Yesterday was the ten-year anniversary of my graduation from high school (thank you Nicole for pointing this out….I didn’t actually remember the date myself and I am far too lazy to get into my storage stuff and find my graduation announcements to confirm the date). Ten years ago I donned my cap and gown and accepted my high school diploma, ready to take the first step into adulthood.
What would you do it someone called your sister fat, or your mother ugly? How mad would you get if someone ranted about how stupid your girlfriend was? Would you tell them to stop being so hateful, that their rude insults were disgusting? Would you maybe even threaten to take them outside and beat them to a pulp? Even though you may never hear it, odds are, at least one woman you know is called these names on a pretty regular basis.
And the person doing the name-calling? Is herself.
I wrote a post recently about skewed self-perception, which sparked discussion among my friends and I and got me thinking about how I see myself and present myself. It also got me paying attention to how often my friends and I insult ourselves. It amazes me that I hear women earnestly insulting themselves, but any praise they give themselves is sarcastic.
Why do we do this? If someone insulted my mom, my sister, or my best friend, I’d call them out and make them regret even thinking something negative about such a wonderful person. Yet if they say something about themselves, like “Oh, I’m so fat”, “Oh, my *insert body part here* is so big”, I try and tell them it’s not true, but I don’t take offense the way I would if someone else was saying it about them. And, completely honestly, I have called myself names in the past that are far worse than anything I would ever call someone else.
This can’t be okay.
It makes me sad that we are so hard on ourselves. We live in a society where singing your own praises makes your arrogant, but it’s perfectly acceptable to call yourself names. Why is that? What’s wrong with saying, “I’m smart, and my hair is soft, and I’m wonderful”? We all have things that make us awesome, and I really think it’s important to know what I like about myself and to focus on those things.
Something needs to change. I think we need to create a society for ourselves in which it’s super unacceptable to say mean things about ourselves, where it’s just as appalling as saying something rude ourselves as it is to insult about someone else. If I say, “Wow, I’m looking rather like a cow today,” I want the person next to me to get mad and chew me out and say, “What the hell is wrong with you? How could you say something so awful about such an amazing person?? Shame on you!!”.
I’m not saying bust out the rose-colored glasses and convince yourself that you can do no wrong. I have faults, I have flaws. Some of them I’m okay with and some of them I am working on. But there’s a difference between knowing you’ve got a quirk and owning it and being just plain mean to yourself. I know that my singing is enough to make paint peel off walls and that drawing straight lines is just not in my genetic make-up. But I rule at way more things than I suck at. The older I get, the better I know who I am and what I want and the prouder I am of me.
I think that’s a step in the right direction.
“I still see myself as a size six,” my size-zero Zumba instructor, Nancy, says. A few of us are chatting after class, while trying to convince a particularly fit girl that she’s got muscle tone. In Zumba, we call it ‘dent patrol’ – when we check ourselves out in the mirror to see the nicely cut lines of muscle that we’re forming when we sweat and push ourselves through workouts. In spite of our enthusiastic comments, Fit Girl insists she’s not toned, but chubby. That’s when Nancy tells us that in spite of the fact that she’s lost fat and gained tons of muscle, she still thinks of herself how she used to be.
I know amazing-looking women who absolutely do not see how they really look. It’s like some people see themselves in a skewed manner, like their brains morph what they see in the mirror into some stretched-out, blown-up version of what’s really there. Funhouse Mirror Syndrome?
Whenever someone tells me that I’m thin, I try not to say something terrible about myself, but I don’t see what they see at all. I’ve gotten to a point where I genuinely enjoy exercise, and friends have told me that despite no change on the scale, they see huge change in me.
So why can’t I see it?
We’ve all watched talk shows where the guests, pretty thin girls, sit in the chairs and weep because they see themselves as fat and ugly. I’ve seen exercises where women are asked to sketch their life-size silhouettes on paper, then stand against said paper while someone traces their outlines. The outlines are much smaller than the self-drawn sketches. Not to mention, time and time again, my prettier, thinner friends have stuck their butts into mirrors, declared, “I’m so huge!” and made faces at themselves.
Part of it is that our brains apparently have a hard time adjusting to what we are now, versus what we once were. I’ve known people who had gastric bypass and lost tons of weight, but still couldn’t wrap their heads around their new figures. Losing weight may change your body, but it doesn’t necessarily change how you picture yourself…and the faster weight is lost, the more skewed perception is.
So, ok, not having a realistic view of myself may not mean I’m messed up in the head, but it IS frustrating. What my Zumba instructor told us last night is that the best way to conquer this issue, or at least keep it in check, is to be as healthy as possible. This means eating healthy, doing good things for both mental and physical health (yay dancing at Zumba!) and trying to create a positive overall feeling of self. Yes, outward appearance is important to us, but we’re more likely to favor our outsides if we feel like we’re living life in a good, healthy way.
So here’s to living healthy and feeling good inside and out.And hopefully, this will help ease the Funhouse Mirror symptoms.