I make a conscious effort not to wait until New Year’s Day to resolve to be a better version of myself. To keep myself from getting stuck in a holding pattern, I consistently try to establish and reassess my short-term and long-term personal goals. During my most recent bout of introspection, it occurred to me that in order to make progress toward becoming who I want to be, I need to kick some bad habits. Admittedly, at the top of my list of annoying habits are being unnecessarily long-winded, spending too much time on the internet, and coming across as a know-it-all…so I can appreciate the slight level of irony to this post and plan to slay those beasts at a later date. (Note to self: Add procrastination to the list. And list making.) For now, the habit I’m determined to break is negative self-talk, particularly surrounding body image. So I settled upon aiming to eliminate three destructive little phrases from my vocabulary. My hope is that in reading this, you might feel motivated to start thinking about less-than-constructive ways in which you speak about yourself, and in turn, perceive yourself.
- “I’m fat.”
You are not fat. You have fat. In fact, you need fat to survive. Fat provides you with an essential layer of protection and insulation from the outside world. Know what else does that? Your nose hair! But you are not nose hair, either. My point is that one physical attribute does not carry enough weight (no pun intended) to define who you are. Regardless of how your weight status affects your quality of life; there is no value on any scale that delineates your value as a complex, irreplaceable human being who deserves love, respect, and support.
- “I feel fat.”
Fat is a loose connective bodily tissue derived from adipocytes—it is not an emotion. “Fat” is not something you experience in the way you experience joy, excitement, heartbreak, or disappointment. Next time this utterance threatens to pass your lips, see if you can take a step back and finish the phrase with a genuine emotion rather than the word fat. For example, instead of saying, “I feel fat”, you might say, “I feel discouraged that I gained weight this weekend” or, “I feel guilty for deviating from my healthy eating plan last night”. Instead of negatively reinforcing your undesired outcome, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to address the cause of your feelings and consider resolutions to either change your behavior or change your thoughts surrounding the behavior to achieve your desired outcome.
- “Real women are/have…[insert cliché here].”
Declarations like “real women have curves” are inherently exclusionary and suggest that your physical appearance defines your authenticity as a woman. No matter how often I look in the mirror while flexing my pecs and chanting, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust!” my B-cup will never runneth over. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I do this every hour on the hour.) That doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to feel comfortable in my own skin, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not a real woman. The legitimacy of a gal’s womanhood shouldn’t be classified by, “On a scale of Kermit the Frog to Kim Kardashian, how big is dat ass?”
Similarly, while I am a huge supporter of including women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in media campaigns, I’m not crazy about the dichotomy that seems to have formed between “real” women and models. This comparison is counterproductive because it perpetuates the concept that in order to empower one group of women, we must subsequently devalue another group. Professional models are, well, professionals. Imagine if we were as quick to compare ourselves to other types of professionals as we are to compare ourselves to models. I wouldn’t be able to pass a construction zone without feeling deeply inadequate about my inability to erect a building…not to mention my inability to stop giggling at the word erect. (Or calk, for that matter, but I digress.) Drawing parallels between people with completely different livelihoods and talents than yours sets you up for boundless disappointment in one form or another. Furthermore, belittling someone else’s strengths in an attempt to play up your own says more about you than it does about the person you’re bashing. At our core, we’re all real people, and we all have a fundamental desire to be reminded that what we have to offer is enough.
And you, my friend, are enough.