Disordered eating discussed.
Recently, Linda left this thought provoking comment:
It’s always a little hard for me to get my mind around how many perfectly attractive (to my mind) women have these huge body issues. It makes me think that if they apply the same standards to other people that they do to themselves, I must look like a monster to them! But most of them don’t apply those standards to me, and neither do I (apply them to me–or to them).
I took a fascinating biopsychology class about a year ago. I’m ashamed to admit that I no longer remember the names and functions of the 16 hillion jillion neurotransmitters that we studied, but I will always remember this anecdote from the unit on body image: A group of anorexic women was asked to draw chalk outlines of their own bodies. Then, they were shown a lineup of other women of various shapes and sizes, and asked to draw chalk outlines of those other women’s bodies. Although the outlines they sketched for the lineup were remarkably accurate, the outlines they sketched for themselves added a good 20% to 30% more body mass than was truly present.
What with the no-cable, I still haven’t gotten a chance to watch “How to Look Good Naked,” but from what I can gather, that TV program runs a similar experiment on its non-anorexic contestants. Participating women are asked to pick their own body type/shape from a lineup of OTHER women who stand arranged from lightest to heaviest. They consistently choose larger – often, much larger – than their true figures. And yet, I’d wager those same women could correctly identify body types/shapes of total strangers, friends, family members.
In my experience, women who struggle with body image issues struggle internally. Our willful misjudgment of bodies is confined to our own physical forms, and seldom do we appraise others as harshly as we do ourselves. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, and I’m sure that some women hate the bodies of others as much as they hate their own. But my immediate experience leads me to believe those universal body-loathers are in the minority. My personal experience, too. For while I may criticize and berate myself for cellulite and disproportionality, curse the mirror for showing me a bloated and toneless form, I would never, EVER unleash such merciless and unreasonable judgment on anyone else.
And that has its upside, I suppose. What kind of a hateful wretch would I be if I poured that ruthless criticism on other women? Total strangers, friends, family members? On the other hand, why can’t I see myself more clearly, perceive my own body as plainly as I do theirs? I know that I deserve the same loving and accepting – or, at the very least, objective and reasonable – perspective. And I work and work and work at it, daily, hourly, constantly. But “deserve” and “receive” seldom overlap, and I feel like I will always suffer from some measure of self-blindness.
Perhaps toying with redirection could combat this self-focused body judgment. Next time I find myself in the thick of self-flagellation, I’ll chose a girlfriend at random and apply to her body the criticism I’m pouring all over my own. Even now, writing out that concept, I can feel myself recoiling! How could I be so harsh and disdainful toward my girls, my adored friends, whose bodies are lovely and beloved to me? How could I criticize and berate them for cellulite and disproportionality, curse them for their bloated and toneless forms?
Well, I simply couldn’t. And that could become a crushing blow against rampant, damaging body image double-standards. At least for me.
Image courtesy kT LindSAy.