Body image awareness is so important in today’s society. Every single woman suffers at some level from dealing with the expectation that they perfect the imperfections in their bodies.
The perfect person is really the imperfect person, yet we choose to look at ourselves so critically, day in and day out, and strive for that level of perfection that is completely and totally unattainable.
Could it be because of society placing images in our heads that we need to be more than what we think we are? I believed it, and it let me down a path that I never thought I could recover from.
‘It’s all about control’
The mindset of an eating disorder is, honestly, just crazy. I was in such denial that anything is wrong. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I would think, I’m too fat, I’m ugly, I’m not enough, I don’t feel good about myself, I need to be skinnier.
I need to do this. I need to do that. The level of perfectionism that fuels the disorder is off the charts.
Eating disorders find those who are missing something – that something could be faith, that something could be love, whatever the case may be. It’s an empty feeling, and we replace that empty feeling with food, or lack of it.
Somehow, someway, we’re trying to maintain control of who we are. This is the only way that we know how.
How disorders manifest is still one of the biggest mysteries. Science says it’s genetic, others say it has to do with what you were raised to believe and things that people told you – society, media images, etc. Regardless, it adds up and all hits you at once. Before you know it, you are looking at yourself with such a distorted picture of the beautiful person that you truly are.
When we go through life deciding that we’re better than somebody else, or someone else is better than us, or we want what someone else wants or has, then we just truly can’t figure out how and why we are important.
There’s no bigger battle we will ever fight than the one we fight with ourselves every single day.
One night, that change happened for me. Sitting at my kitchen island with a glass of wine staring at the Lifetime channel, the never ending debate of binging and purging was once again taking over my mind.
I was so tired, however, tired of the life I had created, tired of the hurt inside me, tired of the wasted money, tired of feeling empty even when I was full of food. I wanted something different, I wanted something more.
And in that moment, one that I will never forget, a sense of peace took hold of my body and something inside me said “No more, Beth. It’s over”. It was as if I just broke up with myself, as if a long-term relationship had ended. Done. That’s it. Kaput!
And I never looked back.
We have to watch how we talk to each other.
What many people don’t necessarily realize is that words and actions from others impact how somebody feels when they look at themselves in the mirror.
I was told by significant others, friends and family that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I didn’t dress how other people dressed. That’s what I was told to measure myself against, instead of against the perfectly created human being I was meant to be. Everybody is unique in their own way, yet we try to be someone else.
My body image issues are still with me to this day, even after 26 years of soul-searching. However, the catalyst for me to make a change was having my daughter. I wanted to be a positive role model to her. I wanted to show her that no matter who you are, no matter what your life circumstances, that you can change, you are a strong and competent individual.
While pregnant with my daughter, I read a book discussing how we talk to our kids post-pregnancy. Even when they are too young to understand, we mention all the physical attributes, their pretty eyes, a cute smile, a button nose.
Yes, you can compliment them for those things, but be sure to also tell them how creative, intelligent, and funny they are. Children ultimately believe what they hear you say about them, so if all they hear from you are comments on how they look, that will lead to obstacles later in life.
That’s one thing we can do at the society level as parents, teachers, and mentors to make the future better for our children. We need to model this behavior, and teach the importance of positive body talk to our kids – it needs to start young.
Body image is far more than skin deep.
As the owner and operator of a women’s fitness facility, I see some of the women who come in feeling as though they need you working out in the calorie bank! An outdated bank, this idea of always burning calories for a later date and time. They’re all here on some level because of the battle they are facing with the person they see in the mirror.
I found that turning to faith is what started me down a path of healing by helping me recognizing that my reality was so messed up, and that unless I did something about it sooner rather than later I would continue down the path of destructiveness, hurting the people that I love and really not loving the people that I thought I loved me.
If you can’t look at yourself in the face and tell yourself how wonderful you are, special you are, I think that clearly sends a distinct message to you that it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to take back your Strong and own it in the way that only you can.