How to Beat the Media’s Pressure to be Thin
“To Look Good, Be Thin” is an expectation that affects us all. How we look is inextricably connected to how we feel about ourselves. Of course, we always want to look our best. But . . . how do you really feel about how you look?
I feel fat, my stomach bulges, my butt’s too big.
My thighs and arms are flabby.
Nothing fits right.
My hair is just wrong.
I’m super sensitive to what your boyfriend says.
I think others are looking at me.
I endlessly compare myself to other women.
Go to a newsstand or drugstore and everywhere you look, there are countless “recipes” for success, to make you feel better, to look good, be thin. There are articles that say: “get slim” (by tonight) and tips from the top ten celebs on how to dress, to look “just right.” No wonder you’re obsessed about your appearance.
When she was just 16 years old, a tabloid magazine published a photo of Hayden Panettiere’s backside with the word “cellulite” plastered across the image. “I was mortified,” she said, “It gave me such body dysmorphia for so long. But I remember reminding myself that beauty is an opinion, not a fact. And it has always made me feel better.”
In a Doonesbury comic strip, a young woman staring at a bathing suit magazine says to her friend, “Look at these models. Wouldn’t it be cool to look that gorgeous?” To which her friend replies, “Well, yes, but you have to remember that their body type is not actually found in nature. Becoming the media’s feminine ideal requires the right genes, plus just the right amount of insecurity, bulimia, and surgery.” And then a not-so-healthy dose of Photoshopping (more on that here and here).
Weighing just the “right” amount, having a “fit” body, the right clothes, make-up, and hair style are all sold to us as the solution — but it isn’t.
How could there be a solution to what the message “To Look Good, Be Thin” implies? Weighing just the “right” amount, having a “fit” body, the right clothes, make-up, and hair style are all sold to us as the solution — but it isn’t. Because, as you already know, things are rarely how they appear on the surface. The problem isn’t how you think you look, it’s the self-doubt. The first step is to conquer the self-doubt. Here are ten tips on how to do that:
1. Notice that the expectation about how you are supposed to look gets you to constantly compare yourself to others.
2. Pay attention to how this expectation exerts control over the decisions you make about your eating habits, fashion picks, workout plans, and so on.
3. See how your constant concern over your appearance negatively influences the way you think about yourself and leads to an ongoing experience of self-doubt.
4. Watch how the obsession about how you look interferes with your relationships.
5. Understand that the expectation to look a certain way may isolate you and often gets you to act with insincerity toward others.
6. Ask yourself if you really want these pressures in your life.
7. Notice when you are engaged in activities or events that give your life meaning and during which how you look or what you eat become a non-issue.
8. Make distinctions between when you are doing something that feels good to you and when you are caught by how you think you are “supposed to” look or feel.
10. Delight in what delights you.
Remember that battling the expectation to look a certain way is life long, because we live in a culture where appearance is important. But you don’t have to let it create self-doubt. You can be in the driver’s seat and decide for yourself what works for you. You can live with confidence!