(Mom is Fat)
I recently received some money and was so happy that I could afford to purchase some clothes. I went about my online shopping all giddy, dazzled by all the choices I found in the new plus-size women’s clothing arena. I had never seen so many options before! So I picked out a bunch in my size, paid for them and waited patiently for them to come.
When the big day came and my Dresslily clothes appeared on my doorstep, I was beside myself with excitement because they were SO CUTE on the website. I ripped open the package and was pleased to see that they were also SO CUTE in real life. I tried on the first one, and was immediately disappointed. The dress hung down below my breasts and sagged way down my back. I felt like I was trying on a circus tent. Unfortunately, I had ordered all my clothes in the same size for this order, and I had paid over $100 for it.
I didn’t even bother trying on the rest of the things. I had overestimated my size not based on the clothes I already had, but what I see in the mirror when I look. When I look, I see a huge woman who is impossibly fat, and as an afterthought, unworthy of love. But how? I blog about mental health all the time, and I thought I was totally body positive. When somebody calls somebody fat and my child notices, I always say to him, “fat is not a bad thing”. But when I think about it, I realized that in my head it is not okay for me to be fat, just everyone else.
Psychology Today says that body image is the mental representation a person creates of themselves. So we can think we know what we look like, and this representation is completely disconnected from the reality of it. And as I’m writing this, I realize that I have always thought that I was way bigger than I actually am. What’s the deal with that?
Psychology Today says that a negative body image can come from early experiences, the attitudes of our parents, emotions, moods, and other factors. Growing up in a cult, I was raised to believe that my body was bad and I should keep it hidden. This would be the attitude of my parents. I really believe that my entire childhood experience was twisted and distorted in many ways by the attitudes of my parents and the teachings of the cult. I had negative emotions all the time, and my moods were unstable to say the least. So, that’s the deal with that.
Severe cases of distortion are called body dysmorphia. But who is susceptible to this type of skewed body image? Children as young as the age of three can show signs of a skewed body image, and this has a lot to do with the parent’s image of themselves. Children around the age of eight or nine can also show signs of body image distortion, but it is usually due to things like peer pressure. Body dysmorphia happens when a perceived flaw is focused on so intensely that it becomes an obsession. I am obsessed with my fatness, and maybe some other people are obsessed with things like their noses, hair, waistline, or other things.
It becomes apparent in adolescence that a person is struggling with body dysmorphia or skewed body image, and this lasts throughout adulthood. This is a problem that is widespread in American women, and to a lesser extent, men. So, how can we overcome it?
The experts of Psychology Today suggest limiting the use of social media platforms. This is because these types of platforms serve millions of people who are hyper focused on the body, it’s size, and what it looks like. If taking selfies makes you uncomfortable, then just don’t do it. It’s better to focus on your body’s utility-what it does for you. It gets you from point a to point b, and does many other amazing things.
Another idea is to thank your body for what it does for you. Write a letter of gratitude to your body, thanking the different parts. Your hands help you express yourself, your arms hold the people you love, your legs take you to many different places. Acknowledge this, and learn to be grateful for it. If you want to help somebody you know with a negative body image, talk to them. Discourage negative talk about their body and their weight. Engage in healthy activities with them, such as working out together or eating healthy meals.
How will you know if somebody you love has unhealthy body image issues? Here are some signs you can look for:
- They focus way too much attention on a minor flaw
- They view themselves as ugly or unattractive
- They’re afraid that other people can see their “deformity”
- They display perfectionism
- They avoid social engagements
- They constantly groom themselves or look in the mirror
- They constantly hide the perceived flaw with makeup or clothing
- They constantly compare their appearance with that of others
- They pursue cosmetic changes through surgery
- They need a lot of reassurance about their appearance
- They are never satisfied with their appearance
Now we know that body dysmorphia or even just a skewed body image is made up of our relationship with our parents and their attitudes, media, and peer pressure. I need to learn for myself that fat is not a bad word. I need to learn to be satisfied with my appearance; even though I think I already am, maybe I am not. This is a hard problem to beat. So many of us know it. And I’m here to tell you that I acknowledge you, I see you. I accept you for who you are. Hopefully, we can all accept each other even with all our flaws whether they be perceived by us or by other people. Let’s take a break from social media, and thank our bodies for what they do. Until next time,