Some of you know that disordered eating is part of my story. For those who don’t know, I had an eating disorder in college. What started as my attempt to actually start working out turned into a daily battle to fight the gnawing hunger in my belly. In six months I lost over thirty pounds (which is impressive for my already small frame), stopped menstruating for what would be a year, and permanently altered my relationship with food and my understanding of what it means to be beautiful.
But this post isn’t about my past experience with an eating disorder or the fact that I still struggle with negative food thoughts from time to time. This post is about the harrowing realization that, although I’m a strong supporter of true beauty and healthy choices, my inner life actually perpetuates the messages I actively try to combat.
Every time I get stressed because I haven’t worked out, I accept the lie that my calorie-consumption directly affects my worth. Every time I read a fitness blog and sigh because I physically cannot ever attain a thigh-gap (ladies, some people just aren’t made that way), I assent that there is a physical norm we must adhere to. Every time I compare and contrast my appearance with that of another woman God has created, I choose to reduce them to an object. In short, I objectify women, because I objectify myself. And that’s pretty disgusting.
Don’t worry, I’m not giving myself all the blame. It’s well-known that women are forced-fed unhealthy beauty standards by the media. (I work in advertising, so I know far too well the messages that are being propagated, though I actively fight against it.) But we cannot blame media for our eager acceptance of their lies, for our willingness to swallow their images, for our crazed appetite for the next beauty line or fashion magazine… because the lie has been revealed.
We know the images we see aren’t true and that they don’t portray femininity in its full beautiful spectrum. We know that the media has skewed society’s perception of what ladies are supposed to look like. And that knowledge, borrowing from our friends at School House Rock, gives us power. We have the opportunity to change that, and some ladies already have. Whether it’s submitting petitions to magazines to include non-photoshopped photos in their publications or supporting products like Dove and their Campaign for True Beauty, there’s a lot that we can do to stop the objectification of our fellow women.
But it has to start with us. All it takes is some action, no matter how small. And that means starting to see ourselves – myself – differently. For me, that means finding an accountability partner to help me love my body the way God made it, and catching myself every time I judge another woman on their appearance instead of their character. For you, it might mean throwing away your scale. Or enjoying food because it’s healthy, not because it’s low in calories. Or removing the phrases “shedding for the wedding” and “summer body” from your vocabulary. Or just saying affirming things to yourself in the mirror in the morning when you wake up (I went through a time when I had no less than 10 Bible verses written in expo marker on mine).
It’s true society isn’t very helpful, but we can help each other. It doesn’t have to be some huge social campaign. But it has to be something.