How'd it get this crazy?
I know I'm crazy, but sometimes I think it's not entirely my fault. When it comes to my own sense of body image, I'm pretty sure it's not my fault. And I absolutely hate myself for not being able to just be happy with myself, especially because logically I know it's not as bad as I often make it out to be. I know I'm crazy, but knowing I'm crazy doesn't seem to make a difference.
And I know it can't just be me who has these issues. And that makes me cranky. It seems like there is very little anyone can really do about the fact that somehow society has told me my body doesn't look the way it should. I wonder if men deal with these issues.
Let me give a for instance as to how crazy this really is. I'm getting ready to go to a play at a professional theater. So I thought it would be good to put on a dress, albeit a casual one. I was feeling pretty good about myself in general, so it's not like I was already in one of those moods (because yes, it happens) where I think absolutely nothing looks good and I'm just fat. I grabbed a dress that I know looks pretty good on me, but it's still pretty casual - a cotton sun dress.
By the mere fact that it's cotton, it ends up being form fitting. So I was not surprised that I would need to wear some sort of smoothing under garment to make it look ok. What I was surprised by was my reaction when I looked at myself in the mirror after putting on said undergarment. I noticed that despite the smoothing, there was still a small section of my stomach that protrudes just a bit more than the rest. This is not something most people would probably notice. But I was dismayed to realize that my stomach wasn't perfectly flat. Yeah, read that again. What woman in her right mind, especially one that hasn't been keeping up with her Pilates in the last six months, would be dismayed to discover that her stomach doesn't appear perfectly flat in a form hugging dress? It depressed me so much I had to spend about 15-minutes convincing myself that I really do look ok, other people wouldn't notice, perhaps make-up and a jacket would distract from it, oh and I really do have a moderately attractive body. I'm not even willing to say unconditionally I have an attractive body! I have to qualify it with words like moderately. I have to convince myself that I'm not disgustingly fat all because my stomach isn't perfectly flat in this dress!
Seriously, this is insane. It made me not even want to leave the house this evening. How the hell do reasonable women end up here? I consider myself to be pretty rational. I recognize that I am not an average size woman. I am overweight. But, I also recognize that in the grand scheme, I'm pretty healthy. I have a lot of muscle which weighs more than fat and I'm tall. Being a size 16-18 at 5'10" is not obese, despite what my BMI might say. I think I'm somewhat attractive. I generally accept my appearance and try to love myself. I have overcome an eating disorder as a teenager. I have some kickin' curves that many women envy. And yet, I end up looking at myself in the mirror and being dismayed that my stomach isn't perfectly flat.
So I want to call one of my female friends to cry about it. Then I realize that any of the friends I'd probably want to call also do not have flat stomachs. In fact, if I'm honest with myself, my stomach is probably flatter than many of theirs. So if I called them to complain about my not quite flat stomach, they would probably go into this “well how does she see me” cycle that I know far too well and we'd both end up hating our bodies. And I think all of them are beautiful, attractive women. So the thought hits me just how crazy I really am! How can I say these women are beautiful and attractive and that I don't think they need to change a thing and then whine about the fact that I have a small bump in my stomach? Because I'm crazy! I believe that somehow while all my friends are beautiful and wonderful and I love them the way they are, no one will feel that way about me. I must be perfect for anyone to think I'm attractive.
So I am now trying to convince myself that really I am attractive and this dress looks fine - the problems are all in my head. I'm also wondering where these issues come from. Is it somehow natural for humans to self-criticize so much, or is it passed on to us from influences like family and society? How do we keep our children from picking up these same traits? Because clearly, it's not healthy!