Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the skinny on skinny, or MOASB #11--by Rachel

When I was in high school, I asked my best friend if pretty people knew that they were pretty. I don't remember her precise response. (Nor do I remember her response at all.) What I do remember, however, is that she was one of those (very) pretty people, and I don't think that she knew.

Lately I have been wondering something else: Do skinny people know that they are skinny? I wonder this because I am one of those skinny people, and I don't always know. In fact, I rarely know. Generally only when I am looking at pictures of myself, even if they were taken just days before. Hardly ever when I am actually living.

It doesn't matter that I have received very kind compliments from friends, classmates, strangers, and ex-loves about my body (for instance, a friend's sister once asked me how it felt to have the body of a model, and the next day a male classmate told me I was "model-esque.")

There are probably a few reasons for this. One is that I have a very tall, very thin family, so my 5'8" 120 (or so) pound frame never seems that tall or that thin. Two is that I live in a society that cares a lot about thinness, and a lot less about health. Every magazine, movie, and media outlet tries to convince us (both you and I) that what may count as beautiful fits in an extremely narrow confine.

While I am closer to the "ideal" than some, I am not immune to the seemingly never ending calls to compare myself. I was reminded of this recently while watching this short video by Miss Representation (which may or may not have already been posted on this wonderful blog). Around 40 seconds it tells us that after looking at fashion magazines for 3 minutes, a large percentage of us wish that we were skinny as models.

I was surprised and saddened, and my first thought reflects this. It was: "Oh. Other women feel this too." I had no idea. I thought it was just me. I would prefer that it was just me.

So, what do I do? When I am riding on the LA metro on my way to school, I look at the people. There are lots and lots of chances to see different types of people and bodies. And guess what? They are all beautiful. Truly. I make a game out of looking for their beauty, and I win nearly every time.

On good days I also try to turn my hurtful internal dialogue around. If I am negatively focusing on a specific part of my body, I try to remember something positive that that body part does for me. For instance, when I am bemoaning my less than tone arms, I consciously recall that they are strong enough to hold, hug, and carry my nieces and nephews. Or, when I think about the fact that my legs do not look the same as they did when I was 17 and a high school high jumper, I remember that they are strong enough to bike me across whole countries, and that they have done so in the last year. (I am immensely grateful to them for this.)

I also remember something my now-husband said to me while we were first dating. He told me that I had a beautiful body as well as a beautiful mind. It drew me to him, because it meant that he saw all of me. He saw me as a whole person. This is how we should see ourselves. This is how we should see others.

The beauty myth hurts everyone: those who are less-than-thin by worldly standards and those who are thought of as thin. It objectifies individuals of every size, by trying to place them in a small box of what they should look like and what they should be.

Allow yourself to look beyond that box for beauty, in your own person as well as that of others.  It is liberating.  More importantly, let yourself look beyond that box for self worth.  Undo the forms of those who would do emotional (and sometimes physical) violence to you.

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