On Body Image and Radical Self Love

How We Really Change The Way Society Views Women’s Bodies

NOTE from 2021: When I noticed my blog was getting hacked in February of 2020 I did some quick fixes and somehow all of my draft posts from the previous 16 years ended up assigned to that month. This is one of those posts. I used the context to “guess” when I actually wrote it so if anything about this publication date seems off to future me…I wanted this note here to explain possible errors.

I love seeing new articles and blog entries discussing the beauty of the Non-Magazine Cover women’s body. There’s photo essays and books, blog entries and photo projects. There’s real words written about stretch marks and fat rolls. Women everywhere are doing their part to try to change the idea of “beauty” that we seem to have defined with the unrealistic expectations set with photoshopped magazine spreads and cosmetic surgery addicted celebrities.

And I love every one of the attempts. They always make me warm and fuzzy and for a moment – proud of my body.

But just for a moment.

Because, no matter how many of these articles and photo essays I read and see, I still hear the voices of women in my past who have mocked other women’s appearances. There’s the whisper about the 40-something Mom wearing 20-something clothes. There’s the giggle about the overweight woman in the bikini. There’s the elbow-nudge about the spandex-covered Wal-Mart patron. I relive those moments in my head and remember…But still…women will laugh at me.

I think that – until every woman in the world pledges to not make fun of another woman’s appearance – we’re still all going to have twisted self-images. Because we hear the voices of those we’ve heard ridiculed before. Maybe we were the ones doing the mocking (I’m not going to pretend I’m innocent, I had a “Build Myself Up By Tearing Others Down” phase) and maybe we just overheard it. Or maybe – we have been made fun of before and we can’t get those taunts out of our head.

Personally? I hear several things. When I think about how much I’d love to be a Sports Bra runner? I hear a woman in a race coral laughing at an overweight lady in front of us donning just her sport’s bra. When I tried to wear anything with a heal I hear someone make fun of me once – way back when – for looking so awkward walking in tall shoes. I stress out about my muffin top because of the websites like People Of Wal-Mart who make muffin tops their target point of ridicule.

So, Yes. While each of those “Real Beauty” photo campaigns make me happy, until we stop making fun of others, or ignoring it when we hear it done around us, we are part of the problem. Until we remind our kids that building ourselves up by tearing others down is not going to help anyone. Until we learn applaud uniqueness and image bravery instead of mock it, women are still going to feel shame. Yes, the fashion industry and Hollywood carries a lot of the blame, but we are not off the hook. If you’ve ever giggled at someone who maybe showed more skin than you would be comfortable showing, or pointed out something you thought was a fashion “No-No” to a friend, or laughing at a picture in the internet of someone at Wal-Mart – then you carry some of the blame too. It’s not just up to the people in charge of the photos on the magazines, it’s also up to those of us who are insecure and sometimes deal with that by making fun of others.

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