I just realized how much my image of myself might be distorted by what I receive as inactive feedback from society – mainly advertising.
Since I study Fashion Marketing & Communication I’m up to my neck with images of ‘perfect’ women every day. All my classmates are incredibly skinny, I’m the biggest in our class. Beyond the regular pressures of TV and magazine ads, I have to socialize and be with these people (who are really nice actually) and then I have to spend hours and hours working with pictures of women even more flawless than the real ones I know and, sadly, feel belittled by.
It’s not intentional from them and you should never compare yourself to others. But I was morbidly obese at age 13. I weighed 86kgs (almost 190lbs) when I was 13 years old. Thirteen. I was bullied and I never had many friends through grade school, middle school or high school. In fact I can say I kept one good friend from each… and no friends from high school. Simply because I was fat; and I was so self-conscious about my size that I only wore men’s clothes, baggy clothes, to hide any sort of shape I might have. I let my hair grow down to my waist so it would cover my face and pretty much anything else I wanted it to. I refused to go to the beach and when I did go, I didn’t undress, not even down to a one-piece swimsuit. I kept my shorts on and my t-shirt on at all times.
Now I’m 20 years old and I have shed over 20kgs (44lbs) in the past 7 years. I am now fluctuating between 61kg on a good day and 63kg (that’s 134 – 138lbs) on a bad day. This puts me at a normal weight on the BMI scale – borderline overweight, but still normal. But the more weight I seem the lose, the more I seem to want to lose, to the point that it’s not wanting anymore – I’ve convinced myself that I need to. I’ve somehow managed to create this sort of deep-rooted belief, at an almost religious level, that I have to lose more weight. That I have to reach my 55kg goal. Because if I don’t reach my 55kg goal, I’ve failed. At what, I don’t know, but I’ve failed. I’m not doing any dangerous diets – I did one, and it ruined my system to the point that I have a permanent hair loss problem now and I am doomed to only use anti-hair loss shampoo and take two keratin pills for pretty much the rest of my life. I’m losing weight by eating less, but enough, eating as little ‘bad’ foods as possible and working out. I realized I love working out.
Today I spent my day watching a few enlightening videos, mostly about how distorted the image of the ‘ideal woman’ has become lately. Women are becoming thinner and thinner. And I don’t just mean on TV and magazine ads, I don’t just mean movie stars; the image that the media broadcasts influences both girls and adult women and it honestly makes them believe, me included, that they’re not good enough.
I understand wanting to lose weight because you think you will look better – your body is your own. People get tattoos, people get piercings, people dye their hair to make themselves look however they want to look. The shape of your body is no exception. But I can honestly say that more than 50% of women are losing weight for the wrong reasons. They’re not trying to make themselves look better for their own sake; they’re chasing after a false idea of perfection that we are constantly bombarded with via digitally retouched images.
There is a ridiculous pressure to be perfect out there; from the media towards celebrities (you’re either too thin or too fat if you’re famous) and from our peers and ourselves towards… well, ourselves. It’s a pressure that comes from within in our case; it’s more than a desire, it’s a fear of failure. That you won’t be good enough if you don’t look a certain way. I’m talking weight obsessions, make-up, clothes, everything.
Being a woman is already hard enough – period pains, childbirth, having to deal with constant sexism and misogyny – do you really think you need to put even more pressure on yourself?
Work out. Eat healthy. Lose weight. Set a goal weight and strive to reach it.
Dye your hair. Wear expensive clothes. Wear cheap clothes. Get tattoos, don’t get tattoos, fill your body with piercings.
Make an effort to look the way you want to look – but do it for your own reasons. Not because you think you should live up to a photoshopped cover of GQ.