We all know physical appearance is just a part of who you are. Clearly too much emphasis has been placed on appearance in today’s world. So, if appearance says little about your value as a person, what does say something about your character and value as a person to you? How do you define yourself? Is it in terms of being a loving mom? A kind friend? A competent athlete? Capable at your job? It is probably a combination of some of these things that make up how you define your whole person, your character and value.
How much does your value as a person really require you to meet the body ideal lodged somewhere in your mind?
Of course, we all want to look good. But, you may spend quite a bit of extra space in your mind thinking about your body, food and exercise. Maybe, all this focus on your body and eating actually wouldn’t make as much difference to who you are, how you live your life, or how you value yourself.
Actresses and models may not be able to perform their job if their appearance isn’t well within a prescribed boundry because they make a living by looking a certain way. So their market value is, at least in part, defined by their looks. But, for those of us who are lucky enough NOT to be models or actresses, we do not need to fit a physical mold for our career. We can do most of what we do looking "good enough."
I never really understood the concept of good enough. I first heard it on Oprah, and it didn’t resonate with me. It seemed like settling for “just okay.” Of course I was good enough, but I am going for something a little bit better than that! However, I think it means quite a bit more in terms of this discussion. It means that you feel inside that you look good enough that you don’t need to worry about it so much. Good enough means to me, that I am feeling fine with this aspect of myself; 'it ain't broke, you don't need to fix it.'
This is always about balance. We are talking about the 'obsession' with one's body -- the trying to 'fix it' in this discussion is where much of a woman's mindshare is focused on how her body looks and what she is eating.
Is your appearance good enough to do what you are doing at this point in your life? Maybe it already is.
Maybe your struggle with the scale is not the magnitude of a problem in relation to the space that it takes up in your life?
What would you be doing with the space in your mind that is being used for thinking about your body and eating if we waived a magic wand and took that issue away? My friend says she spends as much time thinking about this issue as her husband spends thinking about sports.
What would you do with that space in your mind if you didn’t spend time thinking about your body and eating?
Here is where the discussion gets really interesting. The answer to this question actually holds within it the 'kryptonite' to negative body image. If the obsession with losing weight or eating a certain way were gone, you would have quite a bit of focus available to uncover your own abilities, resources, and capacities.
What do you love to do?
What you are good at?
You could use your inner resources and ideas to open yourself up to options for thinking and self-expression.
Would you go back to school and study what interests you?
Would you take up painting or dance?
I think this space is an opportunity to find other joys and ways of valuing, developing, and defining yourself. When you find more generative ways to spend your time, you might define yourself less by your appearance. You could focus more on your own value to yourself rather than how society values a women’s appearance – especially in this shallow society, in this shallow day and age. I say this is the kryptonite to a negative body image because developing your capacities simply creates more authentic ways for you to define and value yourself. Once this happens you might relying less on society’s judgment of how you should look to define yourself.
Positive body image for young girls
Developing personal capacities is also a crucial piece of the body image discussion for young girls. It is a key for giving our daughters a route to a positive body image. It is important for them to develop other parts of themselves for their own value definition. We need to teach them to focus on developing their capacities -- what they are good at and what they enjoy doing.
Finding their inner voice for who they are and what they love is simply a better use of their extra time than focusing so much on how much they weigh and what they should eat.
- Richard Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers Paperback, 2016.
- Hilde Bruch, Golden Cage: The Enigma of Anorexia Nervosa, 2001 (2nd edition).
- Hilde Bruch, Eating Disorders: Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa, and the Person Within, 1973.
- Julie Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 2016 (3rd edition).
"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why." --Mark Twain