***Nov. 5, 2019 EDIT: I found this post in my drafts from December 2015. I don’t really remember writing it, but since the content about intrusive thoughts and body shame still rings true, I’m publishing. The updates to the below content are: I *do* have an actual mental illness (yay!) – I now live with or suffer from depression and anxiety, depending on when you ask me. The paragraph about me being happy and loving myself doesn’t often, or always apply anymore. And, I don’t need a diagnosis to tell you I am certain I suffer from body dysmorphia to a certain degree. I leave the rest with you.***
December 1, 2015
Today I felt fat at least a dozen times. I woke up, and I hadn’t had my first sip of tea before I’d unhappily surveyed my underwear-clad body in the mirror a couple of times. I got dressed and went to work. My critical eye came with me on bathroom breaks. Without registering them, the usual stream of negative thoughts about my body, my love handles, my chunky thighs, my undefined arms, flowed unabated through my brain as I bent close to the mirror and washed my hands. I’ve been hearing these thoughts for 20 years, regardless of my weight, relationship status, and despite personal successes – so I don’t really even hear them. They’re just a familiar, constant drone by now.
I don’t hate myself. If you know me, you might think I love myself too much. And I do. I think I’m nice and fun and funny, and I care about others, and sometimes I feel pretty or beautiful, and usually I feel happy and successful and like I won the life lottery. Sometimes I get emotional, like I actually tear up and/or cry, because I feel so fortunate to be living my life, to feel so loved and to know so many amazing people, and to be offered so many wonderful opportunities. Other times I get emotional because I’m watching “Gilmore Girls,” but that’s just me being white.
Maybe I’m sick to be having these negative thoughts about my body. Maybe it’s possible I have an actual mental illness, like body dysmorphia or something. I’ve never had an eating disorder, (unless dis order is pasta, in which case I’ve had it all! *rimshot*), and I don’t think I’m obese. I make a pretty good effort to eat reasonably well and exercise, and sometimes I feel like I look pretty good. But nothing has ever completely erased the constant barrage of “you’re not good enough”; notions that are not fully formed, but are ever-present and insidious. I could always be skinnier, leaner, more toned.
So where did those thoughts come from? I can tell you now, none of my past boyfriends would dare take even a step in that direction. These harmful ideas certainly didn’t come from my family, they of course didn’t come from my teachers, and they definitely didn’t come from my friends growing up. They didn’t even come from my enemies.
The answer should be obvious, and if it isn’t, can you please ask yourself why everyone is freaking the f*ck out about Amy Schumer posing in panties only, soft, beautiful rolls and all, in the forthcoming Pirelli calendar? I felt a surge of joy seeing that picture for the first time. Huzzah! She dares to bare, sans airbrush! I’m so proud and feministy-feeling! She looks real! Wait…what? Why am I SO HAPPY that there is one photograph of a famous chick in underwear who’s not a size zero? The Annie Leibovitz/Amy Schumer photo has caused a media frenzy that should make us sick. It should make us feel ill to realize how refreshing this picture is. It’s perverse that it feels so good to see someone so famous un-plasticized in the media.
Do you know where they don’t feel this way? Pretty much everywhere outside of “Western” countries. It’s a sad and maybe unique reality for Western women that we’ve polluted ourselves with unrealistic body expectations to this degree. We are products of our environment, all of us. When did the environment get so caustic and harmful? When did a photograph of a beautiful woman without a washboard stomach become a rallying cry for Western women? Our biggest so-called “First World problem” is that we’re living in it.