We, as women, are each other’s biggest critics. We are constantly competing with other women and finding ways to tear them down. We say the woman eating the salad knows she needs to eat a cheeseburger and the woman eating the cheeseburger knows she needs to eat a salad. The stay at home mom is lazy and doesn’t want to work and the working mother doesn’t love her children enough to stay at home. The woman that likes to party has a problem and the woman that doesn’t drink isn’t any fun. The woman saving herself for marriage is a prude, but the woman that has had sex is a slut. If you’re beautiful, you’re trying too hard, but god forbid you’ve gained weight, because then we all know you’ve just let yourself go. When do we stop? I know there are exceptions to every rule and not every woman does this, but we don’t even realize we do it. I am certainly not the exception. I am guilty as well.
It’s everywhere. From watching women in cat-fights on the Bachelor, The Bad Girl’s Club, and any Housewives of Whatever City all the way to songs like, “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls, “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” by Me’shell Ndegeocello and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take my Man)” by Loretta Lynn. It’s across the board, it’s not race specific or location specific.
I watched a woman walk into the gym this morning in running shorts. They were the kind of running shorts I always try on and suddenly find everything wrong with my body in. My fat thighs, my cellulite, way too short (me and the shorts), and what if I bust a seam sitting down? Ask yourself what you think the woman entering the gym looked like. Tall? Thin? Runner? That’s my first thought. (Don’t try to play devil’s advocate either, I googled “Female Running Shorts” just to see what the images are. It’s a consensus.) Well, like me, the woman entering the gym didn’t look like any of those google images. She had full, shapely thighs. She had cellulite. She was average height. She walked, not ran, on the treadmill. I watched another tall, thin, toned, aesthetically beautiful woman give her the nastiest look when she saw her. It was that, “Why are you wearing that?” look. It was that, “Those are too short for you” look. It was that, “Oh honey, someone should have stopped you” look. It was that critical, nasty, judgmental look that so many of us struggling with body image issues have seen – whether from someone else or when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror.
Most woman that don’t have body image issues don’t notice other’s judgmental looks. Why? Because they don’t care. They easily brush off rude comments because those people don’t matter. It’s the incessant, constant ugliness that begins to wear those women down. The women struggling with body image issues typically don’t go out on a limb and buy something that they even think someone might judge them in because it only takes one time to shut that thought down. The women trying to make a change and build their confidence. We tear them down, too. And we don’t even realize it. This woman walking into the gym, she didn’t give two fucks about the woman with the disgusted looked on her face. She looked at her and smiled. Like a boss. But how many times can you do that before it starts to wear you down? And why should you have to?
I then watched the same tall, thin, toned judgmental woman awkwardly try and cover herself up in the locker room. I watched her struggle to pull her panties up with one hand as she tried to keep her towel wrapped around her. I watched her put her bra on over her towel and then take her towel off. I watched her scrutinize herself in the mirror, sucking her stomach in and out, pushing on different parts of her body. What I was suddenly looking at was a very insecure woman that had her own body image issues.
When I try clothes on I will ask whomever I’m with or the attendant if I’m alone, “Would you judge me if you saw me wearing this on the street?” I don’t even consider how confident I feel, if I like the way I look in it, do I feel confident? My first concern is will other women judge me. Guess what guys, it doesn’t fucking matter. I’m now realizing this.
People who like themselves like other people. People who feel good about themselves want to make others feel good. We, as women, have to do better. We, as women, need to stop being so critical and ugly toward other women. We need to respect each other and help build each other up. It is our job, as women, to do this.
Over the last month or so I’ve noticed a change in myself. I’ve noticed myself not judging people as much. I’ve noticed myself cheering other people on and wanting to help other women, but I’ve also noticed that I like myself more. Perhaps the first step is ourselves.
A few thoughts come to mind.
One is, the age old adage that bullies are themselves lacking in self respect. Women with judgy faces at outfits worn by completely confident women – no matter the outfit, no matter the woman – are internalizing that judgment and stopping themselves from being daring. They want to believe they _earned_ those short shorts, so no one else can wear them. But they also are the ones constantly questioning themselves. Did I really earn them? Another 8 mile run will prove that I did! They constantly question their own choices. That judgmental woman looked at that thick girl and saw an outfit, not a personality.
Two is, confidence makes the outfit. I am not going to sit here and say that any woman can wear anything and not be judged. Some women just shouldn’t wear certain things. Dress for your body, be comfy, but don’t be inappropriate…But no matter what, wear it with confidence. People who matter will see you, not the outfit, if you carry yourself like you own yourself. Always own yourself.
Three is, I can’t give advice. I’m the skinny girl. I’m the confident girl. I’m the one who hasn’t been worn down by constant judgy looks because they aren’t there or I don’t notice them. But I think body image affects everyone. We all have bodies, and we all have limitations, and we all have to learn what to enjoy and what to ignore. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.
So I say, be confident, be courageous, be willing to take risks, and hold that head up high. Anyone judging you is (honestly and truly) jealous of what’s going on in your head, and they also are on a journey to a place of acceptance.
Very thought provoking.
I have such a strong memory of being 12 and overweight (but not a TON, just a puberty sort of way) and seeing my best friend wear a tanktop. She was pretty heavy and I remember thinking “Isn’t she ashamed of her arms? I wish I could wear a tank top without caring.” I never said anything to her, EVER. But I have no doubt that my own issues with my own arms are what makes me remember that.
I think this starts at a very young age. I mean, even little girls are exclusionary of other little girls ranging from playing princess to sororities. I think it’s something we’ve built into culture and is acceptable now, but acceptable doesn’t always mean right.
I mean. I’m crying right now reading this. I cannot tell you the number of times not only strangers have said hateful/hurtful things to me but also my own family. I have a “fond” memory of being at a water park as an 18 year old girl with my mom and her boyfriend. I was wearing a tankini and a sarong around my waist and bottom. My mother laughed when it slid off my hip and I jerked to retrieve it quickly and she said to me, “I hope you don’t think that little thing is gonna cover your fat ass?”
I’m 32 now. And I still feel like this happened yesterday. It effects you, and changes you. I have become the person that always wants something covering my stomach when I sit down on the sofa. Especially at other people’s homes. A throw pillow somehow always finds its way to my lap. I can’t cross my legs because my thighs are too large and I can’t wear certain things because of how it exposes my body. I have modified my whole life around my size. All at the expense of my pride.
Thank you for sharing this. Many blessings and love on your own journey.