Recently in an interview with Scandalous Woman’s magazine. I was asked what kind of advice I would offer to young women suffering from eating disorders. It’s interesting how easy the answer came to me as I’d never given any thought to this before. The concept is not mine, nor is it new, nor is it proven, I’m sure. I cannot claim credit for the idea, but I can tell you what works for me and how.
Women are under immense pressure all the time regarding their looks. My finace once asked “doesn’t it bother you having all of these fashion magazines around the house with beautiful women?” Of course, I assumed that he was suggesting I wasn’t a beautiful woman and therefore should be offended by the site, but he actually was referring to the hours of hair, makeup and airbrush that went into the unrealistic photo session. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to experience just such a photo session and am familiar with the process. It was an eye opening experience to say the least. My makeup alone took nearly 2.5 hours and the hair, well, don’t even get me started. The photo session consisted of pinning clothes in their proper places, standing at “flattering” angles and not to mention at least 100 different photos to choose from. While I insisted on no touch ups and that the large scar on my chest from open heart surgery be left in place, they still turned out quite breathtaking. I credit a lot of that to the amazing team working on me for hours. Mind you, I was 15 pound heavier in the photos than I currently weigh now and I actually appear thinner in them! Aw, the magic of camera angles.
The point that I am drawing out in an attempt to make clear is that those women are relatively close to normal without the help of several professionals. Have you ever watched an episode of America’s Top Model? If you see the girls lounging around in their PJ’s with no make up, you’ll see what I mean. I caught myself thinking “wow, she is a model? She is so plain”. Now, please understand that the thought came from shock that models were “just like us” and not a jab at the actual model who was quite beautiful by “normal” standards.
In my younger years, I did have a brief fling with modeling. At the time I was 105 pounds and stood at nearly 5’8. The first thing that came out of the agencies mouth after signing me was “you need to take off at least 5 pounds”. She never even asked how much I weighed to begin with and given her disconnected look and mannerism when she said this I assumed it was just something that naturally came out of her mouth when signing a potential client. The words seemed to roll off her tongue as easily as an old friend saying hello. The original agent that I signed with was behind her dramatically busy with other paperwork. The woman so casually addressing me was probably a secretary or at least I assumed.
To my surprise, my reaction to this was shock. I wasn’t offended because she clearly hadn’t even looked at my body or inquired as to my weight. She wasn’t the decision maker, so my photos were not prompting this either. I actually objected and before I could pull the words back into my mouth. She looked at me with what could have been incredible rage or slight admiration at my brave and meek objection. She tilted her head to one side smiled and said “I can understand your reservations, but trust me this is a standard request that we make to every new client. Everyone can afford to take off 5 pounds and really it’s water weight”. I was given a list of food that were off limits for 2 months prior to the photo shoot. Anything that had sugar or salt was pretty much off the table with an emphasis on food and drinks that tended to bloat. I was told to drink a minimum of 10 cups of water each day.
There are a lot of behind the scenes rituals that go into place even before you step foot into that spray tan salon or the makeup chair. It’s all an illusion that is fabricated to create insecurities in young women to sell, sell, sell. Take a moment to really think this through. If you felt that you were perfect in every way, then you wouldn’t have any need for all of the expensive beauty products those magazines intend to sell. The market would suffer as a result and the magazines would cease to exist. This is a lie that we are being sold over and over again. Unfortunately, we keep buying the lie and so they keep raising the price. The price being the continued suppression of our positive self image.
For example, I recently read a statement from Vogue magazine that said they would “not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.” Now mind you, in order to make this statement that means that they had to have actually knowingly done this in the past. I want you to think back to the age of 13 or 14, before your body grew into it’s beautiful womanly state. Think about your small breast, your perfectly smooth skin and your overall youthful appearance. Now imagine your 13 or 14 year old self, walking up to a 40 year old woman and actually believing you would look exactly the same as you do at 13 or 14 at her age. It’s a little unrealistic isn’t it? Well, that is what you’re buying because that is what they are selling you.
Here is where the cure to the insanity comes into play. No, I am not going to ask you to give up Vogue because it’s a guilty pleasure of my own as well. I am just as addicted to the lip gloss, heels and latest fashion as the next girl. I am going to ask to you learn to love what you have already. Sure, it’s healthy to strive towards a better healthier body, if you do it correctly with proper nutrition and exercise. I am talking about the meanwhile, the screwed up diets and the constant negative chatter in your mind about your body and self image.
I once saw on youtube this great video that brought tears to my eyes. It was a curly headed blond little girl standing on top of the bathroom sink in her PJ’s yelling at herself while throwing punches and compliments equally hard. Her little voice peaking at the top of her lungs, to no one but herself “I love my hair, I love my aunt…” and so on and so on. There were several comments on the video praising her for her young age and already practicing positive affirmations. Her parents assured viewers that this wasn’t something that she was taught and that she simply woke up and was “having a good day”. I think the simplicity and the power of this struck me then. I was having a pretty good day myself, why hadn’t I congratulated myself on this in the mirror too?
I went to the mirror and stared at myself for five minutes straight. I did what every young woman has been programed to do and I judged the entire time. Each smile line and imperfection on my face was noted and stored away in the “things I hate about myself” file in the back of my mind. I really had to force myself to find just one thing that I liked that first time. Even after finding a small compliment it went something like this “I guess I have nice nails”. I couldn’t even give myself that minor compliment, I had to still make it an insecure statement.
As I continued this practice it was very painful for the first couple of weeks. Everyday I would get up, look in the mirror and find just one small part of my body to compliment. Eventually, I started to believe myself and it became easier. Finally I am at the point in my life where I can look at my naked body in the mirror and say “I look good!” Of course, I am still striving to be a healthier happier me, but in the meantime I am loving what I see. Our physical bodies are such a small and artificial part of our lives and yet we put so much stake into them. We treat our bodies as if they will live on forever to be continuously judged after our spirit leaves them. The truth is, that all of our bodies will end up a gruesome treat for the bugs 6 feet under with a headstone that will resemble all the rest.
No one will stand over our decaying bodies and think “wow, that face lift really held up, I’ll always remember that about her”. No, we will be remembered for our kindness and our accomplishments. So, when you’re going through your positive mirrored affirmations, keep in mind that one day you will see your body as a vessel. You will finally see it as simply a means to get you where you need to go. It will be then that you really appreciate it’s true beauty and meaning. So, start your journey and stop your fretting!