Our body image and reality

9 Dec

Women are continually depicted on television and in movies these days as being physically perfect–thin, beautiful, flawless.  Advertising is even more vicious in it’s photoshopping of their models, creating women that are literally impossibly thin.  On the counter point, eating disorders are on the rise, as is severe obesity.  It seems like the more that women are confronted with this impossible standard to match, the more they are subconsciously reacting to their failure to meet the standard, whether it’s through an eating disorder such as anorexia or through habits such as overeating or eating a poor diet that results in their obesity.

None of us look like that, but we still buy the standard, still buy the products.  Why?

What is wrong with the way we look?  

Why not use standards we can actually control, as in neat, clean, well-groomed?  Being educated and intelligent, being curious and eloquent?  On our skills as mothers and homemakers, as workers and educators?

Why do we all have to try to look, or be expected to look, like we’re twenty, anorexic, with big boobs, long legs, perfect complexions, and full, flowing hair?

I’m not any of those things.

I have gray hair–I gave up on the dyeing routine years ago, after it became obvious that two weeks after a dye job I was looking more like Cruella de Ville than any super model.  I still have long hair…in a glorious shade of silver.  It’s also not as thick as it once was, but that’s also the glorious result of “getting older”.  I’m at the tail end of the baby boomers, so I am certainly not alone in that either.

I never had long legs, and they haven’t gotten longer with age.  I actually wear shorter pants now than ever, but I’m also heavier than I’ve ever been before.  Slim isn’t a word anyone would use to describe me.  I actually look the part of a “grandma” which is probably a good thing, since I am one.  If being in shape includes the shape of round, I’m in good order.

I’ve spent most of my adult life on a diet of some kind.  I’ve been on the yo-yo of up and down weight most of it as well.  Over time, there have been more ups than downs, obviously.  Otherwise, I’d not be heavier than ever now.  My ego and self esteem struggled with my body image.  It wasn’t fun, and I wasn’t happy.  I didn’t enjoy food, I didn’t enjoy much of  anything.

Then, one day, I simply decided I had had enough of trying to meet other people’s standards.  I was going to worry about my own, and deal with the weight on my own terms.  Yes, I’m on a diet (again!) but this time, it’s for my own health and well being.  It’s not another attempt at meeting the world’s image of feminine perfection.  I don’t care about “ideal body weight” or body mass indexes.  I care about how I feel.  I’m more concerned about my blood pressure than I am the size of pants I wear.  I don’t exercise to tone up certain body parts–I exercise to maintain flexibility.

There is a by product to this change in my life, a huge one.

About 3 1/2 years ago, I became engaged to my best friend.  This fall, we tied the knot officially, and we’re now married.  I’m happy, happier than I have ever been, and it has nothing to do with my appearance, my financial state, or any other physical thing.  It has to do with reconciling reality and my body image, among other things.

I am me.  I’m unique, I have a unique set of skills, I have unique knowledge, and that makes me special, just like everyone else.  We all are unique, and accepting that unique nature of the human experience can make it a wonderful experience.  Whether you are a “troll” or a beauty queen, you have value and are unique.  If  you are not beautiful by the current set of standards or not, you can focus on your qualities, and that will make your inner beauty shine through.

We’ve all come across someone with physical beauty who lacked any character to match.  They weren’t as attractive as  someone who had a wonderful character but lacked that physical beauty, either.  I would much rather spend time with someone who devoted themselves to great endeavors, whether it was supporting their family or finding the cure for cancer, than someone who devoted their lives to maintaining physical beauty.  Period.

Seriously, what value is there in someone that spends all day between the spa, beauty parlor and their personal trainer?

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