Let’s get one thing straight. I’ve never been overweight. Never has a doctor advised me to lose weight or go on a certain diet.
Well, except that time my dermatologist told me to stop eating dairy. It was the wonderful, delicious cause of my cystic acne.
Regardless, weight has never been my body image issue.
So I can’t speak to any struggles “plus size” women face, specifically. I just don’t have the experience. What I do have experience with is people making assumptions about me because of the way I look.
Which, I’m sure, overweight women can relate to as well.
People assume I don’t eat, over exercise, or am just really full of myself. In high school, people called me a slut. Which was kinda funny, because I didn’t have my first kiss until I was like 15 because I was super uncomfortable around boys I liked.
Anyway. It’s a different kind of assumption, I’m sure, than those made about women who are overweight. But does that make the assumption any less harmful? I’m arguing it doesn’t.
Think about that girl in 7th grade, walking down the hallway to pre-algebra, minding her own business. Suddenly, her friend runs up to her and quickly whispers, “so-and-so called you a slut!”
Now, as a 13 year-old, your reputation is everything. You do not want to be known as the slut.
Especially when it’s NOT true! I was fortunate enough to have parents that instilled a pretty solid sense of confidence in me. So I literally laughed, turned into the classroom and found my seat.
But I still remember that moment. Feeling like rumors were spreading about me because the new girl (who I hadn’t even met) was jealous, I guess?
My algebra days are over, but this kind of treatment carried through to college, my career, and my relationships. This underlying assumption that because my body, face, and clothes look a certain way I’m more likely to be selfish, lie, and manipulate people to get my way.
When Dove came out with their revolutionary marketing campaign about “real women” I was so excited! I thought, “hey, maybe people will finally start seeing me for ME, not just a pretty face.”
I’m super pumped up about the small changes we’re seeing in marketing, moving towards a more inclusive body image standard. The thing is, we’re still operating under this assumption that skinny, thin, or toned women are “public enemy number 1.”
This belief that if you’re thin, you don’t understand body shaming. Like our problems and self esteem issues are diminished or dismissed because “at least you’re not fat.”
Or we can’t talk about our struggles with body image because, “hey, someone has it worse so don’t complain.”
We hear phrases like, “real women have curves” or “this is what a healthy woman looks like!” and while, yes you’re right…that’s NOT body positive language. It’s NOT inclusive language. It’s divisive and excluding women who happen to check some of the societal beauty standard boxes.
Judging someone who’s naturally skinny is just as harmful as judging someone who’s naturally fat. Just because society deems “skinny = good” and “fat = bad” doesn’t mean it’s less harmful to the person being judged.
Because here’s the plain truth of the matter, everyone on the planet struggles with thinking positively about their body. No matter how many boxes you “check” off, there are a hundred you don’t.
Yeah, maybe plus size women don’t get to check the “weight” box…but that isn’t the only cause of insecurity and self doubt.
Some of the most “beautiful” women I know are also the most insecure. Why do you think that is? Wouldn’t you think the closer we get to perfection, the happier and more confident we would become?
You would think that, but you’d be wrong.
All women are playing a losing game right now. We’re shooting at a moving target. No matter what you look like, there are boxes unchecked. The perfectionist woman, the one (like me) who is type A and an overachiever sees all those boxes as a challenge.
The worst part is, when we feel like we’re failing…we have no one to talk to about it. These “body positive icons” are all plus sized. What about the women who aren’t fat, but still feel like they’re not good enough??
The ones who hide their stretch marks, never wear a bikini because of their birthmark, and cake on makeup to hide their acne scars, dark circles, and wrinkles?
This isn’t about “who has it worse” because no one has it perfect.
From my perspective, talking about and admitting what you’re feeling is a huge step in healing that hurt. But the ones who feel like they can’t SAY anything about their pain because they don’t want to offend someone else’s are the ones who never get a chance to be heard.
So I’m speaking about it.
Yes, the skinny, beautiful, talented women everyone wants to be like have problems, too.
I’m telling you it’s okay to talk about them.
Rebekah Buege is a body confidence coach helping strong women process critical thoughts and heal insecurities.
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