Why is it important to love and accept your body?
Many, many companies profit off the low self-esteem of women: Diet companies tell us that losing weight will make us feel better about ourselves, cosmetics companies tell us that wearing makeup will make us feel better about ourselves, drug companies tell us that getting face-tightening injections will make us feel better about ourselves. All we have to do is give them some money, and they will give us better body images. And sometimes we do, and sometimes their promises pan out. But the marketing machinery is still whirring in the background, so that once we feel decent about our wrinkles we begin focusing on our love handles, once we’ve got those under-eye circles under control the worries about hair texture and color crop up. Make no mistake; Money is being made off of women’s body insecurities.
Of course, the beauty standards being thrust upon us by Hollywood are mixed up in there, too. If every woman felt equally beautiful, there would be no aspirationally gorgeous movie stars for us to worship. So the movie industry insists on tall, thin, young women with unblemished skin and just a hint of muscle, a figure that is attainable for a tiny segment of the population. Because they firmly believe that the escapism of movies is inextricably tied to the audience’s desire to see people who look nothing like themselves on the screen.
The messages we are fed make us feel shame and fear. Since virtually everyone hears the same messages, and since many buy into them without thinking, we end up with endless streams of body- and appearance-based judgment from the press, social media, our peers. We are told that unless we look a certain way, we are lesser, laughable, worthy of scorn. And the threat of that backlash just for looking like ourselves? It frightens us further. We become less bold, less willing to step up and be seen, less capable of taking risks and moving into leadership positions. Because the scrutiny, the scathing criticism, the blatantly misogynist diatribes that will undoubtedly be hurled at us will be more than we can bear.
Hating your body can strip you of your power. Hating your body yields that power to others, outsiders, people who know nothing of your strength and potential and brilliance. Hating your body stifles you.
Which is not to say that those who are on the path to body love are all mighty Titans, or that they need to be. Or that all women are susceptible to these negative messages and feel lesser because of them. Merely that committing to loving and accepting your body can be a move toward reclaiming some stolen power. When you feel good about your physical form, some of those negative, manipulative messages will start to bounce off of you. You’ll hear them and think, “Nope, I’m just fine, thanks,” and you’ll move on. And depending on how you’re wired, gaining ground on body love and acceptance may empower you to be more visible in your daily life, family life, professional life, artistic life. When you’re able to let snark slide off of you, you aren’t as leery of speaking in front of a group or offering to lead a team. You’re bolder, braver, stronger. When you aren’t worried about how others will look at or think about your appearance, you’re free to make bigger choices. Or just different choices. Ones that mean action without fear of judgment or repercussion.
Fighting the industries that profit off of our low self-esteem is important and necessary work. But you can wage war on a smaller scale: Work toward accepting and loving your body so you can deflect those misguided messages about body “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” Work towards hearing and discarding useless criticism of women’s bodies. Work towards knowing that you’re amazing just as you are so that you can move through your life’s work unencumbered. We may not see a world free of body snarking in our lifetime, but we can reclaim our power by loving ourselves and moving on.
Image courtesy Liam Wilde