back that Forever 21's current models are so thin that they're painful to look at, and I'm sorry, but I still stand by that. They look sickly, and those ads are probably making even skinny girls feel overweight. I hope to God the ads are airbrushed just so those girls aren't being pressured to actually be that thin; I just have a hard time believing anyone is that thin without hurting themselves. People love ads that promote women "who aren't sticks," as people like to say, and we think those types of ads automatically promote self-confidence for the "real woman." I'm not saying those ads are bad at all. They're a much better alternative than Forever 21's. But maybe we forget how skinnier-than-us women sometimes feel. (Again, I say skinnier-than-us because skinny can be a relative term.) Before you roll your eyes, read these confessions.

I'm petite, 5'1" tall, 106 pounds, and I don't really like my body. It hurts so much when people say something about my A cups, because I would do anything for them to grow bigger. I'm afraid of getting close with guys because I think they won't like my body and I cringe every time I see an ad saying how skinny people "aren't real women". I wish I could love my body.

I'm little, all around, but I'm in average weight for my height (5')-- not overweight, not skinny, right where I should be. I once tried on a size 2 skirt that was too big, and asked the saleswoman for a 0. She got it for me, but scoffed, "I wish I was a size 0. But I actually eat." She was about half a foot taller than me. I was so offended. I eat. I love food. I don't purge. It isn't my fault that vanity sizing has screwed everything up and that there's no consistency in sizes between stores, either. Maybe it isn't nice to be the "fat friend", but it isn't nice when people make rude comments about the size you wear when that has nothing to do with how skinny or healthy you are.

When I feel confident and I can walk down a beach in a bikini and feel good about my body, I feel that other women are suspicious of me, or jealous, or just spiteful. But when I'm self-conscious and uncomfortable in my own skin, I feel that other women are dismissive and annoyed. I'm short and I'm slender, but that's not the point. I really hate all this body-bashing that goes on, and I'm sick and tired of my friends who are bigger than me (most of them,) comparing their thighs to mine, or saying things like, "You're so skinny, I hate you." I know they're joking, but it makes me really uncomfortable. Even if they're not overweight, there's nothing I can say that would make them feel better. My best friend is overweight. I don't care, I think she's beautiful, and I love her for her personality, not her dress size. But I can't express the least bit of self-consciousness without her yelling at me and really making me feel humiliated. I'm angry that such a stupid thing, like weight and body shape, has had such a negative impact on so many of my relationships.

I was always the fat girl. The girl looking she is about to die on the treadmill at the gym and giving the evil-eye to all the skinny b words. I finally lost all of it. Now the heavy girls give me the evil-eye. I still feel fat.

When women who are skinnier than me complain about their fat and say self-deprecating things like "OMG, I am such a fat cow", I want to slap them. If you think that you're a fat cow, what do you think of me?

There is just as much prejudice against thin girls as there is against larger girls. Other women judge you, hate you, despise you--without ever speaking to you. People are offended when you say you need to get more exercise or need to eat healthier foods because you have a smaller body. Healthy is healthy regardless of size, and wanting to eat right and exercise is NOT the same as wanting to lose weight. Stop looking down on me for weighing under 150 pounds.

Thanks to the cultural positioning of thinness as extremely desirable, I feel really awkward about describing myself as thin, skinny, slender, etc. Using those words feels like bragging or gloating. Nobody has a problem with me saying "I have brown hair", but I can't say "I am thin" without worrying that people will think I'm conceited or full of myself.

Kam's probably a good 20 pounds lighter than I am, though, oddly, we can share some of the same clothes, and I've never figured out how that is. But she looks great, I look great, thank ya very much. ;) I know I've said to her on more than one occasion, when she makes some sort of comment about the love handles she thinks she has, "Will you quit already? You're skinny. Shut up." We tend to think that saying something like that will boost the confidence of the other girl. Maybe it doesn't always. We're not always fishing for compliments when we make bad comments about ourselves to our friends; sometimes we're genuinely self-conscious and looking for support.

Picture on What was your first thought when you looked at it?
"I'm so glad I don't look like her (A or B)!"
"A needs to eat a sandwich!" or "I hate A for being thinner than I am!"
"B needs to stop being so lazy!"
It's easy to make snap judgments. It doesn't make them accurate or okay!!

My real point here (I think) is that real beauty isn't defined one way. We think we know that, but when we start looking down on skinnier-than-us women or bigger-than-us women as a source of so-called empowerment ("At least I don't look like her!"), maybe it makes us feel better about our own bodies for a little while, but it's not really helping solve the overall problem. Some "real women" are naturally skinny no matter what they do, and some are larger framed. I think we gotta start learning to appreciate bodies of ALL shapes and sizes and focus on health...without getting wrapped up in who we'd rather look like and without looking down on someone just because they're bigger or smaller than we are. Does being skinnier or heavier always equate to health or non-health, respectively? They can, but not always! You can just as easily be skinny and unhealthy and larger and healthy. Stop judging the smaller girls just because you're bigger, and stop judging the bigger girls just because you're smaller. Okay? Good. Glad we got that settled. :)

Large and small alike, we all gots goods that are worth showin' off! I read more than one confession from women who were so ashamed of their bodies that they had not let their husbands see them naked in years. Oh, how that saddens me!!! For them and for their hubbies. That's doing way more harm to their relationships than their husbands seeing "JUST HOW FAT" they think they really are.

If you have more curves, if you have less curves, embrace your body for what it is, without the "aid" of looking down your nose at someone who's a different size from you. It's yours, it's beautiful, it's powerful, it can do so many things. You've gotta learn to see it realistically for what it really is - not what you think you see and not who you think you should look like. Treat it right, be healthy, and it will reward you. 

And sorry to close out like Jerry Springer, but...we need to take care of ourselves and each other. Women of all shapes and sizes typically have some sort of body image issue. We need to stop being so mean and judgmental of each other, even when it's only on the inside! And that absolutely includes the ways we judge ourselves.