The body image of women needs a rethink



The body image of women is a little warped. It is! We tend to get so wrapped up in what we think are our flaws, our bad bits, that we wind up putting ourselves down, and making ourselves feel bad. Which in turn makes us do things, like go on a diet, in a desperate attempt for quick change, rather than making healthy choices for long term gain.

What is body image and what has it to do with the bodies we want?

Body image isn't about what is, it's about what we think is. What is body image? It's the way we think about ourselves, and in turn, the way we feel about ourselves, it's how we see ourselves...and it can be distorted.

It's important to have a vision of what you want to look like, it's also important to see where you are now, to know your starting point. It's also important to make sure that how you see yourself isn't inaccurate or overly focused on some small part of yourself and unfortunately our body image of women tends to be less than healthy, with a tendency to be a very negative body image of women.

Have you ever had a conversation with a good friend about the size of a certain body part, or it's shape, for them to look at you and say, "but, I like that part of you", or "are you joking, I never noticed that,"?

How we think about ourselves, what we think we look like, (notice the emphasis on think...think is not what is), is often not how others see us, or how we really are.

For us, this body image of women blows things out of proportion, or isn't accurate, and can lead us down a path of desperate, unhealthy action that does us no good and can even have us worse off than when we started.

This distorted image can also negatively affect the vision we create for ourselves. If the vision of what we want our bodies to look like is one that ignores our basic structure, body frame or shape, if it ignores (or tries too) the underlying, unchangeable parts of ourselves, we are doomed to feel failures, because we will never achieve this vision.

Rethinking the body image of women

Have you ever watched the show "How to Look Good Naked". It highlights just how unrealistic the body image of women can be.

In each one of the episodes, Carson gets right to the heart of the the body image of women. A women who thought she had huge thighs, was asked to put herself in a line-up by thigh size. Even with the other women standing right in front of her, she was unable to correctly place herself. She thought her thighs were much bigger than they were.

That's just one example, Carson had examples every week. We need to take a good hard look at the way we perceive ourselves, if we are to have an accurate body image of women, and as women.

Most of us don't look at the whole picture of who we are, we get focused on one particular part of our body, and it's like one of those crazy mirrors at the circus, that one bit that we're not entirely happy with, fills the entire mirror.

It grows and grows in our minds, we think it's the first or only thing that people notice about us, and it's certainly the only thing we notice about ourselves.

The point here...is this is in our minds, it's what we're focusing on, not what is necessarily true. Letting our thoughts run away with themselves, and we're literally blowing everything out of proportion.

There's a saying that the "the whole is more than the sum of the parts" and what that means is that when you put a whole lot of little pieces together, what they are together is a lot more than just pieces together, they produce something different.

Are you focusing too much on the parts, and not taking into consideration the whole picture?

Are you thinking yourself into a frenzy over something that isn't accurate?

Are you letting your mind carry your self-esteem into the dirt?

In many cases the body image of women is focused on "it's too big", "it's too flat", "it's too flabby", and not much else.

Then, you need to rethink. Practice looking at yourself as a whole. Those parts you want to change, acknowledge them, but don't let them be blown out of proportion.

I have a lot of stretch marks, the result of three pregnancies in four years, and a frowny belly button. Yes, it turns down at the ends, it looks like my stomach is permanently grimacing at me.

Everytime I looked in the mirror, that's what I used to see. Even fully clothed I'd know it was hiding under there, frowning at me. It got to the stage I imagined that everyone had x-ray vision and could see it, and that was all they'd see. I even noticed that when I went out, friends seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to my belly!

They were! One day, out with two old friends, I decided to ask what they were looking at, I wondered (to myself) if could they see my frown, I was tentative and embarrassed. I had on a fitted top, and a wide belt, so I could hide it from me, yet they were taking surreptitious looks at my belly, I'd noticed the same thing. So I asked.

For a while I just stared at them. What was it they'd just said? no I must have heard it wrong. They'd looked at each other, said nothing, and I reminded them that we had always been totally honest with each other, even if it was painful. They looked surprised and then perplexed. They were embarrassed, they'd been looking because they had noticed that my tummy was really flat, and no muffin top, and didn't want to tell me that they'd actually been discussing behind my back how I was doing it!

Here I was thinking that they were seeing what I saw, and they were seeing something totally different altogether!

I have a whole new thought process when I look in the mirror now. I see the frowny belly button, and the stretch marks, and I'm not happy with it, but I also see the flat belly, and I remind myself that my belly button is a badge of honour. This body has given birth to three beautiful children.

I take a lot more notice of the other parts of my body, I don't ignore the parts that I feel are less than great in my eyes, but I don't make them the whole image either. And I'm careful about the things I tell myself in my head.

If you think negative thoughts, you start to have negative feelings. You don't have to sugar coat it, but you don't need to see it as the end of everything either. Monitor what you're thinking, is it really realistic, or are you making way too much of something, or some small part of yourself?

Just one last little story on the body image of women.

A few summers ago I took my kids to the beach. Another mother and her two children were playing next to us. She had a singlet on over her bikini, (I haven't been in a bikini without a shirt on for years), and I as already thinking, my goodness, she looked amazing. She was smiling, laughing, brown, toned, and looked wonderful, obviously having a great time.

We said a couple of words to each other, smiled, and the kids were off into the sand building a joint sandcastle, complete with moat. She took off her singlet, and my eyes were drawn to her stomach. All the way across was a jagged scar. She saw me looking, and laughed.

That scar was a legacy of a horrific accident a few years before, for ages she hadn't gone anywhere, and even with a full swimsuit on she'd felt that scar every day. The way she thought about that scar stopped her living her life. She loved being in a bikini, she loved having the maximum amount of water on her skin, and warmth. (I knew how she felt...I was in a one piece with a t-shirt on...hiding my stretch marks from everyone but me). But for a long time she couldn't bear anyone to see the scar, so she stopped wearing her bikini.

What had changed her attitude? She had realised that it's just a scar, a reminder of something that happened, it could only negatively affect her life if she let it. And she decided she wouldn't let it.

She had got used to it, thought about it differently and had got back into her bikini. Her kids didn't even notice that scar anymore, and it was just one part of her, it wasn't all she was, inside or out, it was just a scar, nothing more, nothing less. She didn't love it, she didn't even like it, but she couldn't change it, so why spend time worrying about it.

She's right. The problem with the body image of women is that we get focused on one part...one bit of our physical body and forget about who we are, and what we are as a whole. And it's not even accurate focus! We blow that part so far out of proportion that we can't see anything else.

This women shows what the body image of women should be, acceptance if we can't change it, and doing something about it if we can.

What is body image? It's not what is, it's just an image, a thought, and we create our own thoughts. It's time to start thinking differently.

Check that what you see is what is, and that the vision you want for yourself is also not an illusion of something that denies who you are. That way you'll be able to approach losing weight and getting the body you want in a healthy way. You are not just a group of pieces, you are so much more of that, and each part is just that, a very small piece of a much bigger whole.

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