Women are MASTERS are tearing ourselves and others apart. And we do SO much to keep ourselves young, fit, slim, and shapely in just the right way. We spend billions of dollars in the beauty industry to have straight hair, long lashes, flat stomachs, and big butts. I am not judging this as I am right there with you ladies. But what I am not into is wrecking how I feel about my body.
I have practiced tearing myself apart for the better part of my life while attempting fad diets, running 18 miles, and restricting my eating. These are not awful things. But, if its out of a motivation of hating my body, then I would say we have some things to sort out.
Because I am a psychologist, I work with women literally everyday on this problem! They might come to therapy for a million other reasons but this topic of body image dissatisfaction almost always comes up. “I wouldn’t be so depressed if I liked the way I looked.” “Maybe he wouldn’t have cheated on me if I were thinner.” “I get so anxious going to the beach because my thighs rub.” These are all real-life examples. My heart breaks when I hear these things.
So, today we are going to break down HOW this happens to almost all of us. Understanding these reasons can then help you climb your way out.
Reason #1: Social Comparison
This is an actual psychological theory by Leon Festinger where we compare ourselves to others when we feel insecure.
I often use the cocktail party dress example.
A woman might feel great in her outfit for a cocktail party, but when she arrives realizes everyone is wearing ballgowns, not short cocktail dresses. She immediately feels insecure and wishes she were different. We do this ALL the TIME! We do this at the grocery store, the gym, the beach, at work, etc. You might think “I look nice but she really has herself put together.” And at that moment you are lesser then. While I have noticed that men do this sometimes, women are truly the masters of this. And again its out of feeling insecure.
One way to resolve it is to work on your internal conflict and dialogue about yourself.
Reason # 2: We Judge
My dad has a joke, but I think it captures this. He asks “What is normal?” After you’re unable to respond with a simple answer, he says, “Someone you don’t know too well”.
He is exactly right. And when it comes to body image or clothes or youthful appearance we are very judgmental. In fact, we judge ourselves and others way more often then you may realize.
My personal trainer (I told you I go to great lengths to have a decent body!!!) is an awesome woman who practices loving herself. The other day we were talking about “the perfect body” and how this is different for everyone.
The truth is, the perfect body is not a specific person because even women with certain body types are not universally loved. Many people love Beyonce or Kim Kardashian. But that doesn’t mean everyone is attracted to their appearances. Anyway, in our discussion my trainer said, “Sometimes I look at women who have no body fat and they are ripped. I think to myself I don’t want to be like that as life must not be fun. She was pointing out about how much they must sacrifice to achieve those results, such as long hours in the gym and eating perfectly measured macro-nutrients and portions. In this scenario, we judge ourselves for not having that rock solid body and we judge them in that we often think they’re genetically wired that way or whatever conclusion we come to thinking. We scarcely think of the huge commitment people make to having sexy, muscular, or thin bodies. We judge them by their appearance and by doing so I believe we dislike ourselves more.
My suggestion for this is to practice gratitude for yourself and for others.
Reason #3:We Believe
Body image satisfaction is ALL about beliefs. If we believe we that we’re attracted then we are. If we believe that we’re are ugly then we are.
Now, of course, there are facts to the body like our Body Mass Index, the scale, pant sizes, BUT these can even be subjected. When I started lifting weights I gained pounds on the scale but my clothes fit perfectly. I could have believed I was fat or I could have believed I was reshaping my body to be stronger.
Now that you know that we socially compare and have a tendency to judge, you can focus on what you want to believe. Even if something is a fact about yourself, you do not have to believe it is a terrible feature. You could believe that feature makes you a more perfectly you — and you’re right!