So, I've been thinking. Never a good thing. Me and thinking is NEVER a good combination.
What got me started was the Body Image post at The Real Sydney. I got to thinking about all the things that affect women's body image. Yes, as Fender pointed out, men suffer from body image issues too, but because I am a woman, I'm going to talk about female body image.
There are those who believe that mothers are responsible for their daughters' body image. In some cases, like the woman who brought her 8-year-old into a beauty salon (I was present) to have her mono-brow waxed because 'It's unattractive, it ruins her looks', they are responsible to a large degree. Mums who have botox, or boob jobs? More power to them. If it makes you feel better, why not?
But for now, let's leave Mum alone, and look at the other members of the family. Let's start with Dad.
My sister and I both have good body image. We both have things we'd like to change, and there are days where nothing looks right. But, overall, we are ok with out bodies. A lot of this can be traced back to Dad. The man adored my mother. He thought she was the most beautiful thing ever. While he may at times questioned her judgement (always discreetly), he never, ever commented negatively on her body, nor did he ever look at another woman. These things I know, partly from observation, and partly from Mum.
When I was growing up, some of my friend's dads DID look at other women - one in particular was really bad. This man had a beautiful wife, the woman was (and still is) physically stunning, and yet, every woman who walked past, he had to look at. Not glance, I mean LOOK at. Just about drooling look. Both his daughters have body image issues - one is a size 6, and considers herself ugly and fat. Dad's influence? Maybe. Actually, probably. Fathers play a HUGE part in a girl's view of herself, and a lot of this comes from how they see their mothers being treated.
Grandparents and aunts are bad. They don't *usually* mean to be - but they are. I have spent my entire life from the age of 5, hearing how gorgeous my sister is. She is. Physically stunning. Didn't do a lot for my self-esteem. These days, I am not fussed - I developed a personality to make up for my average looks. I am what I am, and she is what she is.
Family friends and neighbours also play a part - hearing someone raving on and on about how stunning so-and-so is, can dent anyone's self-image.
The media - is tricky. I think the media cops a lot more flak than they really should. Photoshopping people into unrealistic shapes is not good, but at the same time, is it ALL their fault? No. Before Photoshop hit the scene, people were having body image issues. Hell, they were having them before photography was invented.
Big sisters/cousins. These are the people we look up to and compare ourselves to. I remember my cousin K, when I was in about Grade 5, lamenting that she was fat. I thought she was beautiful. Fat to my 11-year-old self was the woman we knew who took 10 minutes each way to get into or out of her car, because she kept jamming up against the steering wheel, not my pretty, funny cousin.
Our friends can be our worst enemies in this - if a pang of jealousy strikes right at the second you are contemplating your appearance, and your friend says "That makes you look fat.", you are gone. It's not necessarily that she wants to stomp you into the ground, but women are designed to compete against each other for men. It's survival of the hottest, and the species must go on.
Now, for the record, I do NOT judge people on their size. The woman who caught on the steering wheel was a novelty to me as a child, but even as I was enthralled, I was saddened. I don't see size when I look at someone - unless we include height. But that's different.
So, in conclusion, I think it is time for us to own our body image issues. Outside factors certainly affect the way we view ourselves, which is fine. But they should NOT rule us.
If you are unhappy with your appearance, ask yourself why? Not in terms of "Why don't I like my nose? Because it's huge!", but rather in terms of, "Why don't I like my nose? How does it affect my life?" If the answer is that it affects your self-confidence, you have a couple of choices; surgery, or get-the f***-over-it-and-make-the-most-of-what-you-do-like. Life is too short to waste precious time letting something like a big hooter, saggy tits or crooked teeth rule what you do. Seek counselling if needs be.
But get out there and live. Join me in being amazed/amused when a guy hits on you (as time has passed, I have started to move more to amused). Believe compliments when you recieve them, use them to lift you up. Ignore the negative remarks, they are a waste of time.
And to end, do you know what the best compliment I ever recieved was? It was late last year, we were watching the cricket at work (slow day) and I commented on something - a passage of play or an umpiring decision - and one of the guys turned to me and said, in a tone of utmost admiration "Why didn't I know you 20 years ago?!" I floated for days on that. I still feel good when I think about it - it even beats "beautiful woman, with the most amazing smile." It was and is the yardstick all compliments are measured by