I have realised something deeply profound, and largely personal. Granted, this may make it uninteresting, but nevertheless, I feel the need to share.
I now know that I’m not, in fact, overweight.
Does that sound silly? Modern women carry around some amount of hatred of their bodies from the moment their mothers tell them that they shouldn’t have that extra bar of chocolate. ‘A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’, they say. I’ve always largely disliked my hips for having too much fat on them, and deep down, I tend to blame myself for it.
But not today. I looked in the mirror, and I noticed that my shoulders are actually just a little bit wider than my hips, despite the fleshiness of said body parts. And it was something of a revelation to look at myself and see (instead of an average woman with a few pounds to lose) a woman who is bigger and heavier by design because I take after my father in my body shape. So I have very broad shoulders and hips because my dad is broad; I weigh more than 180 pounds even though I look much lighter because I have very dense bones, like he does; I have huge feet for which heels are generally not an option because my grandfather had feet like that.
The point of it all, really, is that it’s not my fault.
It’s not my fault, if fashion designers don’t care or don’t know how to make clothes that look good on women with broad shoulders. It’s not my fault if I can never look like a model in a magazine. And because it’s not my fault, suddenly all the guilt and hatred just falls away.
Even when I know that mainstream media presents an unrealistic view of the ideal woman, and that this view is callously abused to push beauty and enhancement products on the female population, it’s still viciously hard to escape the nagging feeling that by not caring about being thin, or not caring about what I eat, I am somehow letting myself down. The feeling is just another facet of the media’s pervasive influence – but rationalising it isn’t the same as being completely free from it. So it’s a powerful thing, to tell yourself that:
- You will never reach this unrealistic ideal, but
- It’s not your fault, and
- You can stop beating yourself up about it now and start concentrating on how to stay healthy and happy.
If you can truly convince yourself of this, then all the ads trying to convince you to buy makeup, or lose some weight with a new diet, or get this season’s newest fashions don’t matter anymore. You’ll never look like Angelina Jolie, or have Reneé Zellweger’s body, because you are not them and having the trappings of their lives will not change that – so trying to take on the veneer of a celebrity is pointless, and every little thing that says ‘you are not worthy’ because of your body becomes meaningless. Instead, it becomes a matter of difference; different genetics, different riches. You buy clothes for yourself. You exercise for your own health. You eat according to your own taste.
And in a myriad of small ways, you are suddenly free.