The Limits of Common Sense

I was talking to a friend the other day about body image and “feminism”. We were discussing the hypocrisy inherent in the way we act and feel about ourselves, compared to the things we say to other people.:

 

  • It doesn’t matter how big you are, as long as you are healthy. [I wish I were thinner]

  • It shouldn’t matter how you look- what’s on the inside: your smarts, your personality, your love… are more important. [I wish I were prettier]

  • You are not made up of the sum of others’ thoughts about you. You should not experience yourself as a reflection of what you imagine others are seeing, but as an individual in your own right. [I’d like to be thought well of]

  • Be yourself. [can I?]

     

See, what we feel on the inside is very different. For example- I am a firm believer in the fact that thin does not = healthy, and that health is more important than body size. That calorie intake is less important than nutrition. Yet I find myself restricting my food intake. Again. Part of this, I know, is me. It’s a psychological problem that I will (later…) have to address. At the same time, we live in a society that constantly drums into us that

 

thin= beautiful

beautiful= successful

beautiful + smart + thin= super-successful… but none of these things can stand alone.

 

I am quite smart… smart enough that I should (in one of those ideal worlds) be able to avoid falling into society’s trap. But what do I do? I look at models, actresses, other women, and think I wish I were that thin. And my body image distorts me out of all proportion until what I see in the mirror is an ungainly, unsightly person I can’t love. In 2011 I weighed and ate very, very little but what I saw in the mirror never matched up to that. And sometimes I wish I could be that thin again. I look at old photos with my bones folding outwards, my hair dullish and my face drawn. And I wish I could go back to it. Unhealthy, unattractive, thin.

 

“No pain, no gain.” “Big isn’t beautiful.” So

 

big= lazy

lazy= unsuccessful

unsuccessful= even bigger

big= failure.

 

All of these equations are ones I disagree with wholeheartedly. I believe in looking however the hell you want. I believe in not having to shave, in not having to adhere to societal norms and ideals of beauty, in experiencing yourself as you are and not measuring yourself according to other peoples’ views of you.

 

Yet. All the while, the “yet”…

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “The Limits of Common Sense

  1. I can so relate to these contradictions! And I applaud your efforts to advocate for other than what you feel. I look forward to the day when all women are able to live free of the skewed messages about the female body (and what its size/shape “supposedly” means) that we’ve internalized!

    • Thanks for commenting! I really appreciate hearing that somebody can relate to these conflicts and contradictions. I am also looking forward to the day when what we “know” logically equates to what we “feel” about ourselves on the inside.

  2. I totally agree with you. Being a woman in today’s world (let alone a woman with an eating disorder/history of an eating disorder) means we are constantly bombarded with images of “beauty” that are completely intangible for the majority of us- which we KNOW logically. But knowledge and logic and common sense are not enough to truly change the way we think and feel and react to this world- or our reflection in the mirror. Unfortunately!

    It takes a lot of self-work (and possibly work with others) to really internalize intellectual concepts- to connect the heart, mind and spirit. And even then, many of us have to spend a long time “practicing” this “new” way of thinking, constantly challenging and confronting our thoughts and striving to maintain individual beliefs, values and personal definitions of beauty in a culture that “sells” EVERYTHING.

    It sucks. It’s easier to “give in,” to believe what all the fashion mags and TV shows and movies tell us about ourselves- it’s easier to believe them when they tell us what to look like, what to value, what to do. It’s a LOT harder to figure it out for ourselves.

    I’m not there yet. But I do think it’s worth the good fight. And I do NOT think it makes us any less “feminist.” I think it makes us stronger…

    • Thanks for your insightful comment. I’m not there yet either, but like you said, internalising what we already know takes a lot of hard work. It takes more than knowledge and common sense, I guess, to fully realise that what we “know” is different to what we “feel” and to reconcile those differences.

      You’re right- it’s easier to give in. But it is worth the fight.

  3. I have no words for how much this is exactly how I feel. I *know* that I am more than the way I look, that health is more important and that shaving is unnecessary. And then comes the “but” that I’m still working on!

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