Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Feel Better About My Body?
I'm sure you've gotten many letters from Sparklers with the same issues but I was wondering if you had any advice.
I'm a sixteen year old girl and I've been told multiple times by my mother that I "just have a different body type", but I can't help but always feel like I am fat. I'm 5'6" and 120 lbs (and I'm a dancer so quite a bit is muscle), and according to my doctor that is normal, but all I see when I look in the mirror is fat, especially when compared to my sister or friends, who are all skinny and flat-chested. My self confidence has plummeted in the past few months, and I have hit a low point. I usually starve myself during the day, and follow an exercise regimen every evening, and if I don't do them, I wake up the next morning full of regret. I'm irrationally afraid if I don't have a perfect body I will never find someone who thinks that I'm beautiful.
Any suggestions on how to make myself feel better about my body?
You're right, Sparkler: I do get a lot of letters about this. In fact, on the same day as your letter came in, I got three others just like it—from girls who feel immense pressure to be thin, who fear that their value as human beings is directly related to their weight, who are already starving or purging and don't know how to ask for help.
And it makes me so. Frigging. ANGRY.
Because as much as I can tell you that you're more than the size of your pants or the number on the scale, we still live in a world where you'll see a hundred advertisements and magazine covers and billboards every day that tell you the exact opposite, on purpose, in order to gut your confidence and sell you things you don't need, and it's so infuriating, and OMFG I'M SO CHEESED RIGHT NOW THAT MY FACE IS ACTUALLY ON FIRE.
And you know what? You should be cheesed, too. Seriously: think about all the ridiculous, unattainable, designed-to-inspire-self-loathing messages and images and ideals that you're bombarded with every day, and get angry. Right now, as we speak, a bunch of jerks in an office somewhere are marketing yet another miracle diet, or making a fat woman the butt of yet another joke, or emblazoning yet another a magazine cover with a headline that reads, more or less, "YOUR THIGHS ARE DISGUSTING AND NOBODY WILL EVER LOVE YOU." There is an entire industry out there, a booming one, devoted exclusively to making you feel crappy about yourself so that they can make money off you. And when you say things like, "If I don't have a perfect body, I'll never find someone who thinks I'm beautiful," the jerks in the office high-five each other and rub their hands together and laugh like this: MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA.
So if you want to feel better about your body, you can start by vowing not to let a bunch of maniacal hatemongering agenda-having asshats be the ones to set the standard for what your body should or should not look like.
And instead, vow to adopt your own, holistic, healthy standard of beauty: one that doesn't buy into the bulls**t notion that the most important thing a body can be is thin. Seek out and consume media that celebrates a wider variety of body types; it's out there if you look for it. Make a point to appreciate the unique and wonderful things about your appearance, whether it's your muscular legs, your nicely-arched eyebrows, your shapely feet, or the pattern of freckles on your back. Respect and care for your body, whatever its size or shape, by feeding it, moving it, treating it kindly, and occasionally giving it ice cream. And take time to appreciate your body not for how it looks but how it works, for the way you can use it to dance the tango, curl up with a book, make a meal, or hold hands with someone you love.
And when you feel tempted to make comparisons and find yourself wanting, you can go sit on a park bench on a sunny day and look at all the people who prove that there are no weight requirements for living a worthwhile life. You can have bad hair, crooked teeth, flabby biceps, and a pimply butt, and still be fulfilled and happy every single day. (And conversely, you can also have a flawless figure and a beautiful face and still be Lindsay Lohan.)
And while I have no doubt that each and every one of you will find someone who thinks you're beautiful, by personal standards if not by public ones, I want so badly for you—all of you—to realize that physically beautiful is just one thing you can be, and not the most important thing, either. When you find someone who loves you, it won't be for your beauty. It'll be for your kindness, or your courage, or your loyalty, or your incisive wit, or your ability to instantly recall every good line from The Avengers. And those things, like all good and valuable things, stay with you no matter what size your thighs are.
Do you have tips and tricks for feeling great about your bod? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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