Like most adult women, I’m often concerned with the images we’re giving young girls. What is perfection? Is there such a thing? Most 12-year olds don’t understand air-brushing in Photo Shop and most 40-year olds wish for it. Still, the media does us all a disservice when they put photos out there of unrealistic and unobtainable images. I get it but does your teenager?
I fall into this trap. I have a daughter who is beautiful. I have two goddaughters who I pretend not to know when we’re all in bathing suits. I’m not exactly jealous of their bodies; I’m just trying to figure out why or when mine went south. And I’m traipsing down memory lane when I was one of the cute girls in a bikini.
Overweight will not be my issue. I don’t think anyone will airbrush me and put me in People Magazine. I’ve earned every line and dimple. Now I must teach myself to not run screaming from the mirror.
Body image goes all the way back to the 16th century – or perhaps even earlier. Why do you think women wore tight corsets? According to Wikipedia, the purpose was to “cinch the waist and hold up the breasts”. So, nothing’s really changed. Today, we just have access to super media and social marketing outlets to hype toned, skinny bodies and surgeons to perfect them. It’s tough for a young girl growing up to define a zone of comfort.
When I was a competitive swimmer, I had quite the perfect bod for many years. Then in college, it became harder and harder to maintain – even when I was training. I’ve been teaching fitness classes for 30 years now. At my age, fitness alone doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. It’s about what you put in your mouth.
I also have plastic surgeons as clients. Am I concerned about my body image? You betcha. It’s a combination of my past and my present. But, I have recently come to the realization that I will never have my 20-something figure back – and I’m ok with that. So my ongoing goal is to stay fit, and maintain a weight where my clothes look good and be comfortable in my bathing suit. I think each person has to find this type of balance – whatever “it” is.
It’s easy to criticize others. I try not to do that. One day at the gym, I overheard some guys in their 40s talking in a derogatory fashion about a woman who had put on weight. I could not help but thinking what big beer guts these guys had – not a pretty picture – yet they were critical. You almost can’t win!
When asked, here’s what friends/acquaintances secretly told us about “their body image”:
* “I am stunned to see a middle-aged (or older) woman looking back at me. I generally feel pretty much o.k. about my body until I look at specific parts and think that I didn't use to look like that. Most of the time, I don't honestly think about it.”
* “Hadn't really paid much attention to myself in detail in the mirror until about 1.5 weeks ago. It started with putting on a pair of jeans that ‘shrunk’ in the wash. Being daring, I decided to prove this was correct and got on the scale. Well, that was off as
well – seemed I gained 8 pounds from nowhere. Glutton for punishment I am, I decided to look in the mirror. AGH! Nothing was lying after all. Lumps were where lumps shouldn't be…Now, all I need to do is get rid of these wrinkles on my face – never thought I would be one to consider Botox, but it's now on the forefront of my mind.....why did I look in the mirror?”
* “When I look at myself I see a not so bad looking older woman with my clothes on. My body image will never be the way it was in my younger years. However, I try to do whatever I can to tighten things up and get fit. I see a big stomach, big butt and a lot of jiggly skin. I am who I am and I love that person, even though she still is out of shape. I don't make unrealistic goals for myself. I try to do the best I can with what I have and leave it at that.”
* “I am currently very upset about my body…I would say I was happiest with my body, between 36 & 44 years old. I felt good & was proud of my figure, especially for my age. Recently though at age XX, my body no longer seems my own. I don't recognize it, I have strange new cellulite, flab, and blottedness. I hate it. I need to make time to get into an exercise routine. I have thought about both Zumba and back to Pilates. I do not feel good about myself. I am horrified that I do not fit into most of my clothing and what I do fit into, I have "stuff" hanging out! I can not look into the mirror without wanting to hurl. Gross Gross Gross!”
* “Obviously, I am having a hard time with myself in the mirror right now because of my 15 to 20 lb weight gain…I do have faith that I will loose these extra pounds when I am fed up and ready. My body image has not changed much since I was young. I am pretty satisfied with what God gave me except I have always felt somewhat fat because of my stomach. It has never been as flat as I would like it to be. If I could just be about 2 inches taller maybe I could have that flat stomach that I have always coveted.”
* “I see things that I feel are holding up well, such as my breasts, considering I breastfed 2 children but I’ve always felt awkward and graceless in the way I move. I think back on when I was a teenager and I know I looked pretty good from old photos but even at the time I felt chunky. I have up and down days on my body image since I had a tummy tuck. I think I look better in clothes than without.”
* “I guess I would have to say that when I look in the mirror naked, I look pretty good and then I try to squeeze into my (one size too small wardrobe) and everything bulges over the top, I get depressed. On the other hand, if I tilt the mirror back, it elongates my silhouette and actually makes me look pretty hot!”
There you have it. It must be human nature to critique our bodies.