"You look like an Oompa-Loompa." “I look disgusting with my cottage cheese legs and stretch-mark hips. Nasty. No one would want to touch me.” “I’m ugly. Too skinny. Look sick.” “Oh my God, look at her waist and legs! We’re the same height. She looks like a model. I look like a lumpy sock.” If you've thought things like that -- or said them aloud to yourself -- it turns out you aren't alone. A new study by Glamour magazine shows that 97% of women have thoughts like that every single day.
Sadly, the comments above aren't ones I made up to drive the point home. They are real, honest-to-goodness responses from the women who took part in Glamour's experiment about body image.
Glamour explained their experiment.
We challenged young women across the country to note every negative or anxious thought they had about their bodies over the course of one full day. The results shocked us: A whopping 97 percent admitted to having at least one “I hate my body” moment.
97%? 97%!?! Goodness. That result makes my heart ache for the millions of strong, intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, courageous women in our society who are apparently selling themselves far too short. But, at the same time, it's not all that surprising, is it?
Just in the past few months we've seen a series of beauty magazine flubs that make studies like this make sense. From Marie Claire's fat-bashing to Elle's lightening of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's skin, we are constantly bombarded with images, words and other notions that our bodies are imperfect; they are not enough and, as such, we are not enough.
Glamour says the media bombardment and celebrity worship aren't the only things leading to the destructive thoughts.
"Neuroscience has shown that whatever you focus on shapes your brain. If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts about your body, that neural pathway becomes stronger—and those thoughts become habitual,” she explains. “Imagine a concert pianist. Her brain would have stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity than someone who hadn’t spent her life practicing.”
In short, negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts. After years and years of thinking that you need to be on a diet, that you need to lose those last five pounds, that big hips are out of style, that you need bigger boobs or smaller boobs or your version of "perfect boobs," you've managed to make your brain believe those things, leaving you with no room or ability to love and accept the body you are currently sporting. The years and years of self-sabotage start early, with the University of Florida studying girls ages three to six. Nearly half of them were worried about being fat. No wonder our brains get warped into believing and perpetuating the myth that we are not good enough for ourselves.
Image via suez92 on flickr. Go tell her she is beautiful.
Interestingly, the data from Glamour's experiment shows that "respondents who were unsatisfied with their career or relationship tended to report more negative body thoughts than women who were content in those areas. What’s more, feeling uncomfortable emotions of any sort—stress, loneliness, even boredom—made many women start berating their looks." That makes sense to me. When I'm upset with work or life in general, I am careful not to take my frustration out on my husband or my children. But I can tell you that I am not as careful with myself.
The article goes on to offer advice about getting over and past the self-snark. The steps include:
- "Rewiring your brain" (think positively, focus on the good)
- "Ask yourself" (is your current grumpy state really about your body or something else?)
- "Exercise" (no, really, it will make you feel better!)
- "Say STOP!" (when you start thinking negative thoughts about your body)
- "Remind yourself" (that obsessing about your body doesn't magically make it any different)
- "Appreciate your body" (for what it does rather than how it looks)
- And lastly, "Play up your strengths" (focus on making the most of what you've got)
Great advice, which is rather in tune with our Own Your Beauty campaign.
I feel concerned about the numbers and how nasty the comments were by respondents about their own bodies. I have been watching my thoughts for the past few days and mentally forcing myself to stay on the positive side of the fence. It's hard work, but it has also greatly improved my mood.
Other female bloggers chimed in on the results as well with some inspiring posts of their own.
Rebecca Scritchfield at "Me" Movement challenged readers to love their bodies.
97% of us should have an “I LOVE my body” moment rather than the ‘hate’ moment.
Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend wracked her brain to figure out how often she has similar thoughts and discussed the areas of her body which give her pause. She came up with a pretty solid conclusion:
It seems like step 1 for some women would be to throw out all of the magazines idolizing the unrealistic standard.
Natalie MacNeil at She Takes On the World talks about her time in the beauty industry and how her experiences framed her concept of what beauty means.
The first time I heard other people talking about my weight I was completely humiliated and cried myself to sleep that night. Then I was torn apart so many times that I became numb to it. There was the time I was told to lose weight and was stared down by the show Director and some of my peers when I was seen eating a small portion of food in the hotel restaurant. And the time I sat on the floor crying with a girl who had an eating disorder and hated herself. And the time I wasn’t allowed to make a television appearance because at 118 pounds I was “too big.” I could go on and on. Some people say, “Well that’s just the industry.” I say it’s CRAZY and our society needs to change its unrealistic ideals when it comes to beauty.
These three bloggers brought up three great points.
- Love your body more than you hate it.
- Ditch the beauty magazines.
- Society needs to change its unrealistic beauty ideals.
What would you add to that list? What changes need to be made so that more women are having more "body love" moments than "body hate" ones? How have you overcome your issues?
And more importantly: Will you be kind to your body today?
Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.