Friday, June 1, 2012

a body image battle between friends--by Anonymous

I'd like to submit something, a problem I've been having. I desperately could use the advice of people who are attenuated to the trials and triumphs of loving one's own body. The problem is not wholly mine. It's between me and my roommate/best friend.

In recent months I've noticed the tenor of her talk about boys has turned decidedly negative, stereotyped, and fixated on looks. "They only like hot skinny blondes," etc. She has red hair and a booty (which, mind you, I think maxes out at a size 10 during PMS/chocolate season). She recently had her 30th birthday, which I think contributes to the negativity. She has become overly concerned with eating and running, but in such a way that she highlights her weekly failures and fails to recognize or reward any triumphs. 

Now, this girl is amazing. Caring, warm, intuitive, an extrovert who draws people in with her hilariously witty Irish sense of humor. She has many, many guy friends, and has had two relationships in the last year (which is two more than I have had :).

The problem is not her negativity, although that is becoming a constant buzzkill in our house and in our conversations with friends. The problem I'm facing is this stereotype wall she's drawn. I've now seen her take herself out of the running with guys I think she is perfectly capable of getting, poo-pooing on her potentials because she immediately believes they wouldn't go for her. I feel particularly powerless against her thoughts because she constantly points to me as the example of the type of girl boys prefer to go after. I AM skinny and blonde. However, I am just as single as she is, with as many insecurities, and a line of heartbreaks to match or even outpace hers. We don't like the same types of boys, so I don't think she is reacting out of jealousy to me, although maybe I could have missed something.

This weekend we reached a breaking point, actually shouting to each other over the tenor of her thought patterns. I refused to allow her to tell herself she can't have the types of guys she wants. She refuses to believe that boys will like her, or that boys could care for what she offers them. Beyond showering her with praise and pushing back on her negative assumptions, WHAT CAN I DO? It breaks my heart to see her in pain, to see her feel hopeless, and to wonder constantly if I am adding to the problem by even existing. At times it has been extremely uncomfortable to try and lift her up even while being made to feel guilty for the way I look and the attention I receive. I just want her to find the peace about herself that Heather described, to believe in herself and enjoy the blessing of having friends and boyfriends who also believe in her, who see her for the incredibly valuable and important person she is. 

I don't know if there is one right answer to this question, one perfect move to end our battle. But I am wondering hard what types of things I can say or do (or shouldn't say or do) to build her up?


  1. Try using one of the myriad of anonymous email services like to send them a message stating your feelings on the matter. That way you don't get caught in the middle.

  2. When you compliment her, don't focus on looks. Look for other things to compliment her on. Get your roommates involved. Tell her how you appreciate her kindness, and other good things that you said about her. We all go through difficult times, see if you can sit down and listen to what she has to say about what she is feeling. Don't argue with how she feels, her feelings are real and deserve recognition, let her talk about them, she needs to be the one to face those feelings. She'll be able to do it best when she knows she has the love of her best friends. She may be stubborn about accepting your love, but keep looking for different ways to give it. You telling her that the way she feels is wrong will not make her feel better. Let her feel that way, and love her through this difficult time.

  3. I hate to say it but I'm not sure there's much anyone can do to change another person's thought patterns. You can say true and reasonable things, but she will find ways to refute them, even twist her own logic if that is what she is determined to do (often serving to underscore a her own negative and false perceptions). It takes an internal change of heart to learn to see things differently, and that not something that anyone else can force.

    The best you can do is show kindness and be supportive of her as a person, and not reinforce the negative behavior. If you do not want to keep arguing fruitlessly with her, DON'T. It doesn't help either of you. Just let the matter drop. Find ways to redirect the subject, or plainly and politely state that you've already told her your thoughts on the matter and it seems that further conversation will not get you guys anywhere.

  4. I like swilson's advice too.

  5. I agree too that listening and acknowledging her feelings is important. Sometimes we all feel negatively and no matter how irrational we are being or how many people refute what we say that is still the way we feel. Keep showing her that you are there for her, you love her and value her for who she is. And I think it would be great to redirect and avoid those conversations.

    I don't know what it's like within your circle of friends, but maybe there is just too much focus and talk about men and dating. One of my hardest roommate situations came up because even though I adored my roommates I felt like I was surrounded by talk about dating day in and day out. It just felt so shallow--as if our lives revolved around men and whether or not we were dating. I had to start distancing myself just to stay sane. I have no idea if that could have something to do with it, but I know that with groups of women it's easy for conversation to lean that way. And being surrounded by something you are feeling vulnerable about can be really hard.

    Maybe as a group of friends you could focus on other things. It's summer. The perfect time to get away. Enjoy the outdoors and the many activities that are going on. Go camping with all your girl friends. Go hiking, bike riding, to the farmer's market and the lake and concerts and whatever else there is. And let dating and dating talk take the back burner for awhile. Have too much fun for your friend to care about dating. Help her stay busy and enjoy herself and realize that she is happy where she is and being who she is and that her value and happiness have nothing at all to do with dating or what men think.

    Good luck! You're a good friend and obviously care about her. I am sure she can see that, and I am sure it helps already!