I listened to an interview with Stacey from What Not to Wear the other day – talking about body image and wearing the right clothes for the body you have. Her interview made me like her a lot more than I used to. She seemed like she was really on our side, on the side of women, like she just wanted us all to look good, and then feel good, no matter what size we were. That part was cool. Although the part where I turned it up and played it again was when she talked about the “Fab Four” (Lindsey Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and Paris Hilton) and how they were famous for nothing more than being skinny, looking good, and lately, for losing weight. Losing weight is not a talent, she said. It’s not something you should get your picture taken for, it’s just…losing weight. It doesn’t make you special.
And then someone else wrote a blog post about gaining weight after you get married and it caused all sorts of controversy. The writer mentioned that she thought it was “false advertising” to gain weight after getting married and at first I had this big argument in my head about how marriage wasn’t a commodity, and what exactly was I advertising, and to whom? I am not for sale, after all. As Melanie Griffith stated in Working Girl, “I am not steak. You can’t just order me.”
But as I thought more about it, those thoughts started to be about something else entirely. Although of course I don’t expect anyone to believe that my weight loss makes me more or less talented, I do feel like I accomplished something, and I am proud of how my ass looks now and the fact that I can run 11 miles. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in the process of losing sixty pounds, I’ve also formed an identity that is so wrapped up in my physical appearance that more often than not these days the most important thing in my life is how I look.
I’m not apologizing for feeling good that I managed to lose weight and run a half marathon, but it does get complicated when that’s where your sense of self worth comes from. Because while yes, I am proud of me, and I do feel like I look good, I swear to god seconds later, or even in the same moment, I can also feel fat and ugly and boring and stupid and wrong and like all the beautiful people are somewhere making fun of me. It’s as if there’s a light switch labeled “self esteem” in my head, and I can’t control which way the switch is flipped. And I’m wondering if maybe it’s not possible to feel good about yourself because of how you look without also feeling bad about yourself because of how you look. Like maybe how you look shouldn’t be what makes you feel good, and then it also wouldn’t be what makes you feel bad?
You know, it’s all very confusing. But here’s my conclusion. We live in a world where people tell you how you SHOULD be, all the fucking time. Women are told constantly “Love Yourselves” “You are more than your physical appearance” “Don’t be so caught up in yourself all the time” “It’s not a talent to be skinny” but the people in charge, the ones making the rules, don’t really believe ANY of that stuff. Really, they believe that thinner IS better and that what we look like on the outside IS advertising for what kind of person we are on the inside and they tell us that when they bombard us with impossible and unfair images of beauty that make us believe that if only we worked harder, we could be as “talented” as Nicole. And then after that they tell us that the reason we feel like crap is that we don’t love ourselves enough on the inside. And I’m here to tell you that no matter what I think of myself, I know I’m talented enough to call bullshit when I see it.