A feminist with body image issues: not mutually exclusive categories

5 Oct

The other day, I was prepping to head out and, as soon as I stepped out of the shower, I took a look in the mirror and one word immediately ran through my head:

Disgusting.

As someone who has struggled with body image for nearly my entire life, this is a daily occurance. I recognize the fact that it isn’t very feminist of me. I recognize the fact that I am a hypocrite for thinking these awful thoughts about myself while telling other women that they are beautiful as they are and they should love themselves and their bodies. It’s not like I don’t get it. I just can’t apply this to my own life.

I remember first struggling with my body image sometime in elementary school: probably second or third grade. I remember always fearing being a failure in my mom’s eyes. That is when the “dieting” began. By high school, I was desperate. I was puking in toilets, overdosing on diet pills, and eating no more than 500 calories a day. I’m glad to say that those days have mostly left me, but I can not pride myself in saying that they have left me completely. I still have days where I will eat a normal, healthy meal and have a hard time resisting the urge to puke it back up.

I went on vacation this past season, and to be honest, I let go a little bit. I ended up gaining a few pounds. Honestly, I didn’t even notice a change in my body. The weight gain was that insignificant. It was still, however, significant enough to completely crush all of the work that I’ve done on my body image in the past five years. I almost felt okay at some points. Some days, I could even look in the mirror and think “hey.. I don’t look that bad”. Even during times that my body image was seemingly fine, there was always that yearning for perfection lurking in the background. After all, I could always stand to lose another 10 pounds.

I wish it was as easy as losing 10 more pounds. What I’ve come to realize in these past few years is that it’s not about the number on the scale. I could weigh 90 pounds, 120 pounds, or 300 pounds and I would still consider myself disgusting. This is not an issue with my physical health as much as it is with my mental health. I am the result of a lifetime of not being good enough. I am the result of being told by everyone from classmates to my own mother that I’m not skinny enough, that I should strive for an ideal that doesn’t exist.

Intellectually, I know that I am at a perfectly healthy weight. But healthy isn’t good enough. Healthy isn’t that gorgeous, radiant woman in the clothing ad. Healthy isn’t what my mom wanted me to be. Healthy is not and has never been my aim. Healthy and skinny, while not mutually exclusive, are two different concepts. I never wanted health; I wanted to be skinny.

The standards at which women are held in our society are absolutely ridiculous. We put our daughters and our sisters through physical and mental hell and think nothing of it. We dictate what a woman’s body is or what it should be, which drastically affects all of our sisters, transgender and cisgender alike. Us women will never be good enough, not for our current society at least. The best we can do is strive to be good enough for ourselves.

I long for the day when I can look into the mirror and think honestly to myself that I am beautiful. No “buts,” no “ifs,” just that I am beautiful. I honestly don’t know if that day will come. Fuck perfection. I will try my best.

4 Responses to “A feminist with body image issues: not mutually exclusive categories”

  1. Divine Oubliette October 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Having had to deal with the same issues since I was a child also, I discovered about 5 yrs ago that if I turned off the TV (and threw it out the window, hehe!) that my self-esteem and the mental illness that is negative body image went out the window with it.

    Not completely mind you but not watching TV took the ever present pressure off, I wasn’t comparing myself constantly with the perfect women who are constantly telling me I am less than them. I was no longer being told that I needed this product or that product to be beautiful or that I should feel this way or that way about my own body.

    Since then I chose with conscious deliberation to not buy a converter box, therefore my TV doesn’t work – it’s a movie machine for my daughter and nothing more. The days of me comparing myself to every too skinny model, in perfectly tailored clothes that are plastered everywhere on the TV are over and my self-esteem has rebounded.

    Now I have more days where I look in the mirror and say to myself – Hey I look great! rather than Hey I look gross.

    Have you tired cutting out the negative influence of pop culture out of your life? Although it is a ‘drastic’ measure to take, you’d be surprised how much it can help.

  2. ProChoiceGal October 8, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    Thanks for your comment, Divine Oubliette. I don’t watch TV, but I do agree that the media is one essential part of what affects women and their body images.

  3. freewomyn October 11, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    You’re not a hypocrite for having body image issues – you’re a typical woman in a patriarchal society. I can relate to so much of what you’ve said. I hate my body and I can’t understand why my husband thinks I’m beautiful. I wish I could see myself through his eyes.

    Hang in there and know that you’re not alone. I know it sounds trite. But you should never doubt your “feminist qualifications” simply because you’re personally struggling with a very real issue.

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  1. Global Feminist Link Love: October 3-9 - October 10, 2011

    […] A feminist with body image issues: not mutually exclusive categories (Abortion Gang) […]

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