Here is what I’d like to say to the woman who hates her body. This message is for the woman who looks in the mirror and dislikes what she sees. It’s for the woman who believes that if only she lost some weight, or built some muscle, that maybe then-she would be beautiful and worthy of love.
As a therapist in private practice in Rockville, MD, specializing in helping women and girls struggling with body image issues, I’ve witnessed how painful the struggle with “not feeling good enough” can be.
First off, I want you to know that it’s not your fault that you are suffering from negative body image. From the time that we are children, we are surrounded by societal messages, which teach us to value “thinness” and often stigmatizes those in larger bodies. Further, there is a 60-billion-dollar diet industry, which makes profit off our belief that we aren’t “good enough.” Body-dissatisfaction is what helps diet companies continue to sell their products.
Body image issues and diet-culture impact both men and women. However, I think that particularly as women, it’s important to note that a focus on these issues often keeps us from “playing big” in other areas of our lives. When women are fixed on dieting and attempting to change their bodies, they are not using their energy to change the world. It’s also interesting to note that diet-culture and a fixation on thinness rose in prominence around the time that women began to gain more political rights in our society.
We have been culturally conditioned to try to take up less space. As women, we have been taught to criticize our bodies. Not only is this seen as socially acceptable, it’s also a more comfortable way for people to deal with other upsetting situations in their lives. For instance, it’s far easier to talk about hating your thighs, then to express how you are feeling lonely and unloved. However, just as this sense of body-hatred has been learned-it can also be unlearned. There is hope!
If your negative thoughts about your body are getting in the way of your happiness, it’s so important to reach out for help from a professional who specializes in body-positivity and health at every size. Reaching out for help when you are struggling is a sign of true strength, not weakness.
Your Weight is Not Your Worth
Even if you loved your body, the reality is that our bodies are meant to change as we age. Tying your sense of self-worth to your external appearance, is a recipe for discontent. Additionally, it’s important to note that your body is simply the vehicle, which enables you to live your amazing life. Work to practice gratitude for all that your body helps you to do, rather than focusing on how it looks.
Further, we all have a limited amount of mental energy. When you fixate on how your body looks, it takes away valuable time, in which you could be reflecting on other things. No one writes in someone’s obituary, “she was so thin,” or “she was the perfect weight.” What would you like to be remembered for? Work to shift focus to the things and people in your life that truly matter.
Despite what the 60-billion-dollar diet industry may tell you, I know this to be true. You are not more valuable if you take up less space. Further, your worth is not found in your body size or shape.
Your true value is found in the sparkle in your eyes when you laugh, the way that you pursue your passions, how you help others, and in your relationships. You are enough, and you are worthy of love and belonging, just as you are.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety, and depression. Jennifer offers eating disorder therapy to individuals in Maryland and D.C. and eating disorder recovery coaching via phone/Skype.