Recently, I took a photo of my college-age daughter. I saw a beautiful young woman in a candid moment—smiling, long hair blowing in the breeze, everything youth should be.
“Look how dumpy I am. Look at my belly. My boobs are so big.”
And at the other end of the generational divide, a grandmother in her early 80s complains about how fat she is and compares her breasts to “rocks in socks.”
Ladies, will we ever get beyond all this negative chatter and learn to accept, if not love, the only body we will ever have? Will we ever stop wasting valuable energy judging ourselves according to totally unrealistic cultural standards?
Unfortunately, I’m not that self-evolved. Are you?
Do you make love under cover of darkness (or maybe just under the covers) because you’re embarrassed by the cellulite and love handles? Have you avoided looking in mirrors ever since you saw your mother (and maybe now, your grandmother) looking back? Do you head for basic black and avoid wearing the colors and patterns you really like? Do you hate being photographed? When was the last time you wore a bathing suit?
In 2009, Glamour magazine repeated a survey it had conducted 25 years earlier. Sixteen thousand women were asked about their body image—how they felt about their looks; what they like and didn’t like. The results: “Sadly, more than 40 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies, a number virtually unchanged since 1984.”
Even more telling—women under 30 are now more likely to feel good about their bodies than older women, which is different from the 1984 survey.
It’s understandable, of course. We’ve been drinking the cultural Kool-Aid about youth and beauty since infancy. Now we’re staring down the final taboo: We’re growing old. Not only that, but those bodies we may (or may not) have reached an uneasy peace with are changing, too. They’ve developed bags and wrinkles, aches, pains, and excess avoirdupois. And no matter what we do to turn back the clock, this process will continue relentlessly and irrevocably.
This may be a good thing. This may allow us to finally claim who we are, undistracted and unburdened by the judgmental nattering all around us. When we can finally face down our shaky self-image and put our insecurities to bed. Perhaps we can appreciate and develop the things that really matters—our relationships and our own unique and beautiful selves. And maybe, having shaken off that critical voice, we can finally engage more freely in life and love and the world around us.
Sounds like a worthy goal at least. Here are some ideas to get started:
Have you noticed how attractive joyful people are? How age has its own special beauty? Have you noticed that beautiful woman with joy in her eyes and the wrinkles and lines of experience on her face?